December Issue 2014

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AFROELLE December Issue 2014

Celebrating Women of African Heritage



AfroElle Magazine is a monthly digital wedding publication celebrating women of African heritage making an impact in Africa and the Diaspora.

FOUNDER & EDITOR Patricia Miswa


COVER CREDITS Photographer: Amina Touray Models: Zenani Che Shakur & Zainab Sillah Make up Artist & Hair Stylist: Irma Vasquez Fashion editor: Amina Touray FOR SUBMISSIONS, GENERAL ENQUIRIES & ADVERTISING ONLINE AfroElle Magazine is published by Miswa Media copyright Š 2014. All rights reserved.

Thank you to our lovely team!
















Photographer LOS ANGELES



Writer KENYA



Submissions If you have a story idea or would like to share your wisdom or insights with women globally email with ‘Submission’ on the subject line. If you know a woman we should feature that is a leader, rising star, inspiring communities and making a difference, send us her bio and link to her work.

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Best of 2014


elcome to our last issue of the year which happens to be our ‘Best of 2014’issue. In this issue we’ve selected some of our best stories and interviews featuring amazing and talented women doing exploits in their communities. Making this selection was no easy task because is all the women we feature are making meaningful contributions in their fields.

Sami Khan Photography

That said, its always good to look back to see how far we have come, celebrate the successes and learn from the failures so as to chart a way forward. This year we have grown in many ways and one of our greatest achievements was being able to roll out 9 issues and feature more than 80+ women. We would not have been able to do so without our amazing team of writers who dedicate their time and talents to further our mission - celebrating women of African heritage. That mission will always be at the heart of AfroElle, telling our stories of courage, hope, strength and wisdom. And we are able to do this, issue after issue because of you. We are grateful to our sponsors, family and friends and, most of all, to you our readers! We hope that you enjoyed this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together. As always, we would love to hear your feedback and suggestions. If there’s anything you’d love to see in our upcoming issues, just drop me a line. Till next time, I leave you with the words of Dawna Marova , “ I will not live an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire, I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom, goes on as fruit.”

Peace & Blessings Patricia Miswa Founder and Editor

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Photography: Koshmo Photography Model: Samar Stylist: Angelic from ALD Creative Makeup: Yolanda


DECEMBER ISSUE 14 Artists You Should Know 16 Conversation With NoViolet Bulawayo 22 Jennifer Makumbi On Telling Stories Properly 25 In Her Good Books 26 Zoleka Mandela: When Hope Whispers 34 Sister Somalia: From Victims to Victors 40 40Women Making Moves 56 Skinned 62 Inside An African City 70 So You Think You Can Dance?

72 The Path Redefined: Getting to the Top on Your Own Terms with Lauren Maillian Bias 80 She Leads Africa 84 Mamatsabu Maphike - Taking Care of Business 90 Street Style editorial 96 Catherine Mahugu-Shop Soko 104 Designer Abai Schulze on fashion and enterprise 110 Linda Ruvarashe Matiwaza On Vintage Flair 122 In Her Prints 126 A Home Fit for the Runway 132 New Generation Leaders

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Quotes of the Month “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within” Maya Angelou The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within - strength, courage, dignity. Ruby Dee ”When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” African Proverb The most feared woman in the world is the woman who not only loves herself unapologetically, but the woman who self-validates her very own existence. The Observer Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself. Alice Walker When I loved myself enough, I no longer needed things or people to make me feel safe. Kim McMillen

Sound of

Music Artists You Should Know

Journey of a Woman is a candid expression of songbird RAJDULARI’S growth as an artist and a personal soundtrack for the everyday woman. The upbeat bass lines blend wonderfully with her melodic tones, and her lyrics flow like poetry from a diary. This album brings to the jazz world a hip interpretation of the blues and chronicles the many everyday problems and their solutions. - IMAN FOLAYAN

JOYA MOOI’S sultry voice, poetic lyrics and classic jazz melodies can best be described as a blend between Jill Scott and Nina Simone. Large shoes to fill for an artist not even 25 years old but her musical maturity cannot be questioned. The music speaks for itself. Joya has grown and much like a crystal her music is a prism for all listeners to see through. - IMAN FOLAYAN

Folk singer and songwriter, JENNAH BELL didn’t necessarily make a conscious decision to create folk music however, her affinity for the genre in tandem with her love for well-written lyrics, lent itself to her overall objective. Her love for music translates in so many different ways. - ASHLEY MAKUE

Mbira Goddess Hope Masike’s music has strong roots in Mbira music of Zimbabwe. Because she felt Zimbabwe mbira music had been caged in the traditional mbira music culture for too long, for a greater part of her years in professional music practice she was deliberately blending together traditional mbira music with any music style she could get her hands on; from Hip Hop, Flamenco, Zimbabwean gospel music and the Jazz music styles. Now it has developed into a healthy mix of the best music elements from many music styles. Besides the strong mbira base, Hope enjoys lpure, ancient Shona and Ndebele vocalizations, jazz scats and vocal improvisations. Even though sometimes she sings without the mbira, Hope is commonly known as a mbira-player. So, if her music is classified , it can be generally called modern mbira-fusion . - TATENDA KANENGONI

Known for her sultry, sweet as a Georgia peach sound, soul singer and songwriter Atlanta native, BRENDA NICOLE MOORER , teamed up with Jesse Fischer to put together, “For Lovers & Believer” a 3 track EP of heavy rhodes, folks guitar, and electronic sounds, over smooth vocals. Bloom, the single for the EP is a sultry song with a positive message to keep your dreams alive. - IMAN FOLAYAN


Conversation With

NoViolet Bulawayo On Her Love Letter to Zimbabwe Words by Brendah Ibara

NoViolet Bulawayo—pen name for Elizabeth Zandile Tshele, is the author of ‘We Need New Names’ a novel whose first chapter ‘Hitting Budapest’ won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2011. The novel was also awarded the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction and was short listed for the Man Booker Prize. NoViolet means ‘with’ in Ndebele a Southern African language and Violet is the name of her late mother who passed away when she was 18 months old. Bulawayo is her hometown in Zimbabwe where she grew up. NoViolet is currently a Stegner fellow at Standford University. AfroElle caught up with the Zimbabwean writer during a book signing in Kampala to talk about her debut novel and her writing.

Photo credit: Gareth Smit

“ By giving my characters such names I was also quietly saying ‘we need new names, we need a new president, a new reality’.

” While reading ‘We Need New Names’ I was struck by the spectacular names of the characters and the title of the book itself, how did you come up with the title and what influenced the names of the characters? The title of the book was a happy accident. I actually came up with a list of possible titles and I had decided on a different title altogether when I chanced upon ‘We Need New Names’.

I settled for it because it spoke volumes about what I was going for in the book. The names in the book are a celebration of my culture. All our names mean something and speak something. In this story, I was writing about the things that were happening at home and by giving my characters such names I was also quietly saying ‘we need new names, we need a new president, a new reality’. I call this book a love letter to my country. I also believe it applies to the rest of Africa. So much needs to be done and we need new ways of doing things. >>>

What influenced the character of Darling, your female protagonist? Darling was inspired by a photograph of a kid in Zimbabwe who was sitting next to the remains of what had been his home after it had been bulldozed. The operation had been carried out by the government to destroy all informal settlements. As I looked at this photograph, I wondered to myself what would happen to him now, where would he go and how would his story unfold. I imagined his life after his home was destroyed and that is why Darling ends up in the United States. I also wanted to share the story of the many Darlings I know of who leave Africa to go abroad expecting paradise only to be disappointed by the hardships they face including race. I personally left Zim when I was a little older than Darling but I experienced the same “ I DO NOT WRITE STORIES TO MAKE ANYONE things as her. People COMFORTABLE.” found my accent strange and I also struggled with school asked why the little girl had to be raped by tuition. So my characters cut across between my her grandfather of all people, that I should experiences and of those around me. have used someone else. But I do not write stories to make anyone comfortable. I am very sensitive when it comes to issues One of the scenes that caught my attention was of child abuse and as someone who has the abortion scene where one of the young girls been a girl child before; I know how has been impregnated by her grandfather and powerless they can be. Darling and the others try to remove the

pregnancy using a coat hanger but they have no idea how it’s done. What does this scene mean to you and how do you manage to write about such confronting issues? I have had many people come up to me asking about the abortion scene. Some people applaud it while others think I went too far with it. Some have even

It is very unfortunate how girls are abused. I feel it’s my responsibility to tell their stories and engage people in these issues even if they don’t like them. They may not like them but they will talk about them. >>

The story of Darling and her friends is pretty sad but I could not help but laugh along the way in spite of the harsh circumstances that the children were faced with. You somehow managed to capture their playfulness and humour regardless of their demise. What were you going for with that? I was raised in a home filled with laughter. No matter how hard things would get, people would find humor amidst tough times. Growing up, the women around me had a certain lightness and humor that they carried with them that made you forget that they had any problems at all. I think it’s an African thing. You have to maintain a sense of humor lest you go crazy. Also as a writer, I feel that readers are often times bombarded with serious literature and they just can’t take it sometimes and so I had to keep it lighthearted.

You also tackle the issue of foreign aid with wit and humor. What were you going for and do you think you achieved it? I just wanted to talk about foreign aid differently. Yes, everyone knows about the evils of foreign aid but when you hear about something in the same way over and over again, it becomes monotonous. I wanted to engage people in these issues without sounding boring. I hate sounding like a broken record so I had to play around with the issue but also make sure that it leaves a reader confronted and I’d like to think that I did that.

I have read that, your family didn’t know about your writing until you won the Caine Price for African Writing. Can you tell us a bit about that? >>

“I wrote because I enjoyed it. In a way writing for the sake of it protected me from writing for other reasons like money or fame or whatever. I’m glad that I was unaware of all that and that helped me to find myself on my own terms without the pressure of making it as a writer.”

Photo by Lauren Mulligan

That was definitely a huge secret I carried around for a long time. My father thought I was studying law. I remember having to lie to my family about why I was taking so long to graduate. They kept on asking when I would start working and start sending them money but I just kept telling them that I was finishing soon.

your thoughts on such labels? We live in a world where we cannot escape some of these labels. We have all sorts of labels and African writer is a label I embrace because it’s true, I am African and that doesn’t take away anything from me as a writer. I’m comfortable with my Africanness and when I write about my country, I’m writing about my Zimbabwe and I like that my Zimbabwe is mine to own.

I even got to a point where I made the tough decision not send them any money when I As for being labeled a woman writer, I‘m okay started working because I had to pay for my with that. I am a woman tuition. It’s a sacrifice I I’m comfortable with my Africanness and who writes women's had to make . Of when I write about my country, I’m writing stories. It comes course I would have naturally to me because about my Zimbabwe and I like that my loved to tell them the I relate to some of their Zimbabwe is mine to own. truth from the stories and I feel it’s my beginning but my responsibility to tell them. I don’t cease to be a father is so old school I couldn’t ask him to writer because I’m called a woman writer or understand why I wanted to write. I’m just glad African writer for that matter. all that is out of the way now.

Did you always want to be a writer? Actually I didn’t think much about being a writer, all I know is that I liked writing and when I started writing I didn’t know that it would turn into a career. I wrote because I enjoyed it. In a way writing for the sake of it protected me from writing for other reasons like money or fame or whatever. I’m glad that I was unaware of all that and that helped me to find myself on my own terms without the pressure of making it as a writer.

There’s a lot of characterization of writers who as ‘African Writers’ and if they are women they are ‘women writers’. What are

What are your thoughts on the progress of African literature? I think we are doing quite well. I love how there’s so much talent especially in the young people. I also like that we are investing in our young writers. Many are coming through to tell their stories and I’m at peace knowing that our stories will always be told.

So, what next for NoViolet? Ha! NoViolet doesn’t tell what she is cooking! I like surprising people so you’ll just have to wait and see. (laughs).[]

Jennifer Makumbi On Telling Stories Properly Words by Brendah Ibarah

Photo courtesy


Last year you won the Kwani? Manuscript Project and this year you were named the regional winner for Africa in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. How does it feel having these back to back achievements?

dust and read it again. If it still good enough, I throw it out there and see what happens! (laughs)

I feel quite out of this world. I took a long time working so hard and nothing was happening and then 13 years later I win two awards in 6 months! It just goes to show that I have been working really hard. And with this happening now, people may think that I have just started writing but I started a long time ago and kept getting better and better. Also I have a lot of material I have written in those thirteen years so when there’s a competition I just go back to my archives, pick a manuscript blow off the

It means that women are taking writing very seriously. You know the only person who has won the Commonwealth prize for about three times in a row is a woman, Hillary Montal. Women are taking the world by storm, especially African women. Also the top African writer right now Chimamanda Ngozi, I’d like to think she is the top African writer, not so? And if you look at the debut of books that are causing a stir, most of them are written by women, young women. When I had just started out as writer, there were people asking questions like ‘where are the

Only women were selected as regional winners for the Commonwealth Short Story prize. What does that mean to you as a female writer?

“The young generation is very much detached from the traditional culture and all I want to say to them is this is our culture, this is the way stories were told and I want them to look back into it.” women?’ ‘Where are the African women?’ and now African women are writing. So it is great.


Speaking of Chimamanda, she says that her writing was heavily influenced by Chinua Achebe and a few other writers. Which writers have influenced your own writing?

Why Oral tradition?

In the beginning, because I grew up reading Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiongo, I was obviously influenced by them. However I have sort of evolved and my style has changed, though there are people who may say that there is an Achebe aspect to it but my writing has changed totally and is now influenced by Oral tradition. My novels sound oral, like I’m telling them orally, that’s where my ideas come from. So I can’t quite say who is influencing me now, perhaps you can ask me again after I’ve written two or three more books. Oh, I also once tried to write like Yvonne Vera but I couldn’t pull it off! (Laughs) As a writer what is your writing technique? Do you have a particular spot or environment you write from? I don’t really have a style or technique, I just write form anywhere at any time. On the buses, at the train station, anywhere. I also carry a chapter that needs editing in a book. I also use my phone to write down ideas whenever they pop up. I don’t have a very good memory so I’ always writing things down. You know that moment before you sleep when you’re half awake and half a sleep? That is my most creative moment, I don’t know why but that is when these ideas come through and my biggest fear is forgetting them and so I have to write it down immediately and get back to it first thing in the

Well you see, because I’m writing and I’m writing a novel, all these ideas of writing are not Ugandan, they are not Kiganda, they are not African, they are western. So what do I have that is mine? When white people write, they have Shakespeare, they have Dickens, that’s their history, that’s there reference but I have no reference there. My references are in oral tradition that’s why I have started with Kintu because where I come from everything started with Kintu. So it’s these stories that my grandfather told me they are my history. So when I’m writing that’s where I go to get ideas on how to write and how to tell my stories. I’m not necessarily preserving them but this is me and that’s what I know.

The younger generation for instance hardly know the traditional stories of their culture due to the heavy western influence. They are so detached from things like oral tradition, are you hoping to get them to pay attention to African traditional stories? Yes the young generation is very much detached from the traditional culture and all I want to say to them is this is our culture, this is the way stories were told and I want them to look back into it. >>>>

When we look at African countries, the world only looks at their history after European colonization but that is not where our history starts and I want to change that. But you know I’m not the only one who has done it, take a look at music for example, the young people used to be all about pop music but now they have gone back to their local African music and they are now incorporating traditional songs to make hits. So I don’t want people to say that ‘oh Jennifer is trying to be an intellectual with all that traditional stuff and that’s why she’s doing it’ but no, it’s not just me even the musicians and poets and other artists are doing it.

You have just launched your first novel ‘Kintu’ which is set way back in the 1700s. Why the 1700s? What are you trying to communicate in this book? I chose the 1700s because first of all they are unknown. When we start talking about Uganda, we start with Mutesa I, as if there was no Uganda or Buganda before that. When we look at African countries, the world only looks at their history after European colonization but that is not where our history starts and I want to change that. What I’m saying is, look here, we had a world before colonialism and we shall not be written off easily. We have taken on the western culture but while we do that let’s keep our own. How long did it take you to write ‘Kintu’? I started writing Kintu in 2003 and the point where I felt like the story was done was around 2011. That was nearly a decade but I did the

actual writing during the times I was not busy and that was for about one and half months every year until 2007. So when you add that up I actually wrote for about 6 months. Then in 2008 I won a competition and I was asked to send the book in installments. And in 2009 I went all out on it and finished it in 2011.

So what next after Kintu? I’m currently working on my second book ‘Nambi’ which I have been writing for a while. And unlike ‘Kintu’ this one is going to be feminist with a capital ‘F’! Look out for it.

You have a PhD in creative writing, something that is not the norm here in Africa. From a young age we are taught to pursue traditional disciplines like medicine or law and the likes. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer who is uncertain of success in such a field? I totally understand what you’re saying. When I left Uganda to go and pursue creative writing in Britain, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family. I just told them that I was going to do my masters. If I had told them I was going to study writing they would have called me mad and say that I would die poor. Only a few of my sisters knew that I was writing but they didn’t know I was spending all my hard earned money on a PhD in creative writing. It was a tough decision to make but if I had told them they would have stopped me. So my advice is, go for it. Writing is like a calling, if you’re in, you’re in. You have no where to go so just do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make money as long as it makes you happy. Make money other ways just don’t stop writing, it will pay off. I mean, look at me! []

In Her Good Books Naana Orleans-Amissah If I was to go on a date with an author- dead or alive, it would probably be Alice Walker. Her ‘The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart’ has a spare honesty that makes you wish for happiness for her. Her loss, and the tenderness of hindsight make you ache at what doesn’t work out for her. She is unflinchingly honest, and I can’t imagine being the subject of her writing, but I enjoy her solidity, and her bravery.

Twaambo Kapilikisha One book that has had the greatest impact in my life is On beauty by Zadie Smith. The characters were very familiar to me. It was the right mix of confusion, identity, enlightenment and humor for me. It was also one of the first times I had read a book that had a cast of characters that were dark skinned and dealt with emotional issues that were not necessarily due to freedom fighting , as is the typical ‘African writer’ type book in my opinion, or dying on the streets due to gang wars , black American stereotype.

I'd like to meet Junot Diaz. I have some questions about his narrator 'Yunior' and some of his commentary about him in interviews. I would also like to discuss some of his insights about family in his work, especially 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao'.

- Mbali


Penelope Kirui There are plenty of books that are hyped and I just don’t get them. It’s not that they aren’t interesting, they just aren’t for me, and one such book is AmEricana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I finished reading it a few weeks ago; it is a good read, I agree with everyone there. However, I feel there are elements of the characters and stories that are flawed.

When Hope Whispers On 12th November 2013 Zoleka Mandela released her tell-all memoir, When Hope Whispers, in which she shares her personal struggles with sex, drug and alcohol addiction, the tragic loss of her daughter Zenani and her son Zenawe, as well as her empowering story with breast cancer.



o ordinary girl; Zoleka could not escape her extraordinary life even if she tried. She was born to the daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, spent a significant amount of her childhood in exile, witnessed her mother’s tact with guns, according to the opening line of the book, “By the time I was born, on 9 April 1980, my mother knew how to strip and assemble an Ak-47 in exactly thirty-eight seconds.”, her grandfather’s imprisonment and maybe the harsher reality of apartheid South Africa without any immunity from adolescence and raging brokenness. Zoleka’s young life was filled with painful experiences of sexual abuse, relationships that were bigger and deeper than her age, experimenting with drugs and falling pregnant for the first time in her teens. Her adult life was no more sheltered; her experiences with sex, drugs and alcohol blew into a consuming addiction- an addiction so intensely paralyzing that a drug induced psychotic episode ended with her hospitalized after setting her bedroom on fire just a few days before her daughter Zenani was killed in a motor accident during the 2010 World Cup. In 2011 Zoleka experienced another loss when her son Zenawe died of organ failure resulting from a premature birth.

Another significant experience in Zoleka’s adult life was her journey with breast cancer which she describes as having saved her life. Seven months after the release of the autobiography published by Jacana Media, AfroElle Magazine caught up with Zoleka to chat about her candid and inspiring book and its impact on her life and the lives of those who have read it.

Absolutely, I’m currently working on my next book and I can’t wait to finally share it when the time is more appropriate. When Hope Whispers is an important and communicative book title, what was the inspiration behind it and what does hope say when it whispers? I wish I had a more profound story to tell about the name of the book but I simply jotted a few titles in my note book closer to the time it was published - When Hope Whispers spoke to the central message of my book. I wanted the book to instil hope in others. Hope says that even through the loudness of desperation, listen to the whisper of hope and be encouraged.

How did you find the writing experience in terms of finding a voice and a writing style? Writing from the heart, so to speak - it was the most emotionally challenging having to be brutally honest about who I was but it was important to me to be vocal about my truths despite having to revisit painful and shocking chapters in my life that I was so completely ashamed of.

Growing up, did you imagine that you would write a book? I think if anyone had to tell me that long ago that I would be a published author of my autobiography decades later, I wouldn’t have believed them. Growing up I always imagined myself as a mother and a social worker.

Is this book the beginning of a book writing journey?

That risk I felt would one day encourage someone else to make honest changes. One of the most striking elements of When Hope Whispers is your ability to accurately capture moments without dwindling or over exaggerating experiences, what has aided your storytelling? Thank you. I have my publisher and editor to thank for that. I think remaining focused on its purpose; detailing my experiences for lack of a better word, in an honest and personal manner. >>>>>>>>

You have written honestly about a lot of intimate experiences of your life, what has been reception of the book in terms of the information the world now has about you? To be quite frank, I underestimated the impact my book would have on all those individuals who have reached out to me. I was so afraid that someone or some people would lambaste me without giving my book a chance at changing their lives so that they wouldn’t ever have to go through what I went through. The reception locally and internationally, has been both positive and rewarding to say the very least. Did you ever feel like this book was an opportunity to tell your side of the story, with regards especially to media reports on your struggle with drug and sex addiction? Undeniably. I had to be honest about all my addictions; sex, drugs and alcohol. The media before my book had been reporting only on my drug addiction up until I spoke openly about all the others. What are your favourite moments in the book? All those moments that brought me back to how I felt about the birth of my three children. Despite the circumstances they were born into, I was always at my happiest at their arrival.

Has this book fulfilled its purpose in your life? Not entirely, but I do believe it’s one of the many ways in which I am able to inspire change and instil hope in many. I’m currently working on getting funding for my documentary film on my journey with breast cancer. There are still so many ways that I can help save and change lives even through my road safety and breast cancer campaigning. In the first part of the book, you wrote candidly on addiction both to drugs and sex, how did you know you were dealing with addiction? When the relationship with the men I involved myself with or the drugs and alcohol came before my own children. If there is a time that sticks out the most it is when I experienced a drug induced psychotic episode that had me trying to burn myself alive with my children in the next bedroom. You had an extraordinary life, being the granddaughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, would you say that your childhood and adolescent life contributed to your addiction? Yes. The physical and sexual abuse I experienced as a child all the way through to my teenage years definitely contributed to my addiction.

“ If there is a time that sticks out the most, it’s when I experienced a drug induced psychotic episode that had me trying to burn myself alive with my children in the next bedroom.”

With the unwavering support from your grandmother, your aunt Zenani and your mother that you have expressed throughout the book, what caused you the emptiness and depression that fuelled much of your painful experiences? Apart from the abuse from loved ones, it would be my relationship with my parents and being born into the political family I belong to especially in that particular era. I do believe though, that all these life changing experiences have made me a better person today. The loss of your daughter Zenani and all that was related to it, was a traumatic and an excruciatingly tragic experience that you are still dealing with, what helps you get by? The road safety campaign work I do in her memory and that of all our children who have lost their lives on the road. As well as, being a better parent today than I was to her. I know the work I do and the changes I have made to become a parent would make her proud and that helps me get by. Contrary to Zenani’s unexpected death, you had a chance to say goodbye to Zenawe, has this meant anything for the healing process? I suppose in more ways than one. I was even robbed of that opportunity due to the injuries she sustained to her face and my family refused to let me see her that way, I think they were only trying to protect me and my last image of her. Your journey with breast cancer was another overwhelming part of the book, what is the biggest lesson you have learned from battling and surviving cancer?

“ I have never felt more liberated in all my life than owning my bald head. I’m a survivor of this life threatening disease and I conquered it, I did that with unashamed pride.”

Breast cancer has honestly changed my life for the better. I have learned that early detection really saved my life and that through my own experiences, I can help change and save someone else’ life. While many women who have survived breast cancer worry about hair, your obsession, following your mastectomy was with breasts, why was this? I think it is because the result of my last breast surgery would then be indication that I had won; that and being declared cancer free. The obsession developed in shopping for sizes, I guess and it was exciting just thinking of the final result of my new man made breasts – my trophy. I still have my breast tissue expanders and yet to undergo two surgeries to replace the expanders with implants and to have my nipple reconstruction done.

What is the significance of the unashamed showing of your bald head during and after chemotherapy? I have never felt more liberated in all my life than owning my bald head. I’m a survivor of this life threatening disease and I conquered it, I did that with unashamed pride.


You wrote beautifully about the women warriors in your life, what strikes you most about black women heroes? It would have to be their sense of forgiveness. I would imagine that they would have had to forgive many on their journey to conquering life and it’s many unexplainable hurts. Your issues with selfesteem were a theme carried through the book, what has caused you to recognize and appreciate Zoleka’s place and power in the world? For one; having my grandmother tell me how proud of me she is, truly inspires me even after all the pain I caused her and my family. I’m a work in progress and realizing that the more positive changes I can make within myself, the more successful I can be in empowering others.

I’m a work in progress and realizing that the more positive changes I can make within myself, the more successful I can be in empowering others.

You are a lover of love and of family and children, is it accurate to assume When Hope Whispers is a happily-ever-after story? Indeed. During the editing process of my book, I

had already conceived! After my breast cancer diagnosis and six whole gruelling months of chemotherapy treatments, I gave birth to my fourth child a year after my last treatment. I hope I am a testament to many on their journey with breast cancer, that there is indeed life after cancer. The Zenani Mandela Campaign requires road safety and less on-the-road deaths, what are some of the milestones reached by this campaign? Since the launch of the campaign; the Zenani Mandela Scholarship for road safety was launched, which affords young South Africans the opportunity to improve road safety within their own communities. In addition to that; the Long Short Walk campaign was also launched to highlight the importance of safe walking by encouraging all to capture images of unsafe areas in their communities and sharing them online to make these areas safer. Just recently, we launched a Safe Schools project at one of the primary schools in Kayaletsha with the purpose of improving the roads near those schools. Have you done any work to aid the struggle against addiction? I have been very fortunate with the numerous platforms to share on my struggle against addiction which I never shy away from be it at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, rally or at any of my speaking opportunities. Other than When Hope Whispers, what ways have you sought to raise breast cancer awareness?

documentary film which will include my personal experiences captured in the footage in hopes that it will aid in raising the awareness of breast cancer. Are there any special projects that you are currently involved with? I have a new column on Mamas & Papas magazine which is dedicated to inspiring hope to those affected by breast cancer and look forward to sharing it with the readers in our August 2014 issue. Later this year, I will be launching the Zoleka Mandela Foundation which aims to promote the awareness of road safety as well as breast cancer. In addition to this, we will also be promoting health and wellness in women and highlighting the dangers of drugs and alcohol within the youth. What are your plans for the future with regards to sharing hope? Finding more ways that I can help others who are going through what I went through; addiction, death of loved ones, breast cancer, physical and sexual abuse. I am hoping that my foundation and I will continue to create more opportunities for many to find ways that they can instil hope in others and contribute to society. []

Zoleka Mandela Foundation Twitter : @MandelaZoleka

From as early as my first chemotherapy treatment; I captured images and video footage of my journey. I am hoping that I will receive the funding for my

Facebook: Zoleka Mandela Foundation


From Victims to Victors An in-depth look into the work of Sister Somalia


ape is often a subject that usually gets a blind eye and a mute tongue, but it is an unspoken evil that affects the lives of millions of women worldwide. In a world where the honorable thing is not always the most popular, Ilwad Elman, director of programs for the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, tirelessly works to enhance the lives of sexual victims. Ilwad sits with AfroElle for an exclusive look into the history and work of Sister Somalia that landed Ilwad’s mother the prestigious International Woman of Courage Award. AfroElle: Both parents have played pivotal roles in activism and humanitarian causes. For you, what was your main inspiration for getting involved with Sister Somalia?

and youth in armed forces and groups. To this extent my father developed a fitting slogan, “Drop the Gun, Pick up the Pen.” One which „til this day is found marked on the ruins of Mogadishu and continues to resonate amongst the young and old alike.

Ilwad Elman: Sister Somalia is a project

Through his economic reintegration programs, hundreds of children abandoned their posts as guards or foot soldiers or warlords and instead, learned skills that he taught and gained meaningful, safe employment in his establishments. My father was killed in 1996, during the height of the conflict, because of the massive number of children and youth he was disarming and who in turn were leaving the warlords unprotected.

of the organization I work for, the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, founded by my mother Fartuun Adan and my late father Elman Ali Ahmed. This organization incepted in the late 80‟s pioneering human rights work in Somalia. When UN agencies did not have presence in Somalia and foreign aid was not available, my parents independently funded and set up social support centers and services for the most vulnerable. After the war broke out in the early 90‟s, the organization went on to tackle various socio-political issues centered on human rights, peace and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children

His murder was never solved but it is of common knowledge in Somalia that it was of political influence. My father till this day is considered the Somali Father of Peace, and his work and mission is sustained by peace and human rights activists in a country fraught by constant risks and uncertainty. Because the organization had worked in human rights for so long, both in monitoring and reporting, but equally in the promotion of rights and advocating for victims, my mother founded the first rape crisis center, Sister Somalia, to respond to the pervasive issue of sexual violence, which was astonishingly dominating the majority of human rights reports the human rights department of the organization was receiving regularly from the field staff.

I come from a family of strong leaders whose lives are governed by compassion, who are certain of their convictions, and who have made the ultimate sacrifices for their beliefs. My greatest inspiration for returning to Somalia were my parents and trying to contribute to this unspoken goal they have; the one my father lost his life for and the one my mother left the comforts of Canada for.

comforts of Canada for, to help finish what they started essentially.

When I returned to Somalia, Sister Somalia had just been launched. On an impossibly modest budget, which relied on individual donations from concerned men and women from around the world, a dedicated team of volunteers, and a three-room office space in the heart of Mogadishu City, we began responding to the issue of sexual violence in two key ways: One, by providing life saving services such as medical, psychosocial support and counseling, education and business start up grants to rebuild lives and escape the cycle of violence and by changing the local & global discussion on sexual violence and the suffering of women in Somalia through the press.

I come from a family of strong leaders whose lives are governed by compassion, who are certain of their convictions, and who have made the ultimate sacrifices for their beliefs. My greatest inspiration for returning to Somalia were my parents and trying to contribute to this unspoken goal they have; the one my father lost his life for and the one my mother left the

But since coming to Somalia, I know now that my greatest motivation for staying is the friends I have made and the beneficiaries I have been able to support, and the understanding that, I have the option to pack up and leave, but the people my organization works for to support do not, so I couldnâ€&#x;t either.

AE: Tell us more about the mission and goal of Sister Somalia and how it got started. What does a typical day consist of? IE: Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre co-founded the first rape crisis centre in early 2011; since its inception, the catalytic support system which provides emergency health care, psychosocial counseling, education and livelihood opportunities to survivors of sexual violence has expanded in geographic coverage as well as services offered. Sister Somalia now operates in Mogadishu, Lower-Shabelle and Galgaduud Regions of South and Central Somalia. The program has grown to respond to all forms of sexual and gender based violence women and girls are subjected to; as well as introduced the first mobile clinics in rural parts of central Somalia, the first and only safe-houses for those considered to be at a heightened or acute risk of being re-attacked and also offers legal representation for those seeking justice. >>>

The mission of Sister Somalia is not only to respond to the rampant issue of sexual violence but to put in place sustainable measures to prevent such violence from reoccurring and have the center serve as a platform to realize just that. Sister Somalia focuses on the empowerment of survivors, cultivating leadership and developing them into ambassadors for change; transforming them from victims to victors. When such mechanisms are in place, the center is entrusted to a group of survivors over seen by senior staff from the organization; and the Sister Somalia team moves on to a new acute area; and strives to achieve similar success and continue to move forward; until every rural and urban area alike can respond and prevent the pervasive violence against women from continuing on at the community level. A typical day at the Sister Somalia centers varies depending on the region, and although emergency services are provided in house, there are other longer term developmental services we also offer the following services to the survivors of violence.

1) Women and girls learning skills, with practical and theoretical skills training sessions on going as a means of equipping survivors with a vocational trade skill to enter the work force with. 2) Survivors learning financial literacy, business management and receiving grants to start their own businesses as a means of not only rebuilding their lives post-trauma and violence, but reclaiming their lives. 3) Conversations on the past, the future, dreams and aspirations over tea and finger foods in any of the common areas in the centers. 4) Group or individual counseling sessions in a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Fun and unconventional forms of therapy are introduced by the organization staff to build trust, to create an open environment and treat somatic symptoms of psychological abuse- Yoga, Dancing, Arts and Role Playing are ranked as the most fun, but some of the more serious cognitive approaches to therapy offered at the centers are perceived the strongest in the healing process. 5) Workshops on Health, Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health, caring for children and nurturing children born from rape, Women Human Rights, SelfSufficiency, Leadership, and much more. The centers also offer survivors an opportunity to request workshops and guest speakers of their interest and to the best of our abilities we try to facilitate. AE: In India the issue of rape has gained

international attention. In Somalia how has the rape issue shaped the social environment and how are people outside of the victims affected by it, even if they're not aware?

IE: Rape is not just a woman‟s problem, it is not country, race, age, or religion specific; it is a global issue. And much like in India, some of the highest profiled cases in Somalia have gained international attention, but that does not begin to paint even a fraction of the real extent of the issue on ground. Three years ago you could not even mention the word rape and Somalia in the same sentence.

Despite the country having been in war for more than two decades and rape is a known weapon of war, Somalis still romanticized a “culture” which does not rape women, and instead of talking about rape or responding to it. It was swept under the carpet, mediated by traditional elders and community leaders. It was taboo; highly stigmatizing survivors who spoke out but denied when aired in public. Since Sister Somalia took the issues of rape in Somalia to a global platform it has become very much on the political and social agenda. People now admit that rape is a serious issue in Somalia and that it happens and must be stopped.

Despite the country having been in war for more than two decades and rape is a known weapon of war, Somalis still romanticized a “culture” which does not rape women .

The highest members of government including the president have addressed this and while the dialogue exists, the environment for preventing this from happening has not yet bore fruit. Since we set up the first crisis center, numerous service providers have started rape specific services, which is phenomenal. But Sister Somalia remains the pioneer as it decentralizes its services and remains mobile, going to the rural areas so women do not have to trek for days just for aid in the city, and continues to introduce innovative services and leads the coordination of various gender based violence information and coordination groups to ensure the response and prevention strategies are from a united front. Acts of sexual violence usually go unpunished in Somalia, or are dealt with under the customary system whereby perpetrators are not individually prosecuted. Instead, a solution is worked out between clans, which usually results in a transfer of funds or assets (camels) from the clan of the perpetrator to the clan of the victim, if that, with little or no compensation or recourse for the woman or girl in question. Rapists are rarely tried or convicted, and in the unusual cases where justice is initiated, the victims are not provided with any form of protection from the perpetrators in which they accused. More than often, retaliation is initiated and they once again fall victim, with a more than often fatal ending the second time around.

In some cases perpetrators are forced to marry their victims that ultimately results in long-lasting and devastating psychological and traumatic consequences that seriously affect their lives. Survivors are now demanding justice, but a horrific precedent of women alleging rape being jailed instead of their rapist is taking form in Somalia because it is still easier to deny and persecute the victims than it is the rapists. People outside of the victims are also greatly affected by this culture of victim blaming because it instills that there is no accountability, that rape is not punishable, and that rapists will get off scotch free. This deters other victims from reporting violence because they fear instead of justice they will be jailed. This is where Sister Somaliaâ€&#x;s greatest battle is now, ensuring accountability and fighting for justice.

AE: Patriarchy seems to be a common theme in all the nations of the world. What main points do you believe the world is ignoring when it comes to women's rights? IE: Rape is a womenâ€&#x;s issue that most are aware of and in many contexts is being addressed in great scale. Even in Somalia it is on the political agenda with new legislation and state lead task forces put in place. However, other forms of violence against women are still considered necessary milestones in every girl childâ€&#x;s life; female genital mutilation, forced marriage, widow inheritance, domestic violence, honor killings. These are still ignored, and because of their deep- rooted traditional connections are not considered abuse, but just things

women must endure. The right to family planning, sexual and reproductive rights, divorce, inheritance, and property ownerships are women rights issues that are extremely poignant but ignored and inadequately addressed.

AE: Please share one of your most transformative experiences since working with Sister Somalia. IE: Sister Somalia takes in women and girls at the point of emergency, and provides life saving intervention. We nurture, educate, empower and equip survivors with the necessary life, economic and emotional skills to rebuild and reclaim their lives. I am most proud when one of the survivors we supported becomes an ambassador for change in her community. She begins to refer others in the same situation she was once in to the center, and begins to lead trainings to mentor other women. She becomes a foot soldier in the fight for womenâ€&#x;s justice in Somalia and lives her life knowing that this tragic incident happened to her but does not own her any longer. This transformation is one I have seen over and over again which humbles me incredibly but also drives me to do more and be more. In a mere three years we have been able to

expand Sister Somalia to rural and urban areas alike in three different regions of Somalia, which is huge. We have worked in Al-Shabaab controlled areas, government controlled areas and areas controlled by regional authorities that are not bound by any formal courts or penal codes. All of this is possible and exasperated by the network of women

We plan on continuing to expand, continue to engage with men, religious leaders, and the State on the preventative side of the issue.

who continue the work we have initiated and many of which are survivors of violence themselves.

Somalia will fail. Our goal is to prevent sexual violence from happening by breaking the cycle and creating community based responses for sustainable solutions.

AE: What future goals do you foresee Sister Somalia achieving? IE: We have already begun developing models for responding to sexual based violence in conflict, hoping that these tools can be of use to countries with similar context as Somalia for emulation. We have expanded our services to decentralize from the city, and since the first crisis center in launched in 2011 we have opened doors for many other NGOs to follow.

If we do not focus on making the environment safer with protective mechanisms at the social and policy level, Sister

AE: How can people get involved and help support the cause? IE: Sexual violence is a global issue and we need global solutions and allies from around the world to achieve this. Our website shares our contact details and how to get involved. []

Women Making Moves

SPECIAL FEATURE with Bruktawit Tigabu Saran Kaba Jones Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya Bruktawit Tigabu Mbabazi Esther Isabelle Kamariza Tabetha Kanengoni


“ If you can lift other people's vision to higher sights and inspire them to challenge themselves and strive to be the very best, that makes you a leader.”

- Saran Kaba Jones Founder and Executive Director of FACE Africa

Saran Kaba Jones is the Founder and Executive Director of FACE Africa, a US/Liberia based Non-profit organisation that funds and supports sustainable clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Liberia. Since launching FACE Africa in January 2009, the organization has raised over $300,000 for clean water projects in sub-Saharan. In recognition of her commitment to clean water initiatives that have benefited over 15,000 residents in Liberia to date, Saran was recently appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the county of River Cess, Liberia.

What was the inspiration behind starting an NGO to supply water to Liberia and how have you overcome any obstacles faced along the way, if any? In 2008, I returned to my home country of Liberia; a nation ravaged by a deadly civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and millions displaced from their homes; infrastructure destroyed or abandoned; and the very fabric of society torn apart, a conflict that forced my own family to flee the devastation twenty years earlier. I, along with others, began the difficult process of trying to rebuild our society one piece at a time. FACE Africa was born from the ashes of this conflict, out of a need to help others reclaim the means to build a better life and prosper. It began with Fund a Child’s Education (FACE) because growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of investing in education. But I quickly realized that one of the major impediments to education was the lack of clean drinking water. Children were not showing up to school for extended periods of time, severely hampering their development. I discovered that, in a majority of these cases, a child had contracted one of the many illnesses caused by unsafe water or that the school’s facilities were inadequate to attend to a child’s sanitation needs.

In her new role, she will encourage and promote business and philanthropic investments throughout the county, beginning with FACE Africa's 'County by County’ Commitment, which will construct 250 clean water wells in River Cess County by 2017.

Through further research I began to understand that unsafe water effects more than just education. It impacts overall health and severely inhibits economic growth and productivity -- in Africa alone, people spend over 40 billion hours every year, walking for water. This inspired me to make access to clean water for all in Africa my mission.

The initiative, scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2012, will provide 100% water coverage to the county, benefiting over 60,000 residents, and will ensure that River Cess meets the Liberian Government’s 250 persons per safe waterpoint standard.

If you can lift other people's vision to higher sights and inspire them to challenge themselves and strive to be the very best, that makes you a leader. John Quincy Adams captured it best when he said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” This goes for anyone, male or female. []

You have been honoured by Forbes for your water legacy, what in your opinion makes a successful female leader?

Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, Founder of Kakenya Center for Excellence

Kakenya Ntaiya is the founder of Kakenya Center for Excellence, a girls’ primary boarding school in Enoosaen, Kenya. Educating and empowering young girls is important to Kakenya as she believes this is a relevant base for them to become agents of change in their community and country. The Center opened its doors in May 2009 and currently has 155 students in grades four through eight. Kakenya’s journey to opening the center is inspirational; she negotiated with her father to allow her to become circumcised only if she could finish high school, He agreed. Then she negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had ever done: leave her Maasai village of Enoosaen in south Kenya to go to college in the United States. In 2008, Kakenya was honored with a Vital Voices Global Leadership award and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010. In 2013, she honored as a Top 10 CNN Hero.

At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to follow a different path and pursue education, going against a tradition that saw women raised primarily for motherhood?

Photo source:

Even as a young girl, I could see how difficult life was for women in my community. My mother worked very, very hard to support our family, grow our crops, and keep me and my 7 siblings fed. My father worked in the city, so he only came home once every year or two. When he did come home, he would sell all that my mother had worked so hard to grow and use the money to drink with his friends in the bar. Because she was a woman, my mother was not allowed to complain. This all seemed deeply wrong to me and made me angry. My mother encouraged me to stay in school so that I could have a life that was different from hers. I wanted to do just that. I daydreamed about becoming a teacher because teachers wore nice dresses and their job seemed so much easier than the daily chores I did on the farm – sweeping the house, cooking for the family, hauling water from the river, and collecting firewood. By the time I had completed primary school, I knew that I was to follow a different path. Please share a bit about the role Kakenya Center for Excellence has played in breaking boundaries and stereotypes placed on women? Last year, our first class graduated from our primary boarding school. Out of 33 schools in the Keyian Division, KCE’s girls performed best on their

national exams, and all 22 of our girls have enrolled in high quality secondary schools around the country. The girls’ success is the culmination of 5 years at our boarding school, in which the girls received one-onone attention, health and leadership training, and the nurturing support of an all-girls environment. Their achievements are showing the community that when girls are given the support they need, the can succeed academically and become leaders in their communities. This benefits everyone, and the benefits are greater than what a family can receive through a dowry by marrying their daughters off at a young age. This began with my own journey to the US to attend college. Initially, the elders in my village were reluctant to give their blessing for a girl to take this opportunity. They felt that it should be a boy instead. However, I used my education to better the community, and this left a lasting impression on those who doubted me. My KCE girls all dream of doing the same – using their education to improve the lives of their families, neighbors, and friends through bringing better healthcare, legal services, education, and more. []


Bruktawit Tigabu also known as Brukty is an entrepreneur from Ethiopia who is passionate about children’s education. A teacher by profession, Brukty sought to ensure that the next generation of children in Ethiopia does not face challenges in gaining access to education, and to help bridge this gap, she came up with the Whiz Kids workshop concept and Tsehai Loves Learning, which is an educational kids programme on television. The edutainment concept focuses on using a popular communication platform for children which is television, to communicate and educate children in an interesting way, ultimately fostering a learning culture amongst them. Brukty explains the drive behind the edutainment concept further.


hat inspired the creation of Whiz Kids Workshop?

The creation of Whiz Kids Workshop was inspired by my personal public education as well as my professional experience as a teacher in Addis Ababa. Like many others, I was born into a poor family in Addis Ababa. Unlike most kids, my mother had finished high school and dedicated herself to teaching me to read and study well. By age ten, I was already teaching other kids in the Saris neighbourhood how to read. By high school, I was earning a small fee for tutoring younger kids. After high school, I was assigned to study teaching in college, and I soon discovered I loved teaching because of its inherent rewards of empowering children. I taught for a while and was then promoted to director of a kindergarten. While I cherished inspiring children to love learning, I was frustrated with the educational system. The same issues that plagued my childhood schooling still prevailed in my beloved city and county, such as no public education for children under seven, sometimes a >60:1 studentteacher ratio, limited or nonexistent teaching materials, and a very high dropout rate at a very early age. I was disheartened by the status quo and believed passionately a remedy

“ I was disheartened by the status quo and believed passionately a remedy was close at hand. These factors led me to want to improve education in Ethiopia.�

was close at hand. These factors led me to want to improve education in Ethiopia. While my mother fostered my love for learning, which inspired the creation of Tsehai, my father gifted me with the entrepreneurial spirit to create a company. My father was illiterate, but that did not diminish his hardworking, ambitious, and creative character. Starting as a bulldozer operator and working overtime, he saved

enthusiastically grabbed the challenge of using mass media to bring education to children who had no access to formal education before entering school at age seven. From our research, we knew this lack of early intervention put these children at risk and we were determined to fill the gap. Quitting our jobs, we devoted ourselves full time to learn how to create a show— something neither of us had ever done.

Having a father who shifted careers midlife gifted me with the confidence to do the same. enough to buy a house. When I was 13, he quit his operator job to buy and sell homes for a living. Having a father who shifted careers midlife gifted me with the confidence to do the same.

Experimenting in our home with green bed sheets attached to the wall to make a film studio, within a year, we had managed to produce our first 15 minute children’s educational program in Amharic!

As the kindergarten director, I serendipitously met Shane Etzenhouser, an American computer engineer. Shane had come to Ethiopia as a volunteer to support the school I worked in their interest in developing a children’s television show. The efforts to produce children’s television at the school fell through, but my relationship with Shane blossomed. Soon after we married and we

Testing it with a kindergarten class, we were delighted to see that they loved it and learned from it; hence, Tsehai Loves Learning and Whiz Kids Workshop were born!

Your show Tsehai loves learning is based on an edutainment concept on television, what impact do you think television has in communicating to young minds?

From my personal education and experience teaching, I knew the solution to reach the largest audience of Ethiopians with life saving information and reading instruction was through television. I have a bright vision for Ethiopia in which kids are getting smarter, finding their authentic voices, making great decisions for their lives and their country, and achieving their full potential through educational media. The positive impact educational children’s television can have on young children is well documented by over 40 years of educational television globally. Many studies conducted both in academic institutions and internally at production companies such as Sesame Workshop support the notion that educational children’s television works. Children who watch children’s television are more prepared entering school, and more successful academically and socially in school, and have seen life-long benefits in longitudinal studies. We have been fortunate to receive an All Children Reading grant from USAID with which we produced a full season of 32 new episodes of the Tsehai Loves Learning TV and Radio show. Through this grant we managed to use an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) which is widely used globally including inside of Ethiopia, to measure the impact of the use of our TV show and reading materials in the class room.

I have a bright vision for Ethiopia in which kids are getting smarter, finding their authentic voices, making great decisions for their lives and their country, and achieving their full potential through educational media.

Early results indicate that children who use our materials in the classroom make better advancements in their reading skills than in the control group. It’s also great to see the enthusiasm the children have for our TV show, workbooks, and readers, begging the teacher to use the materials as part of the lesson plans.Each of our three television programs—Tsehai Loves Learning, Involve Me, and Little Investigators— are aimed to inspire and empower children in different age groups.

The programs have the potential to greatly impact young minds, by providing them with a readiness program that stimulates their natural curiosity, character development, creativity, and knowledge of basic health concepts. [] CLICK TO WATCH TSEHAI LOVES LEARNING

“Rwanda has shone a light on me as one of the pioneering women in aviation and I am honored everyday that young girls can look up to me as a role model. I think it's very important for young

Mbabazi Esther- first officer at Rwandair 25 year old Esther has been working at Rwandair as first officer for over 2 years. As a young girl Esther loved the skies, and even though she was only a passenger, she was determined to get into the cockpit . Years down the road and she is living her dream. What is the future of aviation in Rwanda and does it include women pilots? The future of aviation in Rwanda is bright, Currently, we have about two women in maintenance, three female Air traffic controllers, about four females training to be pilots already and possibly more, flight dispatchers, load controllers. These are just a few I know of, young girls all over the country have shown their desire in joining aviation some have contacted me others just reached out to my colleagues and with the rate at which Rwandair is

growing, the new aircrafts being brought in, the new destinations being launched, we are so far the fastest growing airline in the African region, more cockpit crew (male and female), more cabin crew, more engineers and all the other professions I mentioned before will be needed not just doubled but probably tripled, and aviation in general in Rwanda is growing too with the construction of the new airport. There is no more limit for us women. Rwanda is supporting us and we have confidence in ourselves, now our surrounding is not limiting. And the sky for women in Rwanda is no limit. We have come a long way as a country and it is reflected in the aviation industry as well. []

Isabelle Kamariza - CEO Solid’ Africa What is the future of the Rwandan public healthcare and how can organizations such as Solid Africa facilitate the availability of adequate public health facilities for all?

Photo Credit: Illume Creative Studio

Food security in public hospitals remains the biggest challenge in the Rwandan public health system; as hospitals do not provide food and its cost is not included in the "mutuelle de Sante" insurance scheme.

When Isabelle Kamariza left Belgium where she was studying law to spend a three week vacation with her family in Rwanda, she had no idea she would be spending the next three years helping vulnerable patients in public hospitals. At first, it was her faith that drew her to visit patients at the Kigali University Hospital Centre (CHUK) for as she puts it “it is nice to always pray for the sick but that won’t bring them their daily bread”. When visiting the hospital, Isabelle was stunned by the despicable conditions in which some of the patients were living in : lack of food and hygiene products, so many patients could not go home because they did not have means to pay their medical fees or transport, others simply did not have enough to pay the necessary medicine for their recovery. That is when she decided to call upon friends and family in order to help—Solid’Africa was born. Today Isabelle is still the backbone of this initiative and runs the organization as the president. Since the beginning of the project, she has won the Young African Women Leaders Forum Award 2011 and the Imbuto fondation CYRWA 2013 . Solid'Africa has been nominated for other awards celebrating successful initiatives.

Solid'africa’s main purpose is to find a solution that will bring peace of mind to the most vulnerable patients and allow them to go seek treatment without any fear about their living conditions. We hope that one day we can ensure that everyone who goes sick and has limited means can go to any medical centre with an assurance of food availability. Currently we feed 300 patients for breakfast every day and lunch on Mondays at one of the biggest public hospitals in Kigali. In the near future we are going to build an industrial kitchen with the target to feed 1000 people twice a day with special diet meals. This project will target 5 main public hospitals in Kigali. And this is just a pilot project; if successful we will decentralize it. Food is a basic need and everyone should have access to it, especially when you are sick and with no means. We consider that it is everyone’s concern to make sure that his fellow Rwandese eats. If the government cannot have the means today to do it, it is because we are still a country with limited resources, but after the 3 years’ experience doing the work, I am convinced that it is possible, all that is required is for each one to be conscious that they can do it. Imagine if each person reading this could sponsor one person for a meal for one day, a 2 dollar meal. That could change someone’s life. It is also the right thing to do, any religion you can be in teaches you that you can only demonstrate love by caring for the less fortunate. We cannot ask our governments to do everything; we as the citizens, civil society and businesses, have the prerogative of looking at ways to transform our respective communities and to fill the gaps as needed.


etrospectively speaking, every event in Tabetha Kanengoni’s life prepared her for the moment she was appointed first as a Member of Parliament and subsequently the Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, all at the age of 31. Breaking boundaries and paving the way for other females, her story instills a feeling of hope that female empowerment is more than just an adage. ZIMBABWE, WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE FOR POLITICS STEM FROM?

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR POLITICAL JOURNEY? My political journey has had a mixture of ups and downs. As a female coming into politics, you face a lot of stereotypical harassment from men. They see you as an object for their pleasure. “A new shiny toy to play with” I had to work extra hard to prove myself. There were times when being female helped due to the world campaign for gender equity. It is currently more attractive to have females in high positions in order for an organization to be seen as highly credible and moving with global trends. I was very blessed to have parents who believed in my political career and vision and who supported me through thick and thin, particularly my late father-a national hero-the late Cde Elias Jonathan Kanengoni. I will never forget how much he used to support and root for me. YOU ARE THE YOUNGEST MINISTER IN

My love for politics started at a very young age, as I have always been a leader in everything I do whether it was in school sport or clubs. I also had a lot of younger friends who I mentored without even knowing I was playing that role. When I went to university and started taking Politics courses as electives that is when I started to find my true identity. I then decided to major in Politics and Gender Studies which I understood much more than other courses I had tried. My life started to make sense. I love working with people and helping them. I feel as if this is a calling from God. This is the purpose I was put on this earth to fulfill. I am not the youngest Minister because I am the best or that there are no other young women out there who could be in my shoes. It was just my time according to God‟s desire and I have to make sure that I use this opportunity to show the world that young women can sit at the table and contribute in a large way.

HAVE YOU FACED ANY CHALLENGES BEING A YOUNG WOMAN IN YOUR POSITION? Absolutely . Some men in my ministry look at me in such a way that you know that they are thinking “Why should we listen to this child, a woman for that

matter.” Some may even think “She is way over her head.” I don't mind though, It motivates me. It is a shame though that women have to prove themselves worthy of high positions even to their juniors in rank, just because they have male genitalia. Men however don't have to work as hard. There have been some positives though. The young generation has found a place to go and speak up without fear of being judged for being considered too young. Even some older women have come to my office and said it is so refreshing to have a young woman in sport. There is an audience that I am capturing that has felt neglected for some time now. WHAT DOES BEING IN AN INFLUENTIAL POSITION MEAN TO YOU? To me this means I am in a position that makes people listen whether they like to or not. “Because it has been said by so and so, we have to action it.” It‟s just like the influence Oprah Winfrey has had. Millions of people have read books in Oprah‟s book club that they otherwise would not have read if Oprah had not endorsed them. Some will end up liking them just because Oprah liked them. That's being influential. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE FOR YOUR COUNTRY DURING YOUR TERM OF OFFICE?

I would like young women to be motivated and want to go into politics without fear of discrimination. If I prove to the nation that I can perform very well, I will be able to win a lot of young women over. In my Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture I would like to help raise the morale of our athletes, and those in the creative industries. I would like the females in those Industries to be recognized and to open many doors for them to benefit tremendously from their talents. Most importantly, I would like the women in the rural areas to have a loud voice. HOW DO YOU BALANCE BEING A WORKING MOTHER AND A WIFE? There is no perfect balance. You just have to do the best that you can. The trick however is to know what your role is in different spaces. I cannot be a Deputy Minister at home. Prayer and constant communication with God helps a lot. God helps you juggle things you never thought you

could. I never forget to tell my husband and my daughter that I love them. I also try to show them by giving them my undivided attention whenever I can. WHICH POLITICAL FIGURE INSPIRED OR HELPED SHAPE YOUR JOURNEY AND WHY? The Honourable Vice President Joyce Mujuru, she is the first Female Vice President of this country, was the first female Minister and female Minister of Sport. She also has the potential of becoming the President of Zimbabwe when the time comes. Amai (Mother) Mujuru has shown all women that it can be done. She is a very kind woman who is interested in seeing other women prosper. She is my mentor and great one indeed. []

SKINNED An Exclusive into LisaRaye McCoy’s Directorial Debut, Skinned BY IMAN FOLAYAN


upita Nyong‟o stunned the world with her natural beauty and for the first time in a long time she made the world revisit the standard of beauty. 2014 marked the 60th anniversary since Dorothy Dandridge captivated Hollywood with her Academy Award nomination, a first for African-Americans and a pivotal moment in the Film Industry. Since then actresses, screenwriters, directors and producers have made strides as a minority group but as a whole the roles available for women are limited, unless you take matters into your own hands. The budding independent circuit leads studio films with 10% women directors to there 4.7%. Even still, women are drastically under-represented and women of color even more so. But it‟s not entirely a numbers game, creative and provoking films emerging from directors such as Amma Asante with her British historical drama Belle and Nailah Jefferson, whose documentary exposed the classist and racist aftermath of the BP oil spill, are giving a stronger voice for women to entertain and educate through film. Following suite, LisaRaye McCoy now stands upon a viable platform to be a voice and share those untold stories that are affecting the lives of women across the world. Her evolution in the industry

Many people remember her performance as Diamond, the student turned dance vixen in Ice Cube‟s directorial debut, The Players Club. Ironically, nearly twenty years later LisaRaye sits as the director in her debut film, Skinned, which unlike The Players Club focuses on bringing attention to the stronger qualities of a woman outside of her physical beauty. For a debut film, Skinned is LisaRaye‟s way of diving off of her platform into the pool of issues much rather avoided. Though the film tackles a complex range of topics, the plot stems around a young woman‟s struggle with skin bleaching. In the States the most publicity skin bleaching receives is on gossip sites and while alleged rumors are thrown around about celebrities, in many African and Caribbean countries skin bleaching is much more close to home. Until now no film has delved so intimately into the harsh realities that darkskinned women face in this Do-It-Yourself, Nip-tuck society. Extreme cases of breast augmentations, plastic surgery, and the latest trend, butt injections, have been documented and paraded through social media but skin bleaching remains a taboo topic. In Skinned, the woman-led team of director, LisaRaye, and producers Dr. Clarice Kulah and Sharon Tomlinson eloquently capture the emotion and paint a picture that connects with you skin deep.


Watch the Official

Skinned Trailer

In an exclusive interview, the cast and crew share their experience working with LisaRaye on her directorial debut and how this film affected them personally. With headquarters in Kenya and a mission to celebrate women throughout the African diaspora the opportunity to share this story is an honor and privilege. Skinned not only represents a challenge to the politics of beauty but to the film industry as well and opens the door for a much needed conversation.

AfroElle: You’ve been an actress for many years but Skinned will be your directorial debut. What compelled you to do this movie specifically with a touch of Nollywood and what challenges did you face? LisaRaye: One challenge was that we were

supposed to film overseas but it was too much so we filmed in Atlanta. I got the lead actor Van Vicker to come here to film so it all worked out. Previously I worked with the CEO of Studio 11 Films, Sharon, and did a project where I shadow-directed. That‟s where you shadow and direct a couple of scenes. So I did that and got my feet wet and this opportunity came along because Dr. Kulah asked me to direct after she saw the first short [film] I did. I thought it was interesting with me, a lightskinned woman, being asked to direct a project about the epidemic that‟s going on with darkskinned women which is what the film is about. There are dark skinned women using bleaching creams to become lighter not realizing the effects that come with trying to erase your history and not being comfortable with who you are; but also the health effects like skin cancer

and infertility. It‟s just like when we get a prescription for something and we hear all the side effects on TV and we‟re like “Man, all I started with was a headache”. I didn‟t know it was so big and happening a lot in Africa and the Caribbean and I think it sends the wrong message along with things we see in society. With the reality shows, and the music, and the role models it makes you ask, “What is the world coming to if we just subject ourselves to the negativity and drama? Where is the positivity in all of this?” For me, this film has a message that needs to get out and it couples with the message I give as a motivational speaker and with my Vision Board Workshops. Besides it being my directorial debut this is also me wanting to push myself behind the camera and be more creative and more instrumental in even helping more actors and passing that torch.

AfroElle: I like that you mentioned you being a light-skinned woman. What’s your take on this paradigm that light skin is

tribe, and our history, and our upbringing. Because society tries to dictate what‟s pretty and what‟s the trend I want people to stand up and recognize who they are in their true self in whatever color they are.

AfroElle: What reaction do you expect people to have after seeing this film? Did this film change your concepts of beauty any? LisaRaye: I think it‟s getting

better than dark skin? LisaRaye: I think that is more so the way that we reference each other. I‟m a fan of dark skin. I like it. First of all, you don‟t see any scars or bruises. With us light skinned women the moment we get a pimple it‟s like Hello. I‟m a sun goddess. I love tanning, it makes me feel like I have a layer of foundation on my face.

I also think because we are African people we are a rainbow of color. And that‟s the rainbow effect we see when we say, “Oh she‟s threeshades lighter than me”. The message from me though, is that it‟s not derogatory when we say that because it‟s said in love and we embrace our

better. We‟re seeing more dark skinned models so when someone, a dark skinned woman sees someone like Lupita Nyong‟o it gives them hope to dream bigger, it opens a door. So hopefully in bringing awareness with this film the message will show every dark skinned woman that has ever wanted to bleach their skin, the consequences and help them embrace their beauty. In this film, the main character is a model and though she starts off as a brown skin model, the story is going to capture the mental illness associated with it. Sometimes we all need a mentor to help us with the scars we were raised with and to enrich our lives. We want women to know that they are not alone and that the secret is out.

AfroElle: This film seems to be very dynamic touching on socialization, racial inferiority, politics of beauty, mental wellness, etc. Of all these

“ Because society tries to dictate what’s pretty and what’s the trend I want people to stand up and recognize who they are in their true self in whatever color they are.

themes throughout the movie which one speaks volumes to you based on your life experiences? LisaRaye: One of my

best friends has a dark complexion and we‟ve been friends since the second grade. I remember being in the locker room on the first couple of days of school when you‟re picking your friends, and she doesn‟t have anybody around her. >>>>

Everybody else was coupled up and in a group and she reminded me of this a while ago saying, “Do you remember when you walked up to me and said „Hi, I‟m LisaRaye. Do you want to be my friend?‟ I laughed because it was so cute but so real. I think even as a child I saw something that was going on that was different but couldn‟t put it into words. I went to a school that had every nationality but for some reason nobody was talking to her. It made me feel bad and it urged me to be her friend. So from there we pricked fingers, became blood sisters, and have been friends ever since. She would tell me how encouraging I‟ve been and how I‟ve made a difference and I never knew she had a complex about it. I was just glad to be an influence in her life and make her feel she was beautiful because now you can‟t tell her nothing!

AfroElle: At what moment in your career did you have to face-up to Hollywood’s standards? LisaRaye: One of the things

when I first came into Hollywood, was my voice. They wanted to change the way that I speak—my accent and my voice. To me, my accent tells you where I come from and differentiates me. I look the way I look and sound the way I sound because that‟s who I am! I‟m not trying to have a cookiecutter image; I dared to be myself. It almost shut me down though because when you‟re in Hollywood you‟re vulnerable and

impressionable and you want to do what the powers that be say is necessary to make it. For a short time in my career I began over enunciating all of my words but it wasn‟t me at all. It stopped me from being me; even my body language wasn‟t the same. So instead I told them to market me the way I am and let me get the jobs

black actress, fighting to be a single mother, fighting in black Hollywood there is a lot I‟m fighting for and we‟ll continue to fight until it gets better. But the things Tyler Perry, Oprah, Magic Johnson, and even Queen Latifah with Centric TV are doing to embrace the culture and with respect to hiring black


I look the way I look and sound the way I sound because that’s who I am! I’m not trying to have a cookie-cutter image; I dared to be myself. based on who I am and that was the best thing I could have done. A little bit later after I made that decision I landed a role in the animation The Proud Family. I was the voice of the dance instructor and even then I was unsure because they wanted me the way that I sounded, accent and all. I couldn‟t believe it but I believe it was God‟s way of confirming to just be me. Although we set trends in music, clothing, and beauty we don‟t run Hollywood. They don‟t give us credit for our stories, which are the same as theirs. But we as a race don‟t support our own, so that means our stories are being slighted. Even as the First Lady [of Turks and Caicos Island] and only black actress to hold that title I didn‟t receive a cover shoot from Essence. It‟s something that became less important to me because I saw there was no support for a light skinned black woman. So growing up being independent, fighting to be a

actors, is a great leap forward. The business can seem like a Merry-Go-Round; either you wait your turn or not. In the meantime build your brand, which is what I‟ve been doing with my beauty and hair product line and touring with my motivational workshops. I wanted to be in show biz because I love the lights, camera, action. At the same time, I know it‟s about growing too. []

For more info on LisaRaye’s next workshop and her new hair product line visit

WANT MORE? Click here to read exclusive interviews with the cast and crew of SKINNED.

How can you get involved? Ama Abebrese, founder and leader of Africa’s largest anti -skin bleaching campaign shares how you can make a difference. AfroElle: Tell us more about your anti-skin bleaching campaign and how it ties into the film Skinned. Ama: Our campaign is entitled 'I love my natural skin tone'. Say No to skin bleaching/toning. What makes this campaign difficult is often the denial that exists with those who engage in the practice so awareness and education is a key component. It began in Ghana and we hope to spread across the continent and the diaspora. Skin bleaching has become a norm in many African and diaspora societies and often has very dangerous effects. Our campaign targets mostly young people

through schools and universities, radio and TV, billboards and online via social media. We have celebrity ambassadors that also push the message of loving our black skin, in all its different shades from dark to light and we have a campaign anthem song 'BeYoutiful' by music artist Sedem. Skinned couldn't have come at a better time as this skin bleaching seems to be on the rise along with the need for a dialogue about it. People can get involved in so many ways. We want to encourage parents, teachers, community leaders, and the like to encourage the youth in areas of self-acceptance. The more we talk and highlight this issue the more impact we can make in a change of attitudes. We encourage all to join our Facebook page at

Inside An African City We take a peek into the web series, An African City in an interview with the cast and producers.



et in Accra, Ghana, An African City is a web series following the lives of five returnees to the African continent. Born of Nicole Amarteifo and produced by Millie Moyo, the series is a dazzling expression of the experiences of black women in Africa. When Nana Yaa returns to her home country Ghana, she finds her girlfriends; Sade, Ngozi, Makena and Zainab already journeying through the culture shock, the new experience of electricity and water outages, the unbelievable cost of accommodation, the culture of dating, politics of the sexes, as well as the unfamiliar tongue of their home, of returning to Africa after spending most of their lives abroad. The women discover the warmth of home, old love, new love and rekindled friendships. As is the culture with all the shows that have connected with viewers on a level more profound than simple fanaticism, the multiple facets of the human life experiences come into a personal and an

open contact with everyone who watches the show. From the events that every other woman in Africa can attest to having experienced once or more times in their lives, to those underthe-rug conversations that are a covert truth- An African City is the art and indisputable science of telling stories that belong absolutely and exclusively to African cities and their women. Dubbed Africa’s own Sex and The City, An African City is an authentic, accurate and peculiar record of the lives of women in African cities. The eccentricity of the series can be credited to its fearlessness in communicating subjects that are somewhat taboo for an African audience, the gaspworthy fashion, its rich storyline and its online communication.

AFROELLE: YOU HAVE CREDITED SEX AND THE CITY FOR SPARKING THE INTEREST TO MAKE AN AFRICAN CITY, HOW HAVE YOU WORKED THE CONCEPT SO THAT AN AFRICAN CITY IS AN ORIGINAL STORY AND NOT THE AFRICAN VERSION OF ANOTHER? NICOLE A. : I was certainly first inspired by 'Sex and the City.' But it was when I was sitting in Accra, Ghana , 10 years after the original SATC first aired on cable, that I really became a fan watching every single episode from season one to six back to back including all the director cuts. But, SATC was the experience of the American woman, An African City is uniquely looking at the experience of African women who have returned to the continent after living many years abroad.

photo credit Mantse Aryeequaye

“ What is fun about the show is that there are no boundaries in topics or themes, I would always want the fans of An African City to have that: a show that can push boundaries and talk about taboo topics not typically discussed in African film.”


Some of these experiences will be unique to the life of this type of returnee, while some of these experiences will show that you can be a woman sitting in Africa or China or Europe, there are experiences that simply just unite us all in our femininity. In short, the comedic web series is African, but shares stories that are universally female, universally human for that matter. AE: BASED ON THE GREAT SUCCESS OF AN AFRICAN CITY, DO YOU SEE IT BEING SHARED ON THE TELEVISION MEDIUM? NA: TV is certainly the goal for a season two. But, being that we have viewers sitting everywhere from Nairobi to Los Angeles, Atlanta to Joburg. we would need a network that has that ability to have a global reach. That might be a tall order, but that is what I hope for. Also, I enjoyed the creative freedom that comes with using an internet-based platform, I would not want a TV network to put boundaries on any of that creativity. >>>

What is fun about the show is that there are no boundaries in topics or themes, I would always want the fans of An African City to have that: a show that can push boundaries and talk about taboo topics not typically discussed in African film.

AE: THE SERIES IS A BRILLIANT AND REFRESHING EXPRESSION OF THE MODERN AFRICAN GIRL, OTHER THAN SEX AND THE CITY, ARE THE WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE WHO HAVE INSPIRED THE STORY? NA: Every woman I have met in this country is an inspiration, because they all have a journey and are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of that journey; this journey makes them human and that humanity is beautiful. But, the real inspiration is African immigrants who are returning. It's an ode to the generation before us that felt they had to leave because of the political instability of the 1980s, to the generation of today that has decided to return. It is this theme that has really been the inspiration behind this show.


WITH US REGARDING THE STORYLINE? NA: The thing with a web series, it's hard to offer much depth when you have a 12 minute episode and trying to incorporate the lives of five main characters. If we were doing a season two with longer episodes on a television network, I would want the viewer to experience more depth with each character and with each plot line. Also, in season one, the girls are still African women who are very much westernized. Season two I would want to see how immersion into the culture around them is changing them – if at all.

AE: HOW DID YOU WRITE EACH CHARACTER SO UNIQUE AND RELATABLE? NA: Tapping into my own stories and tapping into the stories of people I know. I am not a good friend to have because if you tell me your story it might end up in a script. But, yes, nearly every story in An African City is the story of women from several cities throughout the continent, from Accra to Lagos to Nairobi to Kigali to Cape Town. These stories happen and there are plenty more to share. <<<<

photo credit MiMo

“ Until you have the right cast, you have nothing but an idea.


actors who could bring those characters to life. As she tells it, MaameYaa Boafo – “the Ghanaian Carrie Bradshaw” – was the first to enter the audition room. After MaameYaa read, Nicole turned to the rest of the team and said, "this is a great sign; this is going to be a good thing."

AFROELLE: WHY DID YOU TAKE UP AN AFRICAN CITY AS A PROJECT? MILLIE MONYO: I was living in Ghana at the time and visiting New York for a few days when a close friend Mariama Keita, a member of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN), told me about Nicole and her pilot for a show. I watched it, fell in love with the concept and truly wanted to see it become successful. Upon returning to Ghana, I met Nicole and our friendship grew to a business partnership. It was a no brainer that I would come on board and produce as well as bring it to TV which is my ultimate goal!

AE: THE SERIES HAS AN INCREDIBLE CAST OF BEAUTIFUL AFRICAN WOMEN, WHAT WAS THE CASTING CRITERIA? MM: As the writer, Nicole had these characters in her head. All she needed was to find the right

Upon meeting each girl individually, there was a feeling that the casting was just right. The final click happened during the table read for Season One. As we read though the scripts, something magical happened and I just knew this was it! “Until you have the right cast, you have nothing but an idea.”

AE: HAVE YOU DONE ANY PROJECTS SIMILAR TO AN AFRICAN CITY? MM: The only project that comes remotely close is PoweR Girls which was a reality based show created for MTV in 2005 that told the story of four young Publicists and their boss socialite, Lizzie Grubman. Similar to An African City, PoweRGirls was compared to SATC likely because of the four female leads. My love for producing developed after being featured on that show. I found that I was more interested in being behind the scenes than in front of the camera. I met quite a few people and made some solid connections which led me to work on “What not to Wear” and “Life in the Fab Lane” with Kimora Lee Simmons. An African City is my first independent producing project in Ghana.


“ Fashion plays a MAJOR role in the series as well as in the lives of the girls. I’d even go as far as calling Fashion the 6th main character.”

MM: Yes, this was completely intentional. We wanted

to showcase the best that Africa, namely Ghana has to offer. The response from our audiences has been great and we are delighted that they seem to be hungry for more. Our styling team for Season One which included: JoJo Abot of Vintage GH, Esosa E and myself worked hard to create looks that would do justice to the vibrancy and uniqueness that is Ghana fashion right now. And, of course, Nicole had relationships with many of the designers and was able to source many of the looks

I can only hope to one day see African ladies – or ladies throughout the world for that matter – copying the looks of the ladies of An African City! SATC ignited the careers of Manolo Blahnik and Patricia Field and made wearing a tutu and flower corsage cool! I can only hope to one day see African ladies – or ladies throughout the world for that matter – copying the looks of the ladies of An African City!

AE: THE STORYLINE IS VERY WEALTHY, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO COMPRESS SUCH LARGE STORIES SO FLAWLESSLY INTO 12 MINUTES AN EPISODE? MM: I’ll let Nicole answer this NICOLE: Well, thank you! Being that this is a web series being shared on a social platform such as YouTube, I felt each episode had two lives. In the first life, it’s about certain issues being touched upon through the characters and through the story line. In the second life, it’s about the audience and the conversation spearheaded by our audience.

for wardrobe. We can only hope to forever change the fashion landscape of Africa as ‘Sex and the City’ did so many years ago in the states and continue to deliver top quality fashion over the many seasons to come.

What do they think about these issues? In episode two, what do they think about Ghana’s housing market? What do they think about the role of “sugar daddies” in our society? In episode four, what do they think about the efficiency of public agencies? In episode five, what do they think about bleaching creams? In episode ten, what do they think about Ghana’s oil sector? The second life is also a key part of the story touched upon in each episode. That’s how I see it. []

WANT MORE? Fashion plays a MAJOR role in the series as well as in the lives of the girls. I’d even go as far as calling Fashion the 6th main character!

Click Here to read our interviews with the cast of An African City

So, You Think You Can Dance? Meet Miss Ksyn Professional Dancer & Self-Made Businesswoman


resh off of 132 performances with Beyonce‟s “Mrs. Carter World Tour Show‟ and 20 shows for „On the Run‟ with Beyonce and Jayz, 30 year old professional dancer Tanesha Cason, also known as Miss Ksyn, started taking ballet dance classes at the age of 5. In the beginning it was just for fun but several years later when she was introduced to African dance, her passion developed and changed. “That freedom that you have in African dance wasn‟t the same in ballet.” When her teachers showed her hip-hop dance, Ksyn found her niche. “Once I hit hip-hop it was straight says she learned some hip-hop.” “I came home and gave my mom my degree and basic entrepreneurial said that's what you wanted now let me do what I skills in her degree program. Born and raised in the want to do. I sort of did it my own way. Bronx, New York, part After earning her of Ksyn‟s family history Bachelor‟s Degree, traces back to Haiti and Honduras. As a teen she Ksyn went back to New York City. “I came home and danced in an after school program called „Teens in gave my mom my degree and said that's what you Motion.‟ “They taught me how to give back to my wanted now let me do what I want to do. I sort of did it community and they gave to me. After school I my own way.” would go to them. They would help me with my homework. We had step (dance) classes. We had Ksyn pursued a career in dance on her own terms –but shows everywhere.” Ksyn says that‟s where her not without risk. She took a job at the clothing store desire to perform blossomed. “I love to perform BCBG and got fired. “I got fired because I left to feel more comfortable on the stage performing.” audition for Sean Kingston for BET‟s 106 and Park. I showed up to the audition and I was the only unsigned After high school Ksyn went to Franklin Pierce dancer that booked the job. That was my first TV College in New Hampshire, USA, now Franklin performance. I signed with Bloc Agency to work out my Pierce University. She wanted to major in dance pay and it was surreal. Then it just kept going. I was but her mom was against it. “In the beginning my making more money in one weekend than two weeks at mom thought it was cute but she said I needed a the job. I started to appear on TV more and performing job and not a hobby.” She began college majoring with the rapper Eve in Australia. My mom‟s friends and in Criminal Justice but switched to Arts other people saw me. I was doing award shows. Mom Management with a concentration in Dance. Ksyn started to take me seriously. Your parents don't want to

see you struggle but if it's something you want to do you have to except the struggle.” After working with Eve in Australia, Ksyn booked more jobs with more artists, continued modeling and crafted the Miss Ksyn brand. She toured Africa with Sean Paul performing in Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo, Ghana and Uganda. “I was touring with Jeremiah while I was working with Sean Paul. I was working with Ciara while working with Sean Paul. Basically if you're not on retainer you got to get money where you can get it because you're not on contract. If I'm away or know I'm going to be away for a month and a half when I come back I'll set up. It's a hustle.” Ksyn has been working at this pace as a full time dancer for over 5 years. She‟s appeared as a dancer in videos for 50 Cent, Ciara Usher, Busta Rhymes, Chris Brown, Beyonce, Elle Varner, Sean Paul and Mary J Blige. She say‟s even though it‟s her passion -it comes with a keen sense of business knowledge that she had to learn on her own. She‟s experienced in navigating through the entertainment business to create a sense of sustainability and advises other women to do the same. “I have a sole proprietorship business. As dancer you learn to write certain expense off on your taxes like travel for work or potential work. Keep all your receipts or put it on your card. When you do your taxes it's a right off. Make sure everything is legit. That is very important.” As an entrepreneur Ksyn‟s stream of revenue isn‟t limited to just leaps, hops, jumps, pops and twerks. She‟s beauty blogger who shares make up and beauty tips to her over 1,000 fans on her YouTube page. “You are a walking brand. You're a walking business especially when you have a platform. I had a platform before from touring but I had a bigger platform when I started touring with Beyonce. I have to make sure my beauty blogs are up-to-date.” She‟s also a brand ambassador for “It‟s a Wig.” A major challenge with entrepreneurs is health insurance. While traveling the world with Beyonce, Ksyn became ill and says medical costs are her own expense. “It doesn't come with the agency. You got to get that on your own.”

Ksyn says her motivation comes from her fans. She has over 29,000 on Instagram followers and enjoys connecting with them and teaching dance classes when her time allows. As the New Year approaches, Miss Ksyn would like to expand on her brand and maybe have her own line of wigs and makeup to share with women around world. For those who want to make it as full-time dancer Ksyn says get an agent, take ballet classes and go for it. “Ballet shows you how to better take care of your body. You‟re not going to book every audition. Know that you're going to face adversity but just do it. It will make you stronger in the long run. You have to invest in yourself but it's scary and the thought of it is scary. If it's something you want to do you have to believe in yourself. I never look back. When it's meant to be and it's in your gut everything will align. Always remember to be a brand!” CONNECT WITH KSYN Website: Twitter: @MissKsyn Facebook: Instagram: missksyn Youtube: MissKsyn

The Path Redefined: Getting to the Top on Your Own Terms Lauren Maillian Bias talks mixing business with pleasure, the entrepreneurial spirit, and her new book.




he corporate world can be fierce and much like the ABC hit show, it can feel like a shark tank. As an entrepreneur that shark tank can be even more overwhelming with competition, responsibility and risk at all-time highs. The measure of success almost always depends on the measure of hard work and Lauren Maillian Bias is no stranger to neither. The leap from having a small lemonade stand on a Spanish Harlem corner to being the founder of several companies, including an award-winning wine vineyard, is large to say the least. Her work as founder of Luxury Market Branding and Gen Y Capital Partners has landed her numerous awards including the Empact100 Award honoree by the Kauffman Foundation for being one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under 30 and by Essence magazine as one of the Class of 2013 African-American Shot Callers.

The consistent element in her journey, and one that is critical to anyone’s success was her dedication to cultivating relationships and expanding her network. It’s no wonder why the idea for writing the book was not one that she had personally, but one that various editors wanted to see into fruition. As a single mother of two and a serial entrepreneur you may be shocked to find a chapter entitled “There’s no such thing as work-life balanced” in her new book A Path Redefined, which after being released in May became an instant Amazon bestseller. According to her, work-life balance involves integration, where the two worlds of business and personal life blend together so perfectly that the fine line between them becomes transparent. What transpires from this delicate balance is peace of mind, which is as equally important to success as ambition and integrity. So while vacationing in the Hamptons and watching her children play, Ms. Maillian Bias still makes time to share with us her keys to success which are sure to spark the entrepreneurial flame fluttering within AfroElle: Writing a book can be challenging especially when meshing your personal life and professional life. What did you find to be the most difficult part?


Lauren Maillian Bias: My biggest challenge was not in actually writing the book it was when we went through to edit the book. We realized that I had some redundant content and we needed to condense it. Another thing that was difficult for me was where to draw the line between the personal story of my life versus my personal story of my career.

LMB: I think that in order to be successful you have to be taken seriously. I think that as a successful woman you have to have rules. I have a rule, I don’t date people that I meet from work; and that’s just something I stand by. For me, that is because I don’t believe in crossing that line and not because I don’t think it’s a line that can’t be crossed. But I think that as a woman, and as a woman of color, crossing that line would come at a cost for how you’re viewed professionally.

AfroElle: How much is enough. Do you think women should sacrifice personal relationships, dating, for the sake of their

I think that when you make those sorts of decisions the perception is out of your hands. I think that more often than not

we end up working with all sorts of people but at some point we end up working with a fair amount of guys. This has been the case for nearly every industry I’ve been in and it’s something that successful woman need to be very cognizant of because it may come at the expense of how you’re respected and viewed in a particular arena or in a particular industry. For me that cost is just too high to bear and I have yet to meet anyone through work that is worth taking that risk. AfroElle: So what is your philosophy on mixing business with pleasure? LMB: I totally mix business with pleasure. I do it all the time. I go on vacation with work colleagues. I go grab dinner and drinks with work colleagues. If one of my company’s founders is coming into town sometimes they stay at my home; I consider that mixing business with pleasure. I believe in that 1000% and honestly believe that it can help create stronger relationships in that sort of scenario because people get to see who you are outside of wok and outside of your work personality. And depending on who you really are, that often times strengthens the relationships I have with people and they tend to have new found respect for all that they see me managing and responsible for in my personal life. AfroElle: Are there certain aspects you think

I think that in order to be successful you have to be taken seriously. I think that as a successful woman you have to have rules.

are fundamental to healthy business relationships that are different from personal relationships? LMB: For me they are the same because I look at it as people I’m going to spend a lot of time with so I have essentially the same expectations as someone I would want to go to the beach with or be in a relationship with. I think one of the big deal breakers for me on the business side is trust, which is also a deal breaker for me on the personal side. I think having someone with integrity, confidence, and a strong sense of self is someone I want to work with. That’s a baseline pre-requisite because I know that in my absence the people I have on my team are still going to make good decisions, have a good filter, still make good assessments, and still have a good head on their shoulders. AfroElle: The feminist movement has in many ways assisted in the upward mobility of women in the workplace. >>>

I recognized where I needed to learn and recognized what I needed to teach them. Once I identified those areas I ended up earning their respect. They went from looking at me as the young girl who didn’t belong to the young girl they needed on their team if they were going

In corporate America have you ever felt marginalized because of your gender, race or any other factor? How did you respond? LMB: Yes, I talk about it in my book. When I started my first business, Sugarleaf vineyard. I was a woman in a very old industry. It was a men’s industry, I was starting my own and I wasn’t inheriting it from previous generations in my family whereas a lot of them have been passed down from 2-3 generations at this point. So I was completely green in their eyes and I was a woman of color, and a woman of color in Virginia. How did I deal with it? I dealt with it by forcing them to respect me.

I talk about this a lot in the book and when I’m speaking to people I tell them that you have to find what you bring to the table that’s valuable, that they don’t have, and that they can’t do. In this particular case I was the fast-paced, sharp young woman from New York City and I knew about marketing, branding, and social media, all things that were very foreign to them and that they didn’t really care much about. This was ten years ago but now you see this huge boom in tech and social media. So not only was it my marketing expertise but it was my understanding of trends and how to

help grow our wine region and drive tourism and sales that would boost all of the businesses of this faceless, brand-less region and make them more attractive. So when I brought this to the table it forced them to respect me and value me for something that I can provide. I recognized where I needed to learn and recognized what I needed to teach them. Once I identified those areas I ended up earning their respect. They then went from looking at me as the young girl who didn’t belong to the young girl they needed on their team if they were going to stay relevant and grow. AfroElle: Aside from that were there any other experiences that you transformed from being a failure to a success? LMB: I’m sure there have been a lot of those. I think it happens all the time in marketing. I can’t really pinpoint one without divulging clients, but it happens all the time in marketing and that’s what makes a good marketer. A good marketer takes that moment and leverages it for exposure or for the opportunity to forge a stronger bond with the consumer. So much of this comes down to communication. How much of the mistakes in branding and marketing boil down to how you communicate it? In fact I’m often asked if I would reinvest in an entrepreneur who I gave money to and the company failed or went under. I always say it depends on how (s)he handled the fact that the company failed. If they handle it professionally, gracefully, and they

communicated it appropriately then absolutely, that’s someone I would invest in again. Now if they don’t communicate, they fade to black, and you can’t get in touch with them, then absolutely not. So many of these situations come down to how they are communicated. AfroElle: The entrepreneurial journey is not an easy one. Do you believe that it has to “be in you” or can anyone invigorate that spirit within them? LBM: I do think it is innate because there are so many people that say, “I would love to make my own schedule or I would love to be my own boss but that comes at the expense of having to work all the time and having to take all the responsibility and I just don’t want it.” And they can admit that and I’ve had it told to me so many times and I think it’s fascinating because I can’t imagine life any other way. Even if I worked for a company I see myself running a company. I’d be running a huge company and I’d still take on the same amount of responsibility as an entrepreneur. The expectations and the bar would still be as high and the risks would still feel as though they are mine even though it’s not my personal assets or money. >>>>


When you’re running a company you still take on that level of ownership and I love that [this element] is a part of my life and career. I even joked that if I did work for a company it would be on a commission base because I want that level of ownership. But there are people who don’t. People have told me “I like the fact that I have to be at work at xyz time, I know what the consequences are for being late, I know what time I get off and I know that if I work over that time I’ll be getting overtime or a bonus. I also know that when I leave work it’s no longer my problem.” There are people that subscribe to that, they don’t want that level of ownership. So I think that you must have that level of selfmotivation to get up everyday when you’re your own boss and you don’t have bosses around you to say “here are the goals of the day, let’s get motivated”. When you’re the head of the company you have to motivate yourself and motivate others and those are things I feel are innate skills and desires. There are people who want to coast. They want to

graduate from college, they want to get their skills down to a certain level and they want to coast. That’s not the innate spirit of an entrepreneur. It’s a skill of an entrepreneur to improve, to constantly grow and to never feel like you arrived or reached the pinnacle of success. You must be incredibly driven and desire to take ownership of everything you do. You can teach people these skills but I’m not convinced nor have I ever seen anyone formally taught entrepreneurship, who didn’t have that fire in their belly, to last long or go far. AfroElle: What upcoming ventures can we expect? LMB: We were on tour and we’re resuming the tour in September. There are some other things in the works that are in the staytuned department. You can always visit for more information on Lauren Maillian Bias and to order her lifechanging book![]

Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei are the co -founders of She Leads Africa, a groundbreaking organisation promoting entrepreneurship amongst women. Having realised a gap in the promotion of female entrepreneurs, the duo came together to facilitate provision of guidance and relevant financial support from industry veterans to up-coming female entrepreneurs in order to propel the latter to higher level in terms of their businesses. Yasmin is a management consultant focusing primarily on developing growth strategies for a number of local and international corporates. In 2011, she spent a year attending culinary school and working as a sous-chef in the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. Yasmin is a graduate of Princeton University with degrees in history and finance. While Afua is a management consultant advising large scale public and private sector organisations on strategy and operations. She previously served as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia and communications staffer for Michelle Obama. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago with master’s degrees in business administration and public policy. In this interview TATENDA KANENGONI, they explain the inspiration behind their initiative and angel networks through which female entrepreneurs are mentored; they also let us in on their personal journeys to success.

Yasmin Belo-Osagie How did She Leads Africa begin? We started this company because we noticed a critical gap in the market – a lack of investment focus on high growth African female entrepreneurs. Policymakers, governments and other development oriented institutions readily acknowledge that

When it comes to the issue of supporting female entrepreneurs, the majority of focus is almost exclusively on low income, bottom of the pyramid women who are supported in creating micro and small businesses.

women who are supported in creating micro and small businesses.

Afua Osei entrepreneurship will be the broad based driver of economic growth for Africa with the potential to create jobs for the more than 200 million young Africans between ages 15 and 24. However, when it comes to the issue of supporting female entrepreneurs, the majority of focus is almost exclusively on low income, bottom of the pyramid

While this is certainly an area of need we identified a gap in products and services for female entrepreneurs looking to create scalable and high growth enterprises. Limited attention has been paid towards investing in these entrepreneurs and we believe they will be an important source of economic growth, innovation, and public leadership for the next phase of Africa’s development. She Leads Africa is a platform that provides the most talented female entrepreneurs across the continent with access to the knowledge, networks and financing needed to build and scale strong businesses. Our goal is to jumpstart female entrepreneurs from SMEs to pan-African industry leaders.

EVEN WHEN A WOMAN IS ABLE TO SUCCEED ON A NATIONAL OR PAN-AFRICAN LEVEL, SOCIETY EITHER LINKS HER SUCCESS TO A MALE PATRON OR FAILS TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT. Your work focuses on assisting female entrepreneurs, why is it important to promote entrepreneurship amongst females and what are some of the challenges faced in achieving this goal in Africa particularly? Unequal access to education Women in Africa have unequal access to education from the primary to tertiary level. The resulting lack of qualifications is a critical barrier to the valuable work experience that is needed to create a successful business.

Constraining cultural stereotypes Though women in Africa are prominent among small business owners, African societies frown on more ambitious entrepreneurial aspirations which take women away from their traditional roles as home-makers and child bearers. Even when a woman is able to succeed on a national/ pan-African level, society either links her success to a male patron or fails to acknowledge it. The result is that young women with entrepreneurial ambitions often struggle to identify female role models whilst their male counterparts have a plethora of options to choose from – a cursory glance at well publicised lists such as the Forbes Africa Rich List is enough to see this dynamic.

Limited opportunities to develop useful networks

Business circles in Africa remain very much an old boys’ network. The most lucrative business deals and allegiances are often formed in maledominated social spaces such as bars and exclusively male members’ clubs. Women’s interacting with men in these settings, in the absence of designated male companions, is often considered taboo. These dynamics make it very difficult for women to participate freely in African business networks. Though there are a growing number of formal female networks that link like-minded women, there are still not enough. Moreover, women, as a whole, do not have enough financial and political power to make these networks as powerful as their male-dominated equivalents.

Limited access to financing Surveys have shown that terms of borrowing across the continent are less favourable to women than men. Women are more likely to face higher interest rates, be required to collateralise a higher share of loans and have shorter term loans. Additionally, studies show that when investors are given identical pitches one delivered by a man and the other by a woman, they are much more likely to invest in the business with a male founder.


Learn the language of investors. When engaging with investors all start ups need to have a basic understanding of key financial concepts including ROI, Cash Flow, Income Statements, Balance Sheets. This financial literacy will make you more appealing to investors. Contrary to popular belief there is a lot of venture capital floating around Africa. Start-ups need to learn how to present themselves as real businesses rather than “cool ideas”. It is this business savvy that will attract investors.


Done is better than perfect; be 80:20 The start-up scene moves quickly and relentlessly. Instead of waiting to design the perfect product, we would encourage entrepreneurs to go 80:20 and strive to create a product that is 80% perfect. Get this product out quickly and iterate as you go. This strategy will also make it much easier to get feedback from the market quickly and adjust as needed.


Think bold and dream big When we initially started She Leads Africa we thought it would be one off pitch contest. In essence we limited our own dreams. After a period of self reflection and many long conversations with mentors we were encouraged to think bold and dream big. Our ambition is to become a household name amongst African female entrepreneurs who see us as their one stop shop support system as well as shrewd investors who are looking for lucrative and

exciting investment opportunities on the continent.


Teamwork is key

We‟re very used to the Big Man culture in Africa. We see Dangote as the force behind the Dangote group, Tony Elumelu as the force behind Heirs Holdings but thousands of individuals drive the success of those organisations. When building your company it is critical to build a team that will challenge each other, think creatively, and dig in to get the hard work done.


Do your homework

Getting to market quickly is one thing, jumping in without any prior research is folly. Entrepreneurs need to learn to how to listen for, rather than guess, what the market wants. You may have hypotheses about what the market wants but until you have tested that, it‟s little more than your gut feel. One of the first things that we did was to create a survey which we sent out to 100 female entrepreneurs. The responses from this survey gave us excellent insights into what female entrepreneurs wanted and needed. In many cases our initial hypotheses were right and this gave us the confidence to forge ahead. In other cases the responses surprised us and forced us to rethink some of our initial assumptions. []

Conversation with

Mamatsabu Maphike On Taking Care of Business Mamatsabu Maphike CA, co-founded MOTHEO Chartered Accountants , a merger between two firms, with Nitha Dire (CA). MOTHEO is a 100% black female owned accounting firm where Mamatsabu now works as the Head of Advisory and the Operations Director. The firm is dedicated to formulating solutions

relevant to the African continent. One of Mail & Guardian’s 2013 Top 200 Young South Africans, Mamatsabu’s contribution to African entrepreneurship has been instrumental in supporting her passion for the economic development of South Africa and its course in job creation.

Did you always want to be a chartered accountant? I’ve always wanted to be a businesswoman. I became a CA because I was told that’s how you will learn about different businesses. And since I wasn’t sure exactly how you become a business woman I took the CA option and thought maybe along the way I will know how; (laughs) the younger Tsabu was a very smart and relentless girl, I’m grateful for her.

Could you have gone into your own business immediately after university? Is it any important to get the experience working in an established organisation? Yes, I could have but my CA journey required me to do a compulsory traineeship. My work experience has been invaluable to date. You learn the basics of how corporate or businesses run. I advise 2 years’ experience in any industry but spend that time watching how the systems and processes work and question them. Observe how your bosses conduct business, read their reports and learn from pure observation. Do whatever they hired you to do quickly and efficiently and spend the rest of the time finding out what worries your boss and her boss and her boss.

What was the starting point in the establishment of MOTHEO CA? We merged to leverage off our resources. Nitha and I were in the same space and it made sense for us to merge; we were duplicating our systems. It was a natural progression and it made business sense.

Were you ready?

I was as ready as I could be at the time. I could have been more prepared, I could have built a clientele first, I could have saved more, I could have been more confident, I could have been more realistic, I could have done more research but I didn’t; I was as ready as I could be at the time. With entrepreneurship you’re ready the minute the entrepreneur bug bites. What do you know now, that you wish you had known before going into your own business?

Other than financial risks, what did you stand to lose if it didn’t do well and how did you handle that risk? Nothing really because all my risks are as calculated as they can be at the time; every risk I take has a strategy behind it. I’m obsessed with risk, I chase risk and if I fail I simply learn from it. I must say nothing hurts like a calculated risk gone wrong; the

“ In my journey to date I’ve noticed that nothing kills risk faster than success. ”

I wish I had known that I would be starting my life all over again. I would be like a child but I will be unlearning instead of learning a lot of things. I would be building blindfolded and all I would have are my dreams, ambitions, confidence and high work ethic as my light. I read a couple of books alluding to this but at the time I didn’t believe it. Entrepreneurship is another existence on its own; you’re your own student every single day. Did you know that MOTHEO would do well? We are still on our journey and are ambitious; but we know we will achieve our vision because we are loyal to the process of entrepreneurship. We are clear about the space MOTHEO will occupy in the big world of business and every day we are driving it towards that. We are

lessons there are intense because they’re mostly a stab to the ego. I thrive on risk and I chase it, overcoming uncertainty is my adrenalin rush; I love seeing how it all turns out after all that drama. In my journey to date I’ve noticed that nothing kills risk faster than success. What is the value of having a good business partner? Having a good business partner is invaluable. Every entrepreneur deserves to have a friend in business who understands. Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely experience but a good business partner makes it lighter. When things go-everythingbut-right I pick up my phone and call her and by the end of the call we are laughing about it. I couldn’t do this alone. I wouldn’t want to do this alone.

Do you have a sort of barometer for the sacrifices you are willing to make for the growth of MOTHEO? We have sacrificed so much already. I always tweet: “Constant state of sacrifice”, that’s how my life has been. I don’t have a barometer but I’ve accepted that sacrifice is the order of the day especially since I want MOTHEO to outlive me.

Do you think that the business industries in Africa encourage entrepreneurship? The opportunities are there but we don’t have intentional structures that support every level of the entrepreneurship process. They support to an extent. Existing business industries are mainly global multi-nationals who push their own agenda. We spend a lot of money on incubation and mentoring which is an early level of the entrepreneurship process but nothing on accessing the market and selling. Accessing the market is a business in itself and funds need to be pumped into this. As Africa we are competing against the global billion dollar marketing machine and we don’t invest in this. African products and services will struggle to be global giants unless they get the big sales or marketing machine to turn on their favour. We are becoming consumer nations because of the global marketing machine but we don’t fight back by investing in our own products and services and flooding the global market with our products and services. And this is true with every sector of Africa-as-a-country. So as an ambitious entrepreneur you know that you’re fighting against global giants’ nevermind your neighbour down the road. There’s talk about a growing African middleclass but it’s pointless to Africa if it’s going to

“ Start what you can start with whatever skills or any other advantage you have and make it work. It sounds like I’m selling dreams but that’s how we did and many others. Don’t wait for funding it will only kill your spirit; start and then go searching for funds and if you don’t get funded go find out why and fix and go back to find

just be a consumer base for global companies and not African businesses. We can incubate and mentor entrepreneurs all we like but if they don’t have the funds to sell and market their products they are just going to add to the failure statistics, which is unfortunate not only for them but Africa as a whole.

Is there a network that exclusively supports black-women owned start-up companies? There’s a few out there but I don’t encourage anyone to wait for such funds. My business partner and I just dived into all this, we just wanted to disrupt and we’re well on our way. I don’t encourage anyone to wait for support; forge ahead don’t wait. The support and networks will find you along the way. Funds don’t like risk so the more successful you become the more everyone wants to fund you. If you have R1, start a R1 business, focus on making it the most well run R1 business out there that operates like it’s a R10 business, stay loyal to the process and eventually you will have a R100 business – what I’m saying is start what you can start with whatever skills or any other advantage you have and make it work. It sounds like I’m selling dreams but that’s how we did and many others. Don’t wait for funding it will only kill your spirit; start and then go searching for funds and if you don’t get funded go find out why and fix and go back to find funds. There’s a couple who run a R30 million engineering business but it took them 10 years of failure after failure to get there and now every venture capitalist and funder alike wants a piece and they are refusing and good for them, where were those funds when they had to sell their house? Don’t wait for a funder, just naively forge ahead.

What have been the most rewarding moments in your work?

Reward has been hiring unemployed graduates, then having to retrench them and then re-hiring them back. Entrepreneurship is tough but I’ve learnt that I’m tough, I might not look it but I’m tough and I would never have known this, I love knowing I’m tough.

What entrepreneurship myth can you dispel? You need to have funding in place. Not true. Start with R1 if that’s all you have. Start anything that needs R1 to start. That you need to have this long list of connections to make things happen. Again not true. You just need to go out there and find people who believe in you, the rest finds you. That to succeed in our era you must invent this great new high-tech business and be this hightech genius. Not true. Great inventions are not what’s driving our world, it’s reshaping but not driving. Not everyone is a Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerbergs but there are endless lists of Others. Most of us are Others. Go make your billions doing Other things which are not necessarily high-tech. The guy who supplies Bidvest with their cleaning materials is happy, very happy actually. Entrepreneurs are born. Doctors are not born. Engineers are not born. Lawyers are not born and so are entrepreneurs, you learn like everything else in life. Successful people don’t sleep. This is not true. Sleep when your body needs sleep and wake up when it’s refreshed, you can’t build anything if you’re a zombie. I don’t sleep much but that’s how I’ve always been not because I’m following this great big formula of successful people who wake up at 4am or something.[]

Street Style Photographer: Amina Touray Models: Zenani Che Shakur & Zainab Sillah Make up Artist & Hair Stylist: Irma Vasquez Fashion editor: Amina Touray


Catherine MAHUGU Co-founder of Soko and frontrunner of the company’s innovation, Catherine Mahugu is an International Telecom Union (United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies) Young Innovators fellow, as well as a fellow for InfoDev’s mobile start-up camp (a global program in the World bank group). Among her passion projects are Stanford University and Nokia Africa Research Centre Design Projects that are focused on developing communities through ICT. She has been recognised as one of Kenya’s top five women entrepreneurs under forty and with influence that great, hers was the brain to pick and AfroElle did just that.


“With my love for technology, for development, design and fashion I had no doubt that Soko was the best avenue to achieve what I love and fuse my interests harmoniously.�

When was your first encounter with Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and did you know immediately that you would have a career in ICT? I first encountered ICT right after high school, from a young age, I was always fascinated by electronic gadgets and the computer was one of the things on my list.I would tinker with gadgets occasionally by trying to fix them or reading user manuals to know how things work. I decided to take an IT course after high school to hone my skills as I waited to enroll to the University. From the course, I knew I wanted to study Computer Science for my university degree

modules required to achieve the vision 2013 for the country . Furthermore, I wanted to test my management and leadership skills by being a deputy presiding officer during the referendum period in Kenya. Through such experiences I was more positive and confident than ever that I wanted to venture into the startup scene and start my own business. My initial working experience was a foundation that became instrumental when founding the business and company structure.

Through our Soko collections our jewellery pieces reflect authentic African styles as well as global urban aesthetics. What made you buy into the Soko idea?

Did co-founding Soko in your third year of studying Computer Science disallow you the experience of ICT in a wellestablished corporation? No, it did not inhibit me from experiencing ICT in a well-established corporation. My plan before graduation was to ensure I had a taste of working in different sectors in the ICT realm whether it would be private or government sector. My first job was in the banking industry that I did for a year that gave me the exposure on how to work in a corporation, work in teams, and understand the business processes and procedures involved to keep the company operational. Thereafter, worked with an IT networking company as I was fascinated with wireless technology .Working there helped me to know whether I wanted to work in the computer networking sector. I also worked with the government in the ICT sector through implementation of one of the

Soko was founded in 2012.The company was born out of a love of design, a combination of global perspectives, the desire to connect and empower entrepreneurs via the use of the technology around us, and a belief that women can change the world. The founders met in Nairobi, Kenya, where we were inspired to create technology solutions to change the lives of those around us. We recognized a global need, as well as global opportunity, to disrupt the systemic patterns of poverty found across Africa’s creative economy. With Soko, we did just that. With my love for technology for development, design and fashion I had no doubt that Soko was the best avenue to achieve what I love and fuse my interests harmoniously. Tell us about your interest in fashion prior to Soko. Over the past few years there has been a renaissance of African fashion leading to international fashion houses including African design, artwork and style to achieve a stylish modern look to their designs.

The evolution of global fashion and design, the vibrant colours, geometric shapes and clean lines of African fabrics and accessories have been embraced from the runway to the sidewalk .I have been impressed with the quality of workmanship by great veteran and emerging African designers. Through our Soko collections our jewellery pieces reflect authentic African styles as well as global urban aesthetics.

Soko, which means marketplace in Swahili, offers style-conscious consumers a direct line to responsibly sourced African designs.

Does your work with Soko expose you to the full experience of ICT?

Soko’s designs are inspired by the cultural, urban, and rural creative contexts our artisans are coming from, the rich material ecosystem of Kenya, and popular international trends. Being able to fuse these in a social responsible, artisan entrepreneur driven model is something that Soko is very proud of.

At Soko, our software development team use their educational knowledge that they learnt in school and even go further to expanding their technical skills. For potential recruits, what we look for as key qualities is willingness to learn. This is because at Soko we are always using up- to- date mobile and web technologies so that we keep up with global tech trends. As a result we iterate our technology solutions very often as we prefer using the agile approach versus the waterfall model thus keeping the tech team excited by working on new appropriate technologies.

Soko Collections highlight the best in design coming out of Soko’s open online marketplace. For shoppers who prefer a curated shopping experience, our collections are the ideal choice for finding stunning and exclusive jewellery designs that are ethically sourced.

We provide Value added services for the artisans by communicating to them the latest trend briefs; ensuring that the raw materials that they use are upcycled, recycled and ethically sourced, ensuring they meet the international quality standards in order to compete globally and helping them meet consumer demand through capacity training. Please walk us through your typical workday.

What is the signature look of Soko and how does the company make sure that all the artisans understand and support the brand? Soko is an innovation in global fashion and technology: a brand that connects online consumers to global makers and handcrafted jewellery from the developing world. With Soko, you can discover incredible design and creative ingenuity made in communities that lay outside of the digital economy.

My typical day involves waking up around 4.30am5a.m in the morning to go through my emails, read the latest news on current affairs and global trends especially in ICT and fashion .Also prioritize my day on some of the important things that need to get done on that day. Thereafter, head to work. At Soko, we have a very strong collaborative team where we assist each other wherever possible. I will


be working with the office management team, tech team, logistics team and entrepreneurship team during the day and slot time for partnership meetings occasionally. At around 6pm to 9pm, I tend to work on things that I personally need to follow up on and have conference calls with the U.S team as we are a global team. I am quite passionate about what I do so finding myself working in the office pretty late is my typical workday. Working with an international team, one has to get rid of the 8a.m-5p.m work time mentality especially if you work at a startup. Time is a very valuable resource. Has Soko been successful in fashioning a better world? Yes we have. Soko uses technology to empower and provide equal access to opportunity for the artisans. With Soko's mobile tools, they have access to a whole world of consumers, expanding their business horizons and entrepreneurial prospects. Over time the artisans economic status has improved which has had a trickle down effect to their communities where they invest their profits in health, education and building their micro-enterprises. Soko and Soko artisans follow the principles of fair trade. Our artisans get the price they ask for the goods they produce and, through our artisan selection process; we work to ensure our artisan partners are providing safe working conditions and fair wages to any employees they may work with. Our artisans design their own products and we encourage them to use natural, locally-sourced recycled and upcycled materials. Not only are the creations unique and exquisite, they demonstrate the resourcefulness of our artisans and encourage a sustainable future. Soko is proud to be able to empower artisans to sell trend relevant product made from ethically sourced and upcycled materials to international consumers at affordable prices.

Our unique supply chain couples us so tightly to production and artisans so tightly to the design feedback and development process that we have been able to innovate the field of “fast ethical fashion� for the first time ever. What have been some of the milestones of your career and of Soko? Soko has been developing our technology platform for almost two years. We spent the first year iterating our mobile artisan technology and services in collaboration with artisan constituents in and around the Nairobi area. We launched the first public iteration of the e-commerce site mid last year. Our learning from that launch informed a competitive consumer facing redesign that was launched in October in tandem with a coordinated marketing campaign targeting lead consumers via social media, press, partner organizations, and sales channels. Since October, Soko has connected thousands of consumers to hundreds of artisans. Our site can receive tens of thousands of hits per month and has empowered artisans to sell thousands of products to consumers from the US, CA, EU, and Australia. Through Soko, I have achieved my personal milestones which include recognition of one of the top women in ICT, acknowledgement globally as one of the young innovators changing the world through their business which has led to numerous invitations as a guest speaker around the world. Furthermore bodies like the World Bank, UN and mainstream media like CNN validating my efforts as a young entrepreneur woman in ICT. This acts a stamp of proof that my efforts are not in vain. Is the field of ICT in Africa growing at a healthy rate as compared to the rest of the world? The ICT growth in Africa has had an exponential growth over the past few years due to favourable factors such as government policies that encourage the use and penetration of internet usage, improved infrastructure

and people who are more than ever adopting mobile technology to help them facilitate their basic needs. The integration of technology in daily activities is critical for easy adoption of technology within Africa as most technological solutions are aimed at improving the lives of the people.7 out of 10 fastest growing economies in the world are based in Africa giving rise to the middle class who have the purchasing power to cater above and beyond the basic amenities. What was the experience working on Stanford University’s Nokia Africa Research Centre Design Project?

Entrepreneurship involves dedication, sacrifice, commitment and having a great support system in terms of family, friends and co-workers. When starting a company, one needs to have a strong foundation for the business in order for it to grow sustainably. As a result founders may go an extra mile to ensure that this is achieved with limited resources. Support from mentors, family and coworkers is essential when facing failure and one needs a good support system to encourage you not to give up during tough times as the road to success can occasionally get bumpy.

One quote that I like that is beneficial to people who want to start their own company would be“Get started on your dream “Get started on your dream when the pain of inaction when the pain of inaction exceeds the fear of action.”

This was an eye opener for exceeds the fear of action.” me into technology innovation and What is in store for the Soko entrepreneurship .I got an consumer? opportunity to see entrepreneurship as a viable career that was more fulfilling than being employed. During the projects, we were taught the value of In October 2013 Soko released its first curated working in teams, prototyping various solutions and accessories collection known as the Kenya how to turn an idea into a business case/venture. collection. The collection features necklaces, What has been at the core of the various ICT4Development workshops that you have facilitated in Kenya? Through the design thinking course I received at Stanford’s University Design school in California, I have facilitated a number of trainings targeting an audience interested in providing mobile based solutions to the informal communities. Through design thinking methodologies, this ensures that solutions targeting a certain problem faced in a community are human centric and incorporates the needs and the feedback of the users of the system or application. What is the greatest lesson in entrepreneurship?

bracelets and earrings designed and handcrafted by skilled Kenyan artisans, made available to customers in the US, Kenya, Europe, Canada and Australia at .The Kenya Collection is beautifully handcrafted from sustainable elements, designed to be everyday yet one-of-a-kind classics. Soko has recently launched its Fall/Winter 2014 collection which features ethically-sourced horn and bone, statement necklaces, architectural brass and intricate beadwork, which carefully designed and curated to reflect authentic African styles as well as global urban aesthetics. The pieces consist entirely of upcycled metal, glass, bone, and horn, locally sourced by Soko’s artisans. []


Abai Schulze treads the fine line between fashion and enterprise Written By: Iman Folayan Photos courtesy: Abai Schulze


ou may be hip to the new fashion trend thats sweeping the world, leather inserts. Leather was a major theme at New York’s 2014 Fashion Week and designers Alexander Wang, Micahel Kors and Max Azria were just a few that rocked the runway with breathtaking pieces in their new lines. But leather is nothing new.

made for the everyday woman with a killer fashion instinct.

Since the beginning of time, before cotton was the go-to fabric, leather has been used for everything from shoes to clothes and even accessories. Most people think Italian leather is supreme to all other but Ethiopian designer Abai Schulze is proving that Ethiopian leather is equal, if not better, and is raising the bar with her chic and unique accessory line, The ZAAF Collection,

Now every piece of the ZAAF collection is a testament to not only awakening the fashion senses but also giving each customer a unique piece of Ethiopia. “My products are functional, attractive and fashion forward, and I want consumers to feel a sense of where the product was made. That’s my deep and ultimate goal.”

This past November marked the official launch of the ZAAF Collection into the global market. As an Ethiopian based company the desire to provide a stylish handbag has led Abai on an even greater quest, to influence the job sector and economic welfare of her country. As far as inspiration goes, “I had an eclectic upbringing and was fortunate enough to travel,” says the young designer.

You recently launched your line in D.C. but you’ve been in business for some time. How did you get started in the fashion industry with it being one of the most difficult industries to tap into? Well as far as the fashion aspect, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was in high school I was very much involved with the fine arts department. I was always drawing something and I actually used to draw and design ties for men. So my dad wanted me to do something with it but I was occupied with school so I was just drawing then. I always wanted to go back to Ethiopia because I would see all these designs but they all focused on the local market. I definitely wanted to do something in the textile industry to create something that was attractive to the whole market and still pronounce the culture and the richness of it. It seems like a lot of people started doing that so I thought I should take on a different material; leather, which we have plenty of. So in 2012 I made a trip to get samples and loved what I saw. If you have an attachment to the country it’s easier to do business than if you just want to start a business and make money. I think my background helps. Throughout high school and college I went back to Ethiopia frequently and I did an internship at various hospital settings just to observe the potential our country has and the obstacles and challenges I would face eventually.

How do you balance infusing your pieces with culture and still appealing to the global market?

“If you have an attachment to the country it’s easier to do business than if you just want to start a business and make money.

My vision is to use the traditional raw materials, with an ethical value to appeal to a global market and raise the standard of Ethiopian products. So even when I’m showing my samples to potential buyers I have to perfect that sample so that if a zipper is wrong they won’t judge the entire product. There’s already a negative stereotype for things that are being sourced from Ethiopia and Africa in general.

Most people think Italian is the best leather. But what makes your leather and your line, The ZAAF Collection, especially unique? What’s interesting is that when you see these fancy labels that say “Made in Italy” or bags or what have you, the raw materials are all being sourced from Ethiopia. Obviously Italians have better stitching when it comes to making the bags, and they are nice. I do not want to compete with them because we have our own unique style and craftsmanship. So why not use our own raw materials and resources instead of outsourcing work. In this way we expand the job market.


brand is not trying to compete with Kate Spade or Michael Kors, it’s a entirely different niche. It’s very much in the celebration of handcrafted and “Made in Ethiopia” and that’s what makes it

My background is economics and after taking an economic development course, the material I was reading was quite tangible to me. I grew up in an orphanage and I realized that the only way to help the economic growth was to use the country’s resources and also export to not just the local market. And that’s how you raise the standard when you get it into the global market.

In your efforts to reach the global market, what has been some of your greatest challenges?

Doing business in Ethiopia is definitely not easy since The World Bank has ranked us as one of the lowest countries. But I think the most challenging this is to not quantify the amount of time it takes to finish something. You’ll learn soon after that nothing goes on at the speed of light. That was daunting. I just watched my brand launch when I had planned on doing that in September of last year. The system in Ethiopia is challenging and dealing with that can be interesting. The bureaucracy is challenging and I hope that people like me will do business here so they can experience the economies of scale. That way it will be easier for the next generation that follows.

How was your response at your U.S. launch? It was actually very positive. We sent out a survey so we’re still hearing more feedback but I was definitely very pleased. My brand is not trying to compete with Kate Spade or Michael Kors, it’s a entirely different niche. It’s very much in the celebration of handcrafted and “Made in Ethiopia” and that’s what makes it different. It is not mass-produced in China so I think people respond to that very positively.

What can customers expect in this new line? They are unisex. I like my products to be versatile so that one product can be used for men and women and can be worn differently. For example, the tablet sleeve; I have men who use it to carry their iPad or laptop and then women can also do the same thing or they can carry at as clutch at night. And the same goes for the Weekender Bag. So it really depends on you, if you love the design of the bag you can wear it how you want. That’s what I love about it. I also like to listen feedback because I want to make it very consumer oriented.

For Abai, the ZAAF Collection gives customers the opportunity to not only be apart of fashion’s latest trend, but to be a small stepping stone into developing Ethiopia’s economy. Who knew a simple handbag could bring about so much change. Now it’s your turn to get involved, in style of course. To shop and for more information visit

Vintage Flair

Conversation with Vintage Queen

Linda Ruvarashe Matiwaza On her passion for serving vulnerable children, and all things vintage

Can you share a bit about yourself and your background? I’m Linda Ruvarashe Matiwaza and I am from Zimbabwe. Currently I reside in Brooklyn, New York with the love of my life, my husband. My family is from Chimanimani, a mountainous region in Zimbabwe; however, I grew up in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. I always treasure the experiences I had growing up in Zimbabwe, and many of those experiences helped forge my perception of life. Life was simple yet full of so much character and depth. There were life lessons to be learned all around me, as long as my eyes were open. My parents always made it a point to teach us to seek after God with all of our hearts, to have a teachable spirit and a strong sense of identity. I serve in several non-profit organizations that aid orphaned children in Africa, most of my work being focused in Zimbabwe. I serve as Deputy CEO for ZOF Africa, a 501(c)3 tax exempt NGO that funds vocational training for vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. As a young high school girl, I once visited an orphanage in Zimbabwe, Chinyaradzo Children’s Home.

I remember holding the most beautiful baby girl in my arms, so innocent and full of faith, orphaned at infancy. So many questions went through my mind – why, how, who? Who would love her, who would teach her, who would guard her innocence, who would tell her that she is the apple of God’s eye and that He loves her with an everlasting love? I will never forget her face. I believe it was at that point that it became clear to me that I had to do something. I am devoted to this work because I see the value that “parents” bring into a child’s life. I see it in my own life particularly and in the lives of those around me. I am who I am today to a large degree because of the parents God gave me. They helped to shape and mold my character, they taught me how to have a relationship with my Creator, they gave me a solid education, and they showered me with love and showed me how to love another. The value is literally eternal. Orphaned children should have this same experience. We all have a responsibility to help those less fortunate than us, and the key is to start where you are. I would love to do so much to serve vulnerable children. I am not yet where I want to be but I am moving on that path. I am also the owner and curator of Seventh Row, an online vintage store that carries vintage women and menswear, vintage accessories and vintage home décor pieces. Above all I am a devout Christian and love the

A few days after returning from serving in one of the children’s homes ZOF Africa funds in Zimbabwe, I had a dream. I started to sing a song in my native tongue and the children joined in to sing. At the end of the song, some children came up to me with tears in their eyes. They said, "Will you come back?" There is a need that vulnerable children have that is far greater than any physical need. Yes, a roof over their beautiful heads, food in their tummies, education - you know, the needs we tend to fund - but this is a need money can't buy. It is the greatest need for any human being; it is the need to be loved and to love. A consistent kind of love, a love that never ends. A love that will come back, a love that just sits there and lets the tears do the talking, a love that rebukes, a love that sees no failure but only opportunities. I could go on and on about this type of love. During my time at the children’s homes, I realized that LOVE is their greatest need. All things stem back to the need to be loved and to love. Each day I miss the children so much. I'm so glad I got to see their beautiful faces again, even if it was just in a dream. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not selfseeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails! 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 This is the greatest life lesson. LOVE.

As the owner of a vintage store, when did you realize your love for vintage clothing or when did you first discover vintage? I discovered vintage in my mother’s closet. I had such a great appreciation for how intricately the garments were constructed, and I liked that they were unique and different from what was common or modern. I believe I have an “old soul.” I generally like all things of old, not just limited to vintage clothing. I like old love – it is so pure and sincere. I like the way women conversed in times past – so poetic and intentional. I like old concepts and ideas, old books, old photography, the list goes on.

“I have a deep appreciation for the character of times past, and yet I am all about change and adapting. I always seek to merge the past with modern day living to strike a beautiful balance.””

I have a deep appreciation for the character of times past, and yet I am all about change and adapting. I always seek to merge the past with modern day living to strike a beautiful balance. I think there is a beautiful blessing in that. It’s growth as opposed to creating something new.

How do you describe vintage and what qualifies an item of clothing as vintage? What defines vintage is somewhat relative. Typically twenty years and prior would be considered vintage; however, many people don’t even consider the 1980s as vintage. So, it is all relative. Clothing prior to the 1920s would be considered antique. Describe your style to us? Every single day I wear at least one vintage item,

it never fails. I have a particularly soft spot for the 20s and the early 70s era. The 20s offered ornate yet fluid and romantic garments, and those are right up my alley. I enjoy wearing romantic, ornate pieces such as an embellished maxi or lace dress. I also enjoy awesomely tailored pieces as they serve as a great juxtaposition to my romantic style. I give homage to my African heritage by my love for mixing unexpected prints.

What are some favorite pieces of vintage clothing that you own? >>>>

I have separation anxiety every time I mail off sold items from my store, so you can imagine how I feel about my own vintage closet. My favorite pieces would have to be lace dresses – add some beading and you take my breath away. Every time I acquire new inventory I have to give myself a limit on what I can keep for my closet, otherwise I wouldn’t sell anything. The beauty about vintage is that as it waxes old, the value increases. I believe we call that appreciation.

What inspired you to start your own vintage store? It was a collision of vision, passion and circumstance, with faith being the greatest ingredient.

My career had been in Finance and Treasury, and my hobby was collecting vintage. My subconscious always knew one day I would open a store, but at the time it was merely a passion and something I would do independent of any remuneration. After I got married I made quite a few transitions and decided that it was the perfect time to move in this direction. I had faith and continue to have faith that God

leads and guides my every footstep. Before He formed me in my mother’s womb, He had a specific plan and purpose for my life. Each day that purpose unfolds, and when all is done and said, I want to be able to say I lived the life God intended for me to live. I want to die empty, depositing all that God has put within me into this world. I see my store as a platform to let my light shine and to allow others to let their light shine.

How did you settle on your stores name Seventh Row? My store was initially Ruvarashe Vintage Boutique and I recently rebranded and changed the name of the store to Seventh Row. I desired a name that speaks to the succession of eras but in an abstract and indirect manner. I also desired a

name that is both masculine and feminine, as I will be adding a men’s collection to the store this season. Seven is the number of completion and perfection, and each piece of clothing is “complete” in my customer’s hand. Seventh Row is a place to find that perfect vintage gem. I always say, “Provide a lovely home for a lovely vintage gem.”

What do you love about owing your own store? I love that I have the ability to do what I enjoy each and every day. Being a storeowner has been character building on so many levels, and I am grateful for the opportunities to grow and blossom.

“Seven is the number of completion and perfection, and each piece of clothing is “complete” in my customer’s hand. “

“Vintage clothing also has a story and in most cases you will never know. I like to make up stories in my mind for different pieces - of the journeys they have traveled.�

Do you think 'vintage' is an in thing right now versus contemporary fashion?

fuller figured women. Vintage can be worn by all sizes.

I don’t necessarily think vintage is the “in” thing, nor do I encourage people to wear the “in” thing, unless it is their style. The joy, however, about vintage is that you wear a one-of-a-kind piece, and most people treasure that. The detail in vintage clothing is quite impeccable- from the buttons, to the seams in all the right places, to the lining, etc. Each piece has so much character and love. Vintage clothing also has a story that in most cases you will never know. I like to make up stories in my mind for different pieces - of the journeys they have traveled.

There is another misconception that vintage is unsanitary. This is also false because as long a vintage piece is cleaned or sanitized properly there is nothing unsanitary about it. I take time with each garment to either hand wash or dry clean each garment and make sure it is as good as new.

Does your love of vintage extend to your home decor? Absolutely! I admire the craftsmanship of antique furniture and vintage home décor pieces because they have so much more character. It’s all about the details for me. I typically love to mix old pieces with modern pieces, which creates a beautiful balance. Eventually I hope to add a few vintage home décor pieces to the store.

What are some misconceptions about vintage clothing? There is a misconception that vintage clothing is for smaller body types. This is false and in fact in days of old women enjoyed a fuller figure. Most of my 50s dresses would look so much better on a

Another misconception is that wearing vintage looks costumey. Depending on how you style a piece, you do not have to look like you just stepped out of the 60s. I advise mixing vintage with modern or mixing pieces from different eras to avoid the costume syndrome. I like to wear a vintage dress with an African head wrap - it creates the perfect juxtaposition. Another great styling tip is to wear an ultra modern shoe with a vintage dress. For men, think of wearing a modern suit with a vintage tie and pocket square, or a vintage blazer or sports coat with modern jeans and a t-shirt.

Do you have any tips for buying vintage? Buy what makes you smile!!!

Visit Linda’s shop

In Her Prints A blogger living in NYC, Ekua Odoi has done a good job of promoting African Prints through her blog African Prints in Fashion (APiF) . Well documented on the APiF platform are the numerous ways in which prints can be dressed and any latest discoveries in fashion that she comes across. Affectionately known as Kukua, talking to AfroElle’s Tatenda Kanengoni, the fashionista takes us through her love for print as well as her favorite styles.



I created my APiF blog about 3 years ago. I saw Africa-inspired designs popping-up everywhere but I didn’t know any designers of African heritage besides Ozwald Boateng. I had no insight into what was happening regarding fashion on the continent.

Oh my, that is impossible. Everyone everywhere is an individual. Your surroundings can inspire and influence you, but if you have a fashion sense, are confident and like to mix it up it really doesn’t matter where you live or where you come from – you can be a fashionista.

I felt an urge to discover how the African Diaspora is not just inspiring but also participating in the Fashion industry and so African Prints in Fashion was born. The tag line of my blog is “Following the Imprints of the African Diaspora on Fashion”.

I FEEL LIKE WE WOKE UP ONE DAY AND AFRICAN PRINTS WERE TRENDING, HOW DID THE EVOLUTION OCCUR? Celebrities and fashion icons like Beyoncé and Gwen Stefani started to wear prints. Burberry Prorsum launched their Ankara collection and suddenly everyone talked about it and brands started their own spin on Africa-inspired collections. And this wave gave more visibility to designers from the continent and the diaspora.


I am German-Ghanaian and I live in NYC and I don’t think that my style represents any of these cultures specifically. I just use my heritage and my surroundings as an inspiration. I often chase someone down the street to ask them where they got their top or dress from. Or I see something online and thing “cool, I need to try that combination out next time”. Everyone takes their individual spin on fashion which makes it interesting!

“ In my opinion what differentiates African designers is their story.

DO YOU BLOG FULL-TIME AND HOW SUSTAINABLE IS BLOGGING AS A FULL-TIME JOB OR CAN IT ONLY BE PART-TIME? I don’t blog fulltime yet. I work as Marketing Director for an IT company by day and I blog at night and at the weekends. This set-up can be stressful at times but I like it that way. I am also offering marketing consulting to emerging designers and just founded African Prints in Fashion LLC and will start creating and selling bags and tees. So eventually down the line I hope to be able to focus on blogging full-time.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU THINK REPRESENTS AFRICAN FASHION APART FROM PRINT FABRICS? Many designers actually don’t even use prints literally anymore. They might create a one-off print-inspired Resort collection or use the print as inspiration and take it somewhere else or create their own prints. In my opinion what differentiates African designers is their story. Some designers weave their culture and heritage into their designs.

For example Thabo Makhetha who is using the basotho blanket for her designs. Or Maxhosa by Laduma who in his last collection had the claim “my heritage my inheritance” printed on some shirts. The other topic is sustainability and giving back. I believe that many designers of the Diaspora don’t just want to produce on the continent or support local artisans as a mere marketing or promotion tactic. Some of them really want to give back or re-connect/connect with their roots and support people back home.

WHO IS YOUR ULTIMATE STYLE ICON? I adore the style from the Fashion Bomb blogger Claire Sulmers, I like June Ambrose but I don’t really think I have one style icon. I follow so many bloggers, stylists and celebrities on Pinterest and they all inspire me.

WHAT WOULD YOU WEAR ON A NIGHT OUT WITH THE GIRLS? Right now I have a skirt in purple/white/black print from Bineta Sanor that I love and I combine it with my AfroPolitan tee , wear a light green cargo jacket over it and accessorize with hoop earrings, lots of bangles, my big green statement ring and chunky black & white summer shoes with wooden heels. I always have flats with me so that I can change into them for walking back home.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND WHY? My favorite travel destination is always the next one where I haven’t been yet. I was in China last year and I realized again how big the world is and how much there is to see and experience. So there are still many countries and continents to visit and of course I always like going back to Ghana.

Hot Trends According to Kukua 1

Silver shoes – flats or heels totally trending right now.

2 Print rompers or jumpsuits – must have!

3 Braids – ok I can only speak for

NYC but it seems everyone is rocking braids this summer, myself included.


Crop tops – tummy or no tummy crop tops are IT this Summer.

5 Dashiki is back – if you have Dashiki at the back of your wardrobe bring it to the front!

6 Peplum print skirts or tops were

trendy last year but still awesome this year!


for the Runway

Tavia Forbes is one of Atlanta’s hottest interior designers. An avid ‘do –it-yourselfer’, Tavia shares her passion for design and design tips you can take home. WORDS: Iman Folyan PHOTOS COURTESY: Tavia Forbes



ome is where the heart is, true enough. And after a long days work nothing is more relaxing than coming home to your personal palace. “The style of your home is a reflection of yourself”, says interior designer Tavia Forbes, and there’s no reason why you can’t have all the nice fixings, without going broke in the process. After quitting her job and pursuing her passion, Tavia Forbes now has one of Atlanta’s leading interior design companies. Of course this came with much sacrifice and as with anything in life, hard work. When Ms. Forbes took the leap of faith to quit her job and pursue her passions full time she had no idea how much her degree in Business Management and Marketing would come in handy. Of course her background in studio art played a major role as she started this new venture but as the saying goes “experience is the best trainer”. While tagging along with her father as a young girl she learned construction basics and can now boast of building pretty much anything from scratch. Most designers may not have such

extensive background as Ms. Forbes who has touched everything from event design to carpentry, but her greatest traits are vision and patience; the vision to quit her job and the patience to see the outcome of her new prosperous business. “Nothing is automatic. You have to work first. You can’t expect a reward before the risk or the work. You have to work hard and have a great attitude”, she says. And it is these precise words that have taken Tavia from that first client to the many she now has . “I usually have to coach people while I’m managing a project” says Tavia. As you can imagine, people are sensitive about those close to them, and nothing comes closer than having an interior designer in your home telling you your room needs a serious makeover. When you first move in you often have a vision of how you want your home to look and feel, sometimes the execution is the hard part. That’s where Ms. Forbes comes in. With Spring and Summer underway now’s the best time to give your home that fresh style you’ve been craving. And while you may not be an interior design guru, there are a few do’s and don’ts that can enhance your living space and give you a home fit for the runway.

THE DO’S, THE DON’TS AND THE NEVERS 1. Never expect an Interior Designer to be your personal DIY handyman (or women) Designers do not always specialize in do it yourself projects so be sure you know they’re background before you hire them to turn your living room into a castle.

2. Say No to Sets - Avoid buying from places that sell sets. Often times you’ll end up with a living room set that lacks personal swagger or that unique touch.

3. A Personal Touch - Add a personal item. Even if its just a framed picture of your child’s artwork, small items that have sentimental value always add more character to a room than any piece of furniture or curtains. Although they may have good relationships with businesses do not expect lower prices just because you go through a designer.

5. A Comfy Budget - You may want to go all out and splurge on your new home design but remember a good budget makes for a great result. Sticking to your budget will ensure you get everything you want without the stress of buyers’ guilt afterwards. “Bear in mind there’s a difference between a regular budget and a DIY budget”, warns Tavia.

6. Be Inspired - If you have the vision in your mind but can’t seem to put on paper visit some of Tavia’s top picks for inspiration. Pinterest and are great tools if your looking for great ideas and projects you can do yourself.

7. Is there an Elephant in the Room or a Mouse - Be sure you can furnish your space, and know when enough is enough. Overcrowding a space is a designer’s nightmare, equally so, don’t take minimalism to mean a single chair in a vast living room. Balance is everything.

8. It’s the Inside that counts - Landscaping shouldn’t be avoided but just like your body, it’s the inside that counts. Spend time beautifying your house on the inside so you can come home and be pleased and at peace. “It’s not just about your home, it’s a lifestyle”, says Tavia, and you’ll want your home to be reflection of you, inside out.

9. Patience, Patience, Patience - The reward of patience is patience, and this process will take plenty of it. Don’t be hasty in making decision about your home; take the time necessary in case you have a change of heart. The rebirth of your home is much like the birth of a child, so even if it takes nine months, the wait will surely be worthwhile.

10. Mix and Match - “When I first learned the world juxtaposition, I fell in love with it. I juxtapose everything”, explains Tavia. So explore your creative side. Feel free to mix modern with antique and warm colors with bright accessories. If you’re looking to make a room pop, go for the not so obvious, after all opposites attract.

See more of Tavia’s work at

New Generation Leaders

We profile a new crop of young female leaders—these women are paradigm shifters, powerhouses, fire starters, soldiers, advocates and leaders who are leading the way. Complied by Ashley Makue

Vivian Onano is a senior at Carthage College majoring in business administration with a minor in biology and economics. She is a member of the Carthage Biology Honors Society and Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honors Society. Vivian has a strong commitment to women’s leadership on campus and is also a Moremi Initiative fellow, a ONE Campaign Congressional District Leader, a UNA-USA campus advocate, a Half the Sky Movement Campus Ambassador, and an alumnus of iLive2Lead International Leadership organization. Vivian’s goal is to help create sustainable healthcare systems in rural areas of Africa. Vivian has a diverse background working with a variety of organizations, including the MasterCard Foundation, where she served as an external reviewer for their scholarship program in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a blogger for Huffington Post, Vivian uses her oral and written communication skills in service of her passion –– providing holistic approaches to solving community problems. Vivian has participated in a number of global international development gatherings, including as a panelist at the Nexus Global Youth Summit, Clinton Global Initiative, the Clinton Global Initiative University, and CARE International’s Conference on the Policy Agenda to Unlock the Power of Girls. She also served as a Youth Representative at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2012 and recently was profiled as one of the 70 outstanding members and leaders of UNA-USA as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations. Intel recently featured her as a Girl Rising everyday hero. Vivian can be reached via Twitter (@vivianonano).

In terms of the traits leadership theory, what distinguishes you as a leader and how does the paradigm of leadership shift, if at all, to define women leaders? Leadership is about serving other people; it sounds like a cliché but the truth is you cannot shove orders down people’s throats while you are doing the opposite. I have learned to resonate with people and make sure the people I lead love me. I think this is one main outstanding trait that distinguishes me from my peers. In any of my initiatives, I have always made sure that I am not the highhanded leader but the servant leader. So far it has been effective because the people that I work with or lead always want to learn from me and be leaders too. I always make sure I inspire the people I interact with to be productive members of the society and to believe in their own potential. Leadership doesn’t happen with just a snap of a finger, it has to be nurtured like an egg to make sure it hatches properly. Women are still yet to be respected and counted as leaders in our society. Globally we have only 20.4% of women in parliament, but this is an improvement from the 19.6% at the beginning of 2012. There is need “ Unfortunately some women leaders have been for more support from both men and women to ensure more women ascend a hindrance to women leadership because they to leadership so that we can have both feel threatened by rising young women. Young genders play their roles effectively in girls need to be encouraged to take leadership development. More often, women leaders are judged more harshly than roles so that they can build on their skills. Those their male counterparts. women who have climbed up the ladder should

reach out to those at the base of the ladder and help them climb up through mentorship and empowerment.”

Although majority of women leaders out perform their male counterparts, unfortunately some women leaders have been a hindrance to women leadership because they feel threatened by rising young women. Young girls need to be encouraged to take leadership roles so that they can build on their skills. Those women who have climbed up the ladder should reach out to those at the base of the ladder and help them climb up through mentorship and empowerment. It is very encouraging to see many more young women and girls in my generation striving to make a difference despite the harsh conditions that they face. We need more collective efforts to make sure that many more girls have access to proper secondary and college education so that they can mold their lives to be great contributors to the socio-economic success of their communities.

“Not only would we be able to solve our biggest problems with more women in leadership, more women role models would inspire more women to pursue positions of power and influence.”

Named to Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women and by the Huffington Post as one of 19 women who are leading the way, Tiffany Dufu’s life’s work is advancing women and girls. She is a nationally renowned expert and speaker on women’s and Gen Y leadership. Tiffany serves as Chief Leadership officer, Levo League and on the Launch Team for Lean In. She is former President, The White House Project, and was previously at Simmons College and Seattle Girls’ School. Tiffany is on the board of Harlem 4 Kids and lives in New York with her husband and two children.

What are the greatest challenges women in leadership experience? My life's work is advancing women and girls. While I'm more motivated by solutions than I am problems, it's important to understand barriers in order to over come them. Here are the core challenges to women's leadership that solutions like Levo League and Lean In are addressing: Greatest Challenge #1: The Chicken or the Egg The greatest challenge that women in leadership experience is not having enough women in leadership! Whether the issue you care most about is healthcare, education, the environment or our global economy, at the end of the day there are people at the highest levels making decisions that impact each and every one of us. Currently, women comprise about 18% of those positions despite the fact that we're over

half the population. And research shows that having a diverse group of decision makers leads to more innovative outcomes.

Greatest Challenge #3: The Mirror

Women often struggle with advancing their leadership without a full understanding of how they might be contributing to their own stagnation. Furthermore, suggesting that women are responsible for their lack of representation in leadership feels a lot like blaming the victim - an unpopular concept. Nevertheless, until women fully embrace that they are the most powerful change One of the biggest agents in their own journey, mistakes I've seen young they won't have the resiliency, women make in the humility or creativity to workplace is to assume realize their dreams.

Not only would we be able to solve our biggest problems with more women in leadership, more women role models would inspire more women to pursue positions of power and influence. As Marian Wright Edelman said "You can't be what you can't see."

Greatest Challenge #2: Bringing Home the Bacon and Frying It

Although women are in the that if they simply put workforce in higher numbers their heads down and One of the biggest mistakes than ever before, our culture achieve great results, I've seen young women make hasn't abandoned the 1950's they will be successful. in the workplace is to assume notion that women's rightful that if they simply put their place is in the home. Women heads down and achieve great often feel the dual pressures results, they will be of climbing the corporate ladder and successful. They aren't politically navigating managing everything on the home front, their environment. Often after training and which is impossible to sustainably coaching, they discover that one key to success accomplish without support - whether is ensuring that the right people know about internal or outsourced. your wins and are promoting you. If you want Until we have a revolution that truly makes something you've never had before, you'll have household labor not just "women's work," to do something you've never done before in balancing work and life will continue to be a order to get it. [] huge inhibitor for women who have ambitions to make an impact in both the public and private sphere.

Ghanaian-American, Nina Oduro is the founder and editor of, a platform for Africabased development job opportunities and career advice with a special focus on highlighting the contributions of Africans and the African Diaspora in the field. Committed to women’s empowerment, education, and youth leadership development, she has worked as an education advisor, trainer, and facilitator for programs and initiatives aimed at positive youth development in the US and Africa. In addition Nina believes in the power of mentorship and devotes time to mentoring young leaders. She is a member of the Diaspora African Women’s Network’s (DAWN) and was selected by members as the “DAWNer of the Year” for 2013, honoring her leadership and commitment as a next generation woman leader. She received a Master’s degree in African-American Studies from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia.

“Education is the reason why Africans can celebrate the significant gains that women have made in breaking barriers at leadership tables.

How can education aid the advancement of women's leadership and ultimately, that of Africa? One of the major challenges to leadership around the world is the lack of female representation in decision making spaces. This is a critical issue that affects many countries. Although there has been significant progress in many places to improve the gender disparity at leadership tables, more work has to be done to ensure that women are equally represented everywhere. Education is key determinant of a woman’s ability to make empowered decisions and research shows that inequalities in education for women in Africa is linked to increased chances of poverty and underdevelopment of communities. Furthermore, education is vital for the advancement of women into leadership positions on the continent. Education is the reason why Africans can celebrate the significant gains that women have made in breaking barriers at leadership tables. In recent years, the continent has seen two women heads of state in Malawi and Liberia, a female Prime Minister in Senegal, a female leader of the African Union, and the victory of nearly 64 percent of Rwanda’s parliament being women. Without access to quality education, these women would have been excluded from participating in the development of their countries and Africa as a whole, leaving governance to largely male dominated elites. The journey to becoming a leader in ones community and nation begins as a girl. Girl child education must be prioritized in order for African girls to become women leaders. Through educating young girls, cultural and social issues such as early marriage and pregnancy, which prevent girls from accessing quality education, decrease significantly. As a result, they are able to acquire the education and skills needed to improve their lives and become the next generation of leaders.

Vienna Mbagaya, a Kenyan native, is an Epidemiologist and entrepreneur in Washington, DC. She has worked for a number of organizations at international, federal, state and community levels in the areas of infectious disease research, social behavioral health and military psychological health. Vienna is the DC Chapter Representative for DAWN (Diaspora African Women Network), whose mission is to develop and support the next generation of African Diaspora women leaders focused on African affairs. She is the founder and director at Vienna Nairobi LLC (, a public health consulting firm, whose focus is on Epidemiology and Biostatistics as applied to women’s health, health disparities, and global health. Vienna also founded “The Invisible Neighbors” ( to showcase immigrants’ contributions to the U.S., and their committed roles as stakeholders in the community and the American workforce. As co-founder of Bidii Children Foundation (, Vienna champions efforts toward empowerment among women and children in rural communities.

How has academia and research defined the leadership of African women in and outside Africa and their influence?


I find that there is a disparity in how leadership is defined for women, versus how we articulate it for ourselves. Does our culture truly nurture leadership skills in young girls and women, and encourage autonomy to orchestrate their success? Throughout my academic career and early professional career, I sought secondary leadership opportunities and to

success and leadership, and forge on outside of the learned parameters. With this privilege comes the freedom to pick and choose among the tenets that are taught about women and leadership, in order to design template that is specific to my strengths and passions. Embedded in a lot of cultures is a woman’s potential; however it is often presented in concert with the limits to that very potential.

Even as we raise future female leaders, we inadvertently limit their potential by prescribing to one definition of success and leadership. further shortchange myself, I prescribed to a singular definition of success. Soon, I found myself devoted to a path that was not truly my own, with work that was not impactful. At that time, it was important that I reach out to my immediate network to help close the gap between the work that I dedicated myself to every day, and the evidence of its impact. It took purposeful focus to painfully let go of what was taught to me about

Even as we raise future female leaders, we inadvertently limit their potential by prescribing to one definition of success and leadership. It takes female leaders, through their big or small rebellions, and courageous wanders outside the comfort zone, to valiantly challenge these cultural anchors and dare us to do the same. What would you do if you were not afraid, they ask? I am doing it.�

Aya Chebbi is a young Tunisian blogger, women's advocate and peace activist. She started her activism as Peer Educator on HIV/AIDS, Red Crescent volunteer and Soliya Facilitator on conflict resolution. Aya helped direct the National Organization for Tunisian Children aiming to improve the lives of children and protect their rights, where she volunteered at the refugee camps on the Tunisian-Libyan borders during Libya’s civil war. She also worked on youth development projects at the Danish Program Office in Tunisia and elections monitoring at the Carter Center for 2012 Presidential Elections in Egypt.

“ For Africa to embrace feminism, we need first to change the perception of being a feminist, because we do not ask to dominate humanity- as man did for decades- but to have equal opportunities, duties and

Following Tunisia’s revolution, she has been widely speaking about social movements worldwide for conferences and rallies in United States, Canada, Poland, Turkey, Kenya and South Africa among other countries. In 2013, she was named as one of 28 Africa's most outstanding women leaders by the Moremi Institute. Currently, Aya is Africa and Middle East Youth Coordinator at World Peace Foundation, an international organization that promotes peace worldwide, co-founder of the Voice of Women Initiative and Co-chair of the Youth Advisory Group of CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

How important is it for Africa to embrace feminism and the leadership of women? In Africa, we have been disadvantaged for decades by cultural norms, customs and traditions of our societies that became a source of legislation and limited our roles as housewives and mothers. However, women were gradually breaking the chains of patriarchy by being in the frontline of social movements, running farms and businesses, leading community associations and running for political office. Still, we are challenged on a daily basis and underrepresented with limited participation at key leadership positions in public service, politics, governance and other sectors. Yet, the few African women who have made it to the top level of leadership proved that women can lead! So, if we are heading towards democratizing our systems in Africa, it is essential and crucial to start by providing women a central role in the journey of nation building and development whether in the sphere of public life, government or outside. We don’t even need to look up to the Western experience but to learn from examples inside the continent and how women leadership

transformed societies and governance such as in Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya and especially Rwanda. Taher Hadded, a Tunisian scholar and politician, said: “women are half of humanity”. For Africa to embrace feminism, we need first to change the perception of being a feminist, because we do not ask to dominate humanityas man did for decades- but to have equal

opportunities, duties and responsibilities. I think when women and men in Africa make decisions together, the decisions will better reflect and respond to the diverse needs and rights of the entire population. The shortage of women in leadership isn’t only a gender issue because the advantages don’t accrue just to women and children but gender inequality harms the society as a whole. We need to share power in partnership with our men counterparts based on inclusion and collaboration.

Born in Nigeria to Indian and Tanzanian parents, Neema Iyer is a Uganda-based program manager working for Text to Change, an organization that uses ICT tools to reach people, start dialogues and create opportunities in developing countries. As a life-long learner, she spent several years in the United States studying and applying concepts in public health before returning to Africa to work in the exciting field of health technology. Viewing the world from the lens of three different continents that she has called home, Neema brings a colorful perspective to her work and passions. She is particularly interested in social entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment and the elimination of violence against women. With this in mind, she started Sum of Girls in 2013 to empower young girls and women through technology by providing creative and innovative training, mentorship and equipment. Neema deeply enjoys creative arts, connecting with people and is an aspiring marathoner.

As leadership is often task oriented, what is the assignment of women's leadership in social entrepreneurship? I believe that the assignment of present women leaders in any sphere of life is to inspire and serve as a role model to the next generation of leaders. A study by famed economist Esther DuFlo found that female leaders have an immense positive influence on the attitudes, ambitions and achievements of young girls in their communities. Women in power have the ability to make girls dream bigger. Women leaders have the task to lead by example and use every opportunity to teach and mentor other women to reach their full potential. As such, we should look at other upcoming women as a source of collaboration, support and learning together in social entrepreneurship rather than as competition. It is exciting to see women rising throughout the world and we need to celebrate these women who have succeeded in their fields and have been trailblazers for others in their areas.

Esther Eshiet is a professional social worker and development blogger with core competence in sexual & reproductive health /rights, entrepreneurship, policy and strategy. With over 7 years of work experience which spans through organizations such as Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI), Youth Action for Change (YAC), Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN) and the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDs (GYCA). She has volunteered on numerous local and international projects ranging from being the Lead -author of the UNGASS National Youth Shadow Report for Nigeria presented the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS,2008. Esther became a 2010 Fellow of Moremi Initiative, which inspired her to founded the Afterschool Peer Mentoring Project; her MILEAD Pet Project which provides Career Guidance and Counseling as well as employability services as well as Social Broking Services for young persons in transitional stages of their lives in Calabar and Nigeria. (

What provisions must be included in public policy to advance the leadership of women in Africa? In order to advance women’s leadership in Africa; a series of multi -faceted strategies and solutions is required. However public policy has the opportunity of driving this desired social change through the adoption of the following provisions: Gender Mainstreaming: In order to scale up the action participation of women in leadership in Africa there is need for vertical and horizontal gender mainstreaming process in the public and private sectors across the continents. Gender issues must be integrated into business and development plans, policies, programmes, as well as actions and not merely accorded a ministerial position at government. All stages of project planning, implementation, and Monitoring and evaluation must integrate gender based programming in every institutional structure, mechanisms, and operational guidelines as well as promote a culture that facilitates gender mainstreaming.

Gender based budgeting: World over, it has been proven time and time again that investing in women has multiplier effects and quicker turnovers. While gender isn’t just a “women’s Issues” resources both human and financials should be mobilized to seamlessly operate a gender sensitive budgeting policy and systems. There has to be a disaggregated budgeting systems that provide for budgeting and financing for gender with prioritizing key investments for girls and women. Community and country led ownership of international legal instruments: While we have seen incredible successes by some country is in the region in the implementation of internationally agreed development goals, the Millennium Development Goals; this further proves that country and community led ownership of development processes is the most effective way of driving change via the bottom up and the top bottom approach. Hence there has to be a common ground established between the political will and the citizens in the promotion of women’s leadership in Africa and all social instructions especially the family must play its pivotal role in entrenching this.

As the Founder & Managing Director, Leyla Gozo drives projects in advocacy, develops policies and strategies for the public and the private sector. She serves as advisor to Government officials looking for creative solutions in her area of expertise. Leyla Gozo is a member of the Global Agenda Council on Africa – World Economic Forum chaired by President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka. She is also Founding Curator of the Global Shapers Community in Lome, Togo, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, leading a group of dynamic young leaders working to improve the state of their communities. She led several projects on behalf of her hub in Lome.

As leaders in different sectors, from financiers to artists, "tech moms" to politicians, professors to entrepreneurs, farmers to civil engineers, they are playing at higher levels, contributing positively to Social media is an important the African intellectual space and still doing their platform for empowerment by best to be great mothers and wives. It is their duty information sharing, what are to inspire and empower more people by raising awareness on important issues, and collectively the most important messages tackling them with to drive about “From financiers to artists, "tech concrete and positive African women actions, in order to leaders? moms" to politicians, professors to ensure development. African women leaders have an important role to play in this process, and they are committed to do so.

entrepreneurs, farmers to civil engineers, women are playing at higher levels, contributing positively to the African intellectual space and are still doing their best to be great mothers and wives.�

It is the responsibility of women to act as role models in our society with strong values and principles.

That is where social media has its role to play. The percentage of African women leaders, using this tool for empowerment is growing, and we need to be encouraging them to be more active online.

Regina Fuller is a community educator who has lived in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and Brazil. Most recently, Regina spearheaded Exponential Education Services, a SAT and college preparation program for high school students in Kumasi, Ghana. She graduated from the University of Ghana in 2013 with a masters degree in African Studies. A fluent speaker in Spanish, Regina has worked with AfroLatino communities in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicarauga. Currently, she is a Fulbright English Teacher in Campo Grande, Brasil.

Education is the biggest tool for empowerment. What education will raise quality women leaders in Africa? Though not a part of the "formal" education system, I believe positive female mentorship is key to raising a new generation of women leaders in Africa. From my undergraduate experience in the US to postgraduate experience in Ghana, it has been female professors, business leaders and friends who have taught me how to follow my passions and hone my leadership skills. Plus, these same women have opened professional doors in my career. Mentorship is one of the best education women in Africa can truly benefit from.

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