THE AFRICAN QUEENS PROJECT

THE AFRICAN QUEENS PROJECT

THE AFRICAN QUEENS PROJECT

Inspire to Aspire

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August 17, 2014

today morning (10am – 12PM local time) on the African Queens Show we are discussing women in business, the independent women, entrepreneurs.  And on the throne room we have none other than the Charming, smart, loyal…very loving,caring and God Fearing Mama Nyama choma festival herself,  Miss Carol Ndossi. She opens up her heart about her journey and how Nyama Choma Festival started!

Carol Ndosi

Carol Ndosi

Carol Ndosi has years of Media experience, she is  the owner and CEO of the Nyama Choma Festival an event in Dar es salaam that is a brand, fully patented, It is the one and only event that offers a unique experience every three months in Dar es Salaam. Did we mention she is a multi skilled person, a researcher, events manager and runs her own single mother foundation (CSMF).

August 10, 2014

Today  morning (10am – 12PM local time) on the African Queens Show we are talking about African women in entertainment And later on Throne Room we got a special edition as you will be listening in to some great interviews from African women who are changing the game for the entertainment industry, women such as lupita Nyongo, Genevieve Nnjai, Chimmanda Adieche, and Yvonne chaka Chaka.

Lupita Nyongo

Lupita Nyongo

Lupita Nyongo

 

Actress, film and music video director of dual Kenyan and Mexican citizenship. After graduating from Hampshire College with a bachelor’s degree in film and theater studies, Nyong’o worked as a production assistant on several Hollywood films. In 2008 she made her acting debut with the short film East River and subsequently starred in the Kenyan television series  Shuga (2009). Also in 2009, she wrote, produced and directed the documentary film in my genes.

 

 

 

 

 

Genevieve Nnjai,

Genevieve Nnaji

Genevieve Nnaji

 

Nigerian actress and singer. In 2005 she won the African Movie Academy Award for best actress in leading role.

2008 saw Nnaji launching a clothing line, “St. Genevieve”, which donates its proceeds to charity, she has received several awards and nominations for her work, including the Best Actress of the year award at the 2001 City People Awards.

 

 

Chimmanda Adieche,

Chimmanda Adieche,

Chimmanda Adieche,

Nigerian writer, She has been called “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors [that] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African Literature.

Adichie published a collection of poems in 1997 (Decisions) and a play (For Love of Biafra) in 1998. She was shortlisted in 2002 for the Caine Prize for her short story “You in America”.

In 2003, her story “That Harmattan Morning” was selected as joint winner of the BBC Short Story Awards, and she won the O. Henry prize for “The American Embassy”. She also won the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002/2003 (PEN Center Award) and a 2007 Beyond Margins Award for her novel “Half of a Yellow Sun”.

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), received wide critical acclaim; it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prizefor Best First Book (2005).

 

Yvonne chaka Chaka.

Yvonne chaka Chaka.

Yvonne chaka Chaka.

South African singer, Dubbed the “Princess of Africa”, Chaka Chaka has been at the forefront of South African popular music for 20 years. Songs like “I’m Burning Up”, “thank you mister dj”, “I Cry for Freedom”, “Makoti”, “Motherland” and the ever-popular “Umqombothi” (“African Beer”) ensured Yvonne’s stardom.

The song “Umqombothi” was featured in the opening scene of the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda.

 

*TANZANIA* – Vanessa Mdee: The Artist

August 7, 2014 1 Comment

A Word From “African Queens Project” Founder:

Since I started doing the African Queens Show at Choice FM (http://africanqueensproject.com/show) I have had the pleasure of running into Vanessa a.k.a V Money  and catch up on whats going on in our worlds and she is so down to earth it is sometimes easy to forget all she has accomplished and continues to accomplish. 

Vanessa-Mdee

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACKGROUND:

Vanessa Hau Mdee  also referred to as Vee Money, is a Tanzanian recording artist, songwriter, youth activist, TV and radio host. Mdee is popularly known for being the first ever Tanzanian MTV VJ. She later rose to prominence as a radio and TV host, hosting Epic Bongo Star Search and Dume Challenge for ITV Tanzania before signing to B’Hits Music Group in late 2012. After joining B’Hits Music Group, Mdee collaborated with Tanzanian rapper A.Y. on a record ‘’Money’’ and Ommy Dimples, a Bongo Flava artist on a record Me and You that was later voted Song of the Year during the 2013 Kilimanjaro Music Awards. She received an even bigger buzz with the release of her first solo single “Closer”, which in its first week was downloaded over 30,000 times, a feat achieved by no other Tanzanian artist. “Closer” remained on the charts for over 13 weeks.Vanessa has had the chance to interview many artists, such as K’Naan, Kelly Rowland, French Montana, Trey Songs,Mac Miller, Rick Ross, Ludacris, Miguel, Donald, Nazizi, Xtatic, Stella Mwangi, Camp Mulla, Tay Grin, Teargas, Dr. Sid and many more African and international acts.

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  • Please tell us more about yourself:

Well, I am a young Tanzanian woman, born in Arusha, raised in New York, Paris, Nairobi and Arusha. Studied Law at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Then in 2007 won MTV VJ’s search making me the first Tanzanian personality on the network. Thereafter started my career on radio on 102.5 Choice FM’s The Hitlist. My passion for music drove me to pursue a career in music which I had always wanted to do. Through music I have been able to express myself musically which has liberated me tremendously.

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  • Why did you pick the career path that you did? 

I didn’t want to die wondering, so I chose the path that felt most organic to me.

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  • Who and what are some of your influences? 

I’m influenced by powerful women, the likes of Miriam Makeba, Lauryn Hill, Lady Jay Dee, Brenda Fassie ( just to mention a few )

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  • Do you wish you could have done things differently if given the chance? Please explain.

Not at all, if anything I’d have loved to have started earlier, but I believe in God’s timing and everything that happened prior to commencement were building blocks

  • What and who inspires and motivates you?

I think I’m motivated by the mere fact that I’m alive and able. I’m a LIFER!

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  • What do you count as your greatest achievement?

I’m yet to achieve that, in fact I still have quite a few things to tick off my list.

  • What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?

I refuse to look at struggles from that perspective, simply because WOMEN are the most powerful creation and God’s greatest gift to humanity. It is that school of thought that has made me roll with the punches and address them as just speed humps on this road to success. A dear friend once said to me “when you are chosen, you are chosen” PERIOD!

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  • How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

I overcome them through prayer!

  • How important is family especially in light of your career and professional life?

Family is my backbone, I literally have ONLY family on my team. I keep my circle small and very tight-knit.

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  •  Do you believe it is important to share your story with other women?

Absolutely!!!! Our stories are our testimonies of God’s work in our lives. We must inspire through these testimonies before we expire.

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  • In your experience, what do you think are some prevalent issues women face in everyday life? Professionally?

As I said women need to know their own strength first before they can build, one big issue I notice with women are issues based on confidence and security. Once you discover who you are, you are not easily shaken and words like cattiness, jealousy and maliciousness can never exist in your vocabulary. Everyday life challenges involve women having to prove that they are actually NOT inferior.

 

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  •  What do you think needs to be done to address these issues?

More conversations and forums like these need to happen. Also conversations amongst ourselves, we are in a time where people have forgotten how to express themselves and have normal conversations and technological advancements don’t make it any easier ( the blessing and the curse that is social media ).

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  •  What would you tell another young woman who wants to go down the same path that you have chosen?

HONE THE CRAFT, BE YOURSELF ( EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN ), PRAY HARD and REACH FOR THE STARS.

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  • What do you do to give back to your community?

I created an awareness blog called dynamites mission which was created to have conversations amongst young people about HIV and AIDS. I also work with the GAVI Alliance that is an organization that deals with the administering of vaccinations at affordable prices in the developing world.

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  • If you could tell young women 1 thing, what would it be?

You are POWERFUL, Dare to be you. If not NOW, when? If not you? Who? And I love you, God bless you

August 3, 2014

Today on the African Queens Project Show, we’ll be discussing about the modeling industry, and on the Throne Room with us is the beautiful Miss East Africa 2012  Jocelyne Maro, who is also a business Economics graduate of Kaale University who  will be  speaking to us  about her experience, her  ups and downs and what  she had faced through out her journey in the industry.

Jocelyne Diana Maro

Jocelyne Diana Maro

“Inspire to Aspire” with Rutendo Denise Mutsamirwa on African Queens Show

July 20, 2014

RuTendo DeNise

We are pleased to announce that Rutendo from Zimbabwe will be joining us every week on the show sharing  her inspirational spoken word and message on the show on the segment known as Inspire to Aspire!

An effective artist passionate about the development of collaborative art, skills development and #STEM in Africa, Rutendo is a humble recipient of the following awards and listings;

  1. One of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons(TOYP) of Zimbabwe award by Junior Chamber International (JCI) Zimbabwe. JCI is a global network of young active citizens between ages 18 and 40, committed to create positive change in their communities. A partner of the United Nations, AISEEC, Junior Achievers among others, JCI exists in more than 5,000 communities in more than 120 countries worldwide, with a membership of more than 200,000. The organization has been in Zimbabwe since 1967.
  2. Listed one of the 30 Young Zimbabweans under 30 to watch – isthisafrica.com 2012.
  3. Voted Twimbo of the year – Zimbabweans on Twitter (#Twimbo) 2012.
  4. Service award for Media Liaison – Monash University (RSA) 2011.
  5. Most Influential Student – Monash University (RSA) 2010.

Rutendo Denise Mutsamwira is a Zimbabwean writer and poet. As a performance poet, Rutendo has performed at Zimbabwe Fashion Week, Harare International Festival of the Arts, and became the first Zimbabwean artist to be invited to perform at the prestigious African Fashion Awards hosted by Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2012.

Collaboratively, Rutendo has worked and collaborated with Tanzanian/ Zimbabwean House music producer and Dj John “Reverb 7” Mahalu, Tanzanian photographer Rosiah Marie as well as Mother Africa Percussionist Theresa Muteta. She is currently based in Harare, Zimbabwe working as a 4 Afrika Initiative Intern for Microsoft. In her free time she likes to cook, walk barefoot in the rain and listen to music. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram/SoundCloud : @RuTendoDeNise.

 

Janet Mbene on the African Queens Show

July 20, 2014

This morning on the show we are discussing about “Women in Leadership” and on the Throne Room we have none other than magnificent, Superwoman Hon: Janet Mbene Deputy Minister of Finance . 

Janet Mbene embodies the aphorism: Never give up! She truly is an African Queen and a woman much respected by her peers and those who strive to be like her.

Her children are a testament to the kind of woman she is, as she has raised a phenomenal group of kids who are making waves in this country and beyond. She is now currently the Deputy Minister of finance for the Tanzanian government and also makes the time to speak, advice and mentor young people on their different journeys. It is my honor to call her an African Queen.

Hon: Janet Mbene

Hon: Janet Mbene

AFRICAN QUEENS SHOW: Domestic Violence

July 13, 2014

This morning on the African queens show, we are focusing on “Domestic Violence” and we are graced by the presence of the most reputable and known psychologist from Tanzania Sadaka Gandi, but most of  us call her Aunty Sadaka,

She is a social educator, a child and youth psychologist. Sadaka holds an MA degree in Applied Social Psychology from the Tanzania University of Dar-es-Salaam and it is her concern to improve the quality of support being given to those seeking assistance.

She runs her own office for psycho-therapeutic counseling where she counsels patients with all kind of problems.

Apart from being a psychologist, Sadaka is also the co-founder and a main person in charge of the Tanzania House of Talents (THT), a talent pool for music, dance, theater and media production, from which many nationally successful artists resulted,  at THT she provides  support for youth with problems, common problems include, depression, behavioral disorders and drug abuse.

Aunt Sadaka

Aunt Sadaka

AFRICAN QUEENS SHOW: Women In Education

July 6, 2014

This morning on the African queens show, we are focusing on “Women in Education”  For the first time on the throne room we are going to have some poetic spoken word from two astounding poets: Malcolm London and Suli Breaks.

Malcolm London

Malcolm London

Malcolm London

He is a Young spoken-word poet; London has been called the “Gil Scott-Heron of this generation. His feisty, passionate performances take on the issues of the day, including the Chicago education system in which he grew up.

In 2011, Malcolm London won the Louder than a Bomb youth poetry slam in his native Chicago, The poet, performer and activist has performed on stages throughout his home city as well as across the United States.

As a member of the Young Adult Council of the prestigious Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, London brings vim and vigor to his energetic performances tackling tough contemporary issues head-on.

Deeply interested in working on ways to improve the national education system, London regularly visits schools to work with current students on writing workshops and performances.

Quotes from Malcolm London

“I hear education systems are failing, but I believe they’re succeeding at what they’re built to do — to train you, to keep you on track, to track down an American dream that has failed so many of us all.”

 

Suli Breaks

Suli Breaks

Suli Breaks

Suli Breaks is an accomplished spoken word poet who has achieved so much with his poetry since starting his mission on the mainstream circuit in 2009. He has captivated wide-ranging audiences using his poetic gift to educate young people about London culture and the constant issues that we all face,

Being funny and enlightening on poetic analogies, Suli Breaks never limits himself to doing things in the conventional way – he is always looking at different ways to communicate to and enrich his audience. He uses his poetry to bridge gaps in the multicultural society we live in today.

His venture The University of Suli Breaks is there to teach deep lessons and enhance people’s lives by inspiring minds. As their motto says “Your mind is your campus, learn to educate yourself before you look for someone else to do it for you”. He wants to enlighten his generation and give them a well-rounded view of life through his poetry.

#BRINGBACKOURGIRLS: MILEAD FELLOWS TAKE A STAND

May 12, 2014

MILEAD FELLOWS STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH NIGERIA

 

Some of the MILEAD fellows standing in solidarity with our sisters in Nigeria

Some of the MILEAD fellows standing in solidarity with our sisters in Nigeria

It’s been three weeks since the extremist militant group ‘Boko Haram’ left millions wondering about the fate of over 200 girls abducted at the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School. It’s been three weeks since mothers of the abducted girls began to weep—and they are still weeping. These girls have dreams, dreams that will make our world a better place. We cannot afford to remain idle as the system that has threated their dreams remains—a system that denies girls their right to safety, quality education, self-worth and dignity.

The kidnapping of the Chibok girls fondly known to the world as “our girls” has raised several questions. How has Boko Haram existed with relative impunity for the past several years? Do we lack Security intelligence and forces in Africa? Is there a phone number that could have been set up for those who surely suspected the girls’ whereabouts to call? Why is the African Union (AU) mute? Why are individual leaders in Africa silent? Until Nigerians all over the world began an online campaign, most people did not even know the girls were missing.

Terrorism knows no boundaries—let us not forget that an unchecked militant group like Boko Haram poses a threat to each one of us and merits swift action. A collective force has finally been deployed, but it took three weeks for this to happen. Such delays are unacceptable given the likelihood that these girls are being repeatedly harmed. Their suffering is on our collective conscience. And now that a force is, we hope, on its way to recovering our girls, there is still more to be done:

  • Education is a basic right as well a vital part of a country’s development. For months prior to the kidnapping, thousands of students in certain northern Nigerian states had been kept at home due to Boko Haram’s attacks on schools. This situation may remain even when the girls come home. Boko Haram must be completely defeated and the northern states restored to state of peace and security.
  • We wish for our girls to come back immediately, but we acknowledge that we have already waited too long. It may be that some of them come back traumatized, having survived rape and possibly been infected with HIV. The immediate response to the kidnapping was grossly lacking, but there is time to prepare the necessary resources to be available to the girls as soon as they return.

As MILEAD Fellows, from across the continent and the Diaspora, we are hurting together with our sisters, we are in pain, we are angry, and we are frustrated. We raise our collective voice for justice. We are committed to sharing our skills and lending support for their return.

As MILEAD Fellows, we will embrace and celebrate their return; we will stand in solidarity on the rebuilding process and in responding to their issues.

MILEAD Fellows of the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa stand in solidarity with NIGERIA and call on leadership to act now with appropriate and practical measures for a safe world and for every girl and every boy to access quality education. #BRINGBACKOURGIRLSNOW #MILEAD FELLOWS

Some of our MILEAD FELLOWS featured; SelamawitAdugna (Ethiopia), Hikmat Baba Dua (Ghana), Lusungu Kalanga (Malawi), HadeyeMaiga (Mali), Maletsabisa Molapo (Lesotho), Dorothy Pasipanodya (Zimbabwe), Samfee Doe (Liberia), Aisha Keita (Gambia), Amina Abdirashid Dubow (Kenya), Chisenga Muyoyoya (Zambia), Amanda Chembezi (Botswana), Aissa Laouan (Niger) and Kondi Chabvuta (Malawi).

About the MILEAD Fellows

The MILEAD Fellows represent some of Africa’s most extra-ordinary young women leaders with the courage and commitment to lead and shape the future of their communities and Africa as a whole. The Fellows represent over 38 African countries and the Diaspora and constitute a truly pan-African network and diversity- with multi–disciplinary academic, professional and social backgrounds. From poverty to women’s economic empowerment, environmental justice and political participation, this new generation of African women leaders are at the frontlines of the struggle for change- providing the bold, visionary and inspirational leadership needed to lift Africa to its rightful place on the global stage. The Fellows are selected through a highly competitive selection process and criteria that includes their outstanding leadership promise, community service accomplishments, and commitment to the advancement of women in Africa.

About Moremi Initiative

Founded in 2004, The Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa strives to engage, inspire, and equip young women and girls to become the next generation of leading politicians, activists, social entrepreneurs, and change agents–leaders who can transform and change institutions that legitimize and perpetuate discrimination against women. We firmly believe that the full and active participation of women in leadership is a pre-requisite for positive change and development in Africa, and addresses the current problem of leadership imbalances. www.moremiinitiative.org or www.facebook.com/MoremiAfrica

African Queens Project Named Finalist in Google Competition

April 22, 2014 2 Comments

African Queens Project founder, Gloria Mangi,  was named by Google as one of the top 20 African innovators who are using the internet to change lives. Google came and did a short documentary about African Queens Project and the founder as seen in the clip below. Thank you to everyone for your continued support.

*NIGERIA* – Ndidi D. Nwaobasi: The Developer

November 9, 2013

BACKGROUND

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I grew up in Senegal where I am the second born of  3 children. I currently work in a global consultancy firm (Dalberg Global Development Advisors) focusing on Management and Strategy for development. I have worked on a wide range of projects in the sectors of ICT, health, agriculture, and education. My work spans research and sector analysis, project coordination and implementation, business planning and strategy development, evaluation of programs, projects and functions.

  • Why did you pick the career path that you did?

My background is in Banking and Insurance and honestly I never imagined one day I would be working in the consultancy field. The adventure began in the year 2008. After my current boss had two different people talk to her about me, an interview was set for us to touch base and five years later, here I am very passionate about what I do especially when the projects deal with gender empowerment, education or simply have a tangible impact on the lives of the end beneficiaries.

  • Who and what are some of your influences?

After God, it is my family.

  • Do you wish you could have done things differently if given the chance? Please explain.

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Oh yes! At times you have those gut wrenching feelings that you do not follow and it turns out if you had followed them things could have been done differently.

  • What do you count as your greatest achievement?

So far what I consider my greatest achievement is my personal contribution to a project I was implementing here in Senegal. Co-funded by USAID and The Sonatel Foundation, this project program is aimed to support USAID-Senegal and Government of Senegal’s objective to create better educated youth by supporting secondary education access and retention for high-achieving and disadvantaged girls.

The program specifically sought to provide the support girls need to complete middle and secondary school by addressing the challenges that hamper girls’ education in target schools and regions. The main components of the program were: (1) providing scholarships (both cash and non-cash components such as school kits and hygiene products) and mentoring to the beneficiaries.                                                                                                                    (2) Providing income generation support to mothers of scholarship recipients and other women in the target communities.                                                                                                                                                                       (3) The third and last component of the program involved public awareness and advocacy to emphasize the importance of girls’ education, school retention and thus result in higher acceptance of girls’ education, increased school attendance and achievement for girls, and increased promotion/transition to upper school grades.

During this project, I was actively involved in all three components and often had to spend weeks in the field to ensure proper implementation. One of the activities in the first component consisted in organizing a summer camp for the young girls. During the summer camp, I took part in discussions with the young girls to get an understanding of challenges they faced on a daily basis and what could be done to help address them.

Among challenges faced they indicated how difficult it was for them to express themselves in the French (the learning language) as they would be mocked by their fellow classmates who would rather express themselves in the local language and tease them stating they were show offs. This resulted in the the young girls developing a complex to express themselves in French in school and in their communities and was affecting their grades. Along with a colleague we were able to get a French NGO to donate over 1,000 books and I funded the shipping of the books from France to Dakar with a (2,000 USD grant), I had received for a project I was to implement. I had absolutely no regrets using that grant to help the girls as the books received enabled the girls to enrich their French vocabulary and that of their close entourage who could read. The project ended in September this year with over 90% of success rate for the girls who were in exam classes.

  • What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?

The combination of my gender and nationality. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to be Nigerian. The struggles I face being a young Nigerian occurs usually during my travels especially when going through customs be it here or in other countries. Although, this does not happen every single time, at times customs officers ask me to step aside so they can double check my suitcase after I present my passport. This is usually not an issue to me as I know the best way to be done with this is to cooperate. However, the place this really shocked me was in an East African country.

It was my very first visit to the country and after presenting my passport at customs I was asked to step aside so my suitcase could be checked for drugs. The officer that asked me to step aside asked me why a young female Nigerian was traveling alone although I had presented all my papers (passport, invitation letter from the client institution in the country with phone numbers of staff members in the institution)…Thank God I was with a colleague and when he noticed the police officers had pulled me aside he came asking them what the issue was. Once he indicated we were colleagues, they handed back my papers and suitcase without searching it and told me I could go. Depending on the country, I am always aware that custom officers can give me a hard time especially when I travel alone.

  • How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

I practice the meaning my name… Ndidi which means patience.  When I am faced with such situations, I keep my cool, explain the purpose of my presence in the country, present my papers and let the officers do their job. When I feel offended, I write a correspondence to the Nigerian representation to inform them of the situation.

  • How important is family especially in light of your career and professional life?

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I believe, I would not be the person I am today if I did not have the family I am blessed to have. Each member in their own way has helped build the person I am and influence the decisions I make.

  • Do you believe it is important to share your story with other women?

Each and every one of us have our own story, I believe it is important to share my story only if it helps make a difference in other people’s lives as little as the impact may be.

  • In your experience, what do you think are some prevalent issues women face in everyday life? Professionally?

I think prevalent issues women face in their everyday life is work life balance. I know men also have these issues but in a society where women are constantly asked to step up their game, to keep their family together while giving their best at work it becomes more and more difficult for our super women to cope and find their balance.

  • What do you think needs to be done to address these issues?                                               

I think it is important to define our priorities and work by those. Once you know what is important to you, it is easier to find your balance.

  • What would you tell another young woman who wants to go down the same path that you have chosen?

You need to be passionate about development or it may be very challenging both professionally and personally.

  • What do you do to give back to your community?

I am yet to have an opportunity to give back to Nigeria, but in the meantime, wherever I have the opportunity to provide support, be it in the country where I live or elsewhere I do so. For example, a friend of mine has an NGO called DGirls in Cameroon and provides after school mentoring to young girls aged 10 to 19 to empower them and help them better prepare for their future. Whether, it is to take time to discuss with the young girls on matters and challenges they face in their everyday life or help raise funds for the activities of her NGO, I am always happy to do so.

Here in Senegal, I volunteered on a project aiming to build a hospital in an area which was in daring need of it. This resulted in the organization resorting to opening a mobile clinic which to date has served over 2000 patients in that community and its surroundings.

Within my firm, I am part of a committee called D. Community, the purpose of this community is to find ways in which we can give back to the community as consultants. Among our achievements, the office took part in a race organized by USAID to raise funds for the PEGE program in 2012. This year, we went into universities to provide students with training on how to get ready for a job interview. We provided the students with tips and tricks on how to develop a stellar CV and introduced them to the concept of case studies which is not very common in Senegal.

  • If you could tell young women 1 thing, what would it be?

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I would share my personal motto which is: Love what you do, give it your 100% and the rest will follow.

*MALAWI*- Chikondi Precious-Chabvuta: Women’s Land Rights Officer

November 7, 2013 23 Comments

BACKGROUND

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Chikondi Precious Chabvuta is the first born in her family of seven, she has a background in Environmental Science and is working for Actionaid International Malawi as Women and Land Rights Officer. She is involved in the emancipation of women and girls in land to maximize the benefits that could be accrued from land in agriculture, enhancing the needs of women in the agricultural and environmental spaces. She enjoys role modeling events to mentor to young girls and to encourage them to finish school and aim high. Previously, she was working for Farmers Union of Malawi as a Gender Mainstreaming Coordinator where she delivered on coordinating gender initiatives and mainstreamed issues for FUM and making policies for the organization and its partners on issues of gender, women empowerment and governance. Before joining FUM, she was involved in research work at Bunda College of Agriculture that involved empowering women farmers through research results. Chikondi is geared for improving women’s participation in agricultural sector and she is a beneficiary of the New Mexico State University’s Service Learning for women program that seeks to inspire and empower women in agricultural careers so that they can excel as leaders in local and global communities.

Chikondi is a recipient and active member of the following notable organizations making a difference for the youth and women in Africa: The prestigious African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), The esteemed Moremi Institute for Leadership Development (MILEAD),  Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD)  and The  Young African Leaders (YALI) Program.

  • Why did you pick the career path that you did?

I am from an Agro-based society and have always seen how women are in the forefront of tilling the land in the country but their efforts are not appreciated. This has always pained me, and also our agricultural methods are still in the hand hoe era.  I want to witness the drift form that to mechanization and modern ways where farming is not seen as a curse. Another reason, is that I am moved to see agriculture which gives food destroying the land so I aim to sensitize women who are the tillers of the land to embark on sustainable farming to maintain the environment, curb climate change effects but still benefit more from the land. I am also interested in ICT(Information and communications technology) for agriculture and environment.

  • Who and what are some of your influences?

Wangaari Mathai is my role model on her fight for environmental restoration, Siku Nkhoma for her fight to end poverty in the country, Linda Stout for her generosity and kindness, Grace Malindi, David Mkwambisi and Jennipher Sakala for their intellectual and professional guidance. These are a few of the many role models that I look up to.

  • Do you wish you could have done things differently if given the chance? Please explain.

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I am glad with the way my life is turning out; so far things are going well! All thanks to God who has been good to me all the time!

  • What do you count as your greatest achievement?

For me, the greatest achievement was doing my Msc while working and helping the adoption of the ecological sanitation research. This was my moment of greatest satisfaction. Every time, I see women’s lives being changed due them allowing me to guide them and engage with them, I get fulfilled.

  • What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?

More so from being a young woman, my challenges include having to talk to women farmers, older ones on agricultural and environmental messages. Being young and a female also faces resistance with men who tend to ask “what do I know?” But with time, respect is built and it only takes time but I wish my age or my gender did not influence my work, sometimes I wish I was older.
Another challenge, is sexual harassment which goes unreported because our rules tend to favor men and the woman who reports always ends up the victim.

  • How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

Having focus, there are several opinions different groups are going to have but when you are focused and are prepared, you can handle any audience. Having this challenge has built my planning, presentation and time management skills so that I go out to several groups prepared and ready, it shows the level of seriousness and also how focused one is.

With sexual harassment, it has been overcome by speaking out to the perpetrators to ensure they treat you as an equal professionally. Not being subdued and having my mentor Don Boyd who helped me through constructive dialogue to overcome this challenge that is usually a silent fight among a lot of women, but I overcame it through constructive dialogue.

Having low confidence was overcome by reassuring oneself of my value, it is always better for oneself to realize your worth and not depend on the opinions of other people.

  • How important is family especially in light of your career and professional life?

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Well, family is important, it makes life worth living. I think it is also important to have a work life balance to ensure you maintain professional focus but you also have time for family, it is God’s blessing.

  • Do you believe it is important to share your story with other women?

When you share your story, another women could be in a similar situation as you and can benefit from your experience. I reach out  more when I hear other women’s  stories and would love to share my story because it can impact another women positively.

  • In your experience, what do you think are some prevalent issues women face in everyday life? Professionally?

Having to juggle between family and work is a challenge. Cultural constraints like in our country, where the more quicker you are as a woman, the more respect you gain. Which ends up holding a lot of great ideas women have and  one of the ways they can use it is though the trend of eroding. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also there for women and it is treated silently.  Also, having an unsupportive spouse or fellow women also tends to kill most women’s self-esteem. At household level, in our culture boys are told to be leaders from a young age and not girls, this also tends to influence the level of confidence and self-esteem between girls and boys.

  • What do you think needs to be done to address these issues?

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Constructive dialogue as taught by Don Boyd where everyone should be able to engage and negotiate with others to ensure they get what they want but also having mentors who can help you cross the professional circle with ease.  Most importantly, more organizations should mainstream gender and recognize gender roles of women and men by  creating spaces that would allow both  balance in work life and  flexible hours for nursing mothers. Girls and boys should be treated equally right from their homes to their schools, so that confidence between the sexes is equal.

  • What would you tell another young woman who wants to go down the same path that you have chosen?

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Work hard, focus, and be innovative in the approach to agriculture and environment using a gender lens. It is a fulfilling career path which is holistic for all the needs of a human being and hence satisfying which leaves an impact!

  • What do you do to give back to your community?

I hold role modeling events to school girls and boys and mostly girls to ensure that they focus on education and have goals in life and to always aim higher. Also, I volunteer to do charity work through the Lions Club, I am a Leo and it gives me the space to contribute to my community. I also offer free agricultural advice to women farming in my community.

  • If you could tell young women 1 thing, what would it be?

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Have a goal, focus on that goal, no matter the obstacles and they will be there even though they are a lot of them  always focus and remember to work hard and pray!

*GHANA* – Annette Joseph-Gabriel: The Educator

October 16, 2013 2 Comments

  • BACKGROUND

Annette Joseph-Gabriel is a doctoral candidate in French at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on women’s political participation and representation in anti-colonial movements in Francophone Africa and the Caribbean (1940s-1960s). She has also done work in the field of second language acquisition and the use of new technologies in foreign language pedagogy and is currently developing an ipad app to teach Martinican Creole to native English speakers using Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) methods. In addition to teaching undergraduate French courses at Vanderbilt, she has also worked as a translator for Plan Ireland and the Bureau National d’Ethnologie in Haiti (a UNESCO affiliated organization), as a Youth Activities Coordinator for Afrique Conseil in France and as Special Programs Manager for Moremi Initiative (a UN Women-Africa partner). She is currently the Managing Editor of Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender and the Black International. Her dissertation is directed by Tracy Sharpley-Whiting.

  • Why did you pick the career path that you did?

Apparently I have always sounded like an academic. In high school, my English teacher used to call me “Professor.” It baffled me at the time, but I guess he knew all along. I suppose I really just went where my interests naturally led me. I’ve always loved to learn, ask questions, explore a subject. Above all I love to read. My favourite reading place was underneath the big family dining table or behind the curtains. Sometimes my parents would poke their heads in and say “do you know the house is burning down?” I’d mumble a hasty reply and get back to whatever I was reading: a novel, an encyclopaedia, anything with words really. So I guess it makes sense that I am training to be a university professor in the field of foreign languages and literatures.

  • Who and what are some of your influences?

My mum because she is the most eloquent person I know. My grandma because she is the strongest woman I know.

My grandpa because he taught me to ask questions and to love learning.

  • Do you wish you could have done things differently if given the chance? Please explain.

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I suppose being faced with the realities of the job market today makes me wish sometimes that I had done something more “practical” like an MBA (shudders). But if I were to be really truly honest with myself, no, I would absolutely not change it for the world. If I could go back though I might try to be more engaged in community work than I am now. I’d like for that little girl reading under the table to find a balance between her encyclopaedia and the rest of the world around her.

  • What and who inspires and motivates you?

While I am influenced by people who have similar personalities to mine, I am actually inspired by people who are polar opposites to me. My dad is amazing because he is a true entrepreneur. He’s done everything I’m terrified to do: leave a comfortable structure, go out into the real world and build a wonderful business from scratch! All while being acutely aware of the needs of less-privileged people around him.

  • What do you count as your greatest achievement?

I’m not there yet. When I get my PhD, I think that’ll be the greatest achievement of my life!

  • What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?

Gosh. This is actually a difficult one. I suppose the usual stories of being obliged to go to the kitchen apply here. But much of the gender inequality that drives my work has been from observing others’ experiences rather than my own. I’m grateful that I haven’t had huge struggles or that I remain blissfully unaware of them.

  • How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

I suppose prayer and hard work would be my go-to answers here.

  • How important is family especially in light of your career and professional life?

Family for me is everything. It’s been a little difficult because I no longer live in the same country as my nuclear family. That has been a big challenge for me. But my family has been extremely supportive of my decisions to travel and move and for that I very grateful. I’m also married and all this work and moving has an impact on that relationship as well. But my husband is just an amazingly calm, reflective person who makes me feel like I have two feet firmly planted on the ground even in the midst of travel and moving.

  • Do you believe it is important to share your story with other women?

Absolutely! I think that as the world moves more towards valuing science and technology (which are great!) we are losing sight of that most important, basic human instinct: to communicate. Sharing my story with other women will at the very least serve as an example to someone somewhere maybe, about the possibilities available, and also about the kind of work women, particularly African women still need to do in order to attain those possibilities and accomplish our goals.

  • In your experience, what do you think are some prevalent issues women face in everyday life? Professionally?

Just.being.heard! I can’t tell you many times people resort to easy gender put downs as a way of shutting a woman up. This happens whether a woman is trying to articulate something for her children, her family, or make herself heard at work. There are so many macro and microaggressions and as soon as we point them out as gender discrimination we are called “overly sensitive.” I remember that a number of Moremi Fellows were invited on a TV talk show in Ghana during our inaugural year (2009). These were accomplished women in every aspect of the word, I mean the kind whose credentials make you go wow! They eloquently expressed the mission of Moremi and discussed their experiences so far travelling to Ghana to meet with other African women and explore questions of leadership together. At the end the host laughed and said “thank you beautiful ladies. We will tolerate you here.” This is an example of microaggression. It is problematic because it seems so benign. Something we can shrug it off because after all there are bigger fish to fry, girls need to go to school etc. But today how many men will proudly stand up and say “I am sexist, send all the women to the kitchen?” Microaggression is the new gender hierarchy and we need to be aware of how the problem is evolving if we are to find effective solutions.

  • What do you think needs to be done to address these issues?

My clear bias is towards education. I applaud all the great initiatives out there working with women and young girls to address problems in healthcare, financial security etc. But you can’t drag a continent into an era of equality if half the population is digging their heels in. Top-down policies work to a limited extent, but to really change patriarchal attitudes we need lots of community work to sensitize folks.

  • What would you tell another young woman who wants to go down the same path that you have chosen?

Go for it! There is absolutely no reason why you can’t attain your highest goal, whatever that may be. Just be sure (as much as possible) that it is what you actually want. And don’t believe people who start advice with “if only women would…” There are real, obstacles to attaining gender parity in the workforce, in education, in politics. But at the same time be encouraged by the examples of women who have overcome some of the greatest obstacles. Not myself per se, but there are so many Moremi Fellows whose inspirational stories do not leave a dry eye in the room. Get connected!

  • What do you do to give back to your community?

Right now I think my research is one of the ways I am giving back. I think that researching women’s historical participation in politics, especially around the crucial time of independence, could provide us with a blueprint for attaining better integration of women in politics today. It’s one of the MDGs that we are really struggling with in Ghana. Sometimes people talk as though they have absolutely no idea how to even begin to tackle the problem, as if we don’t have a history to learn from. I also try to give back through my teaching, because community for me is very broadly defined. I’ve been working a lot lately with non-traditional students who might be having difficulties. For many of these students (some from immigrant African backgrounds) I’m the only African teacher they’ve seen at the university and knowing that I genuinely care about their work, despite the limited resources I think is important to them.

  • If you could tell young women 1 thing, what would it be?

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Don’t stop learning!

*LESOTHO* – Sebabatso Manoeli: The Lover

October 5, 2013 6 Comments

  • BACKGROUND

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Lesotho-born Rhodes Scholar and Oxford University PhD student, Sebabatso Manoeli, researches African histories and politics. Her current research focuses on the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement. Prior to the PhD, she obtained an MSc in African Studies from Oxford University, where she was awarded the African Studies Prize for her dissertation.  For her undergraduate degree, she received the Mandela scholarship at Amherst College where she majored in Political Science and Black Studies. It was at Amherst where she also had the opportunity to study abroad at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.

While working at the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations as a research assistant, her work included analyzing the strategic challenges to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. She was awarded the Machel-Mandela Internship at the Brenthurst Foundation in 2012 where her research focused on Lesotho’s textile industry and the experience of Chinese traders in Africa. She has also worked as a research assistant for international political commentators including Roger Cohen and Jonny Steinberg.

In addition to her commitment to applying her mind to the intractable and complex problems of our time, Ms Manoeli is also passionate about social justice and Africa’s political transformation. Subsequently, she has hosted a weekly radio show focusing on African current affairs on Oxford University’s student radio station. In 2011, she was a speaker at the 55th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women hosted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City where she addressed the challenges to women’s engagement in the political space in Africa. She worked at the African Leadership Academy as the External Relations Analyst. In 2010, she led an anti-human-trafficking campaign through several South African cities during the World Cup. She is also a 2009 Senior Fellow of the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa. Currently, Ms Manoeli currently serves as the 2013-14 President of the Oxford University Africa Society.

  • Why did you pick the career path that you did? 

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There are three reasons. Firstly, for about ten years, I have been acutely aware of the global asymmetries of power and I have desired to help correct them. As a teenager, I was specifically concerned by the scarcity of African women in decision-making positions on an international stage. I decided then that I wanted to become one.

Secondly, I was born in the country affectionately called “the Kingdom in the Sky”, Lesotho, which is rich in beauty and tranquility. However, the economy of my home country led my family to work in the greener pastures of South Africa when I was a child. It was as a high school debater in the post-1994 South Africa, where I became fascinated with the possibility of critically engaging with the issues of our day to refine our democracy and empower the disempowered. Growing up in open societies that were also multicultural, gave me an appreciation for diversity and I sought to harness its power. I therefore aim at becoming the kind of leader who values the multiplicity of cultures and perspectives of the people she represents.

Finally, coming from two African countries helped me gain a sense of connectedness to the whole continent, thus I knew that I wanted to serve Africa in the realm of policymaking. In order to best serve Africa, I decided to devote myself to the study of the continent, to apply my mind to the challenges that it faces, to understand it so as to best serve it. Hence, I have aimed to become an expert with deep knowledge of the continent I deeply love.

  • Who and what are some of your influences?

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 I have been greatly influenced by my Christian faith. I have thus grown to see the unseen, to believe in the transformation of the African political landscape, where freedom, justice and equality are guaranteed for every person in Africa, to see the revitalization of the continent’s economies and the restoration of dignity to the people of Africa. It has influenced my ability to have faith for a better future. I have also been influenced by the close and careful mentorship of many women and men who have spent hours with me, encouraging, teaching and advising me.

Do you wish you could have done things differently if given the chance? 

I would have started reading meaningful books at a younger age. I believe that it would have made me a more interesting person and given me more of a competitive edge when applying for opportunities.

  • What and who inspires and motivates you?

My family motivates me to become all that I long to be. I am also fortunate to have a several close friends who believe in me and challenge me to grow. Moreover, I am inspired by the concept of love, and I wish to make it the foundational principal in the way I engage with power and leadership.

  • What do you count as your greatest achievement?

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It is difficult to say because what one considers as her greatest achievement is a reflection of how she defines success. Personally, I aim to define it by how much I am growing in love, humility and excellence. That makes it a “thing” of character. Since it is so hard to quantify, I believe that best way to perceive it would be by reflecting on the difficult moments of life that become tests of character. Ultimately, while this form of success will remain unquantifiable on a resume or a CV, I believe this strength of character will manifest in the authority and honor that a person receives from those with whom she is closest and those she leads.

  • What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?

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There are two types of struggles that particularly affect me. Firstly, the double invisibility that comes from being a black female in male-dominated settings. In those settings, the men with whom I walked would be greeted and I would be ignored, their views considered and mine marginalized. Often it comes from well-meaning people who do so unwittingly because they have been socialized to value the voices of men and other majority groups. The second is the struggle to be seen as an equal and taken seriously rather than a potential romantic partner to men in male-dominated environments.

  • How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

Firstly, I became aware of the problem. This means I did not interpret being ignored as the result of any personal inadequacy, instead I interpreted it as a systemic vice, a flaw in the way power is organized in our present day and age. Women are not seen in certain environments, because to be male is to be “normal,” and women of racial minorities experience this more acutely.

Secondly, I have had to learn to speak up and be bold. For example, I will be the one to greet if I have been ignored, so I stretch my hand and offer a firm handshake. I look people in the eye with a confident look that silently speaks that I am present and should be seen and heard. I think our body language as women can empower us if we are aware of the subtle but powerful gestures we can make to be made “visible.”

Thirdly, I seek to be as professional and excellent as I can be. That means I do not give sexist people an opportunity to “prove” their prejudices by looking at me. I try to show up on time, work hard and keep clear boundaries with male colleagues in professional settings.

  • How important is family especially in light of your career and professional life?

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I would like to have a family of my own therefore I plan to make room in my life for that. This will require sacrifice and commitment, and I hope when the time is right, I will be ready to give myself to those important tasks. If I do have one, I will have to think carefully about how I wish to sequence my ambitions.

  • Do you believe it is important to share your story with other women?

Yes, I believe we, as women, should be sharing our stories with each other, to inspire and help each other.

  • In your experience, what do you think are some prevalent issues women face in everyday life? Professionally?

In poor countries like mine, women continue to bear the brunt of poverty and disease. Life is hard and women are making difficult decisions everyday to survive and to help their loved ones survive. These women work in illegal vocations like prostitution or legal ones like domestic service. In their daily lives, they have little to no options to gain dignity and engage in the formal economy like men. Legislation regarding inheritance, domestic violence and sexual abuse in many countries continues to leave women vulnerable and disenfranchised. These policy decisions have implications of the daily lives of women.

  • What do you think needs to be done to address these issues?

Much can be done to address these issues. To name a few, for sustainable gender justice on a macro-level, I believe it is imperative to have ethical political leadership; develop healthy economies and we should promote a culture of open opportunity.  On a micro-level, each individual can and must commit to promoting equality among women and men, and to inspiring the women in our lives to believe that they, too, can (and should) aspire to greatness.

  • What would you tell another young woman who wants to go down the same path that you have chosen?

I would encourage her to have confidence in her gifts and vision. She does not need to conform to what is socially expected of her.  She should muster the courage to be heard. I would encourage her to develop holistically as a human being – which means in addition to advancing her career, she should, for example, develop emotional intelligence, nurture her own spiritual growth, and lead a healthy lifestyle.

  • What do you do to give back to your community?

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I give back through remote mentorship and I give talks to young people. Further, my work focuses on Africa and I have had the privilege to make policy recommendations to people currently in positions of power.

  • If you could tell young women 1 thing, what would it be?

The world needs you, therefore become yourself – fully, freely.

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