Monday, 31 December 2012

A difficult Christmas and New Years for Syrian Refugees

Many of us have celebrated Christmas this year in the comfort of our homes, with the warmth of our close family members and for others in snowing regions, under a roof in a house oozing with the warmth of a burning fire. We have spent, drank, eaten good food, received and given gifts, laughed and have enjoyed the warmth that comes with spending Christmas and New Years with family and friends. Sad to say this isnt the case for everyone. I came across a story of a difficult Christmas for Syrian Refugees.

Spent under cold snowy weather, in thin muddy tents, with hardly access to a hot bowl of soup, that is not the worst part of being a Syrian refugee. Being away from close family and friends is part of it and not knowing whether they are safe, alive or dead only makes it all worse.

One story that captured my attention is from Global Voices Online, of Ayesha, a 29-year-old woman living in the Atma refugee camp in Idlib Province, in northwest Syria. She is one of an estimated 50 pregnant women in the camp of internally displaced Syrians; where there’s an acute need for baby milk.

Her children have only the thin clothes on their backs and the daily food ration provided by the camp’s communal kitchen. She’s terrified of the toll the mounting cold and wet winter will take on her fragile newborn baby. Imagine being heavily pregnant and also giving birth in a refugee camp?

Christmas celebrations in Syria were marred by violence and suppression across the country while a number of displaced Christians were forced to celebrate the Christmas in refugee camps set up in the neighboring country, Lebanon. The 21-month-old conflict has put future of religious minority at risk as extremists and al-Qaeda linked militants are gaining access in the violence-wracked country rapidly. World powers including the United States, France and Britain have failed to evolve a consensus on how to ease President Bashar al-Assad. outlines that out of security concerns, Mass was performed in the afternoon instead of the normal time of midnight. Hundreds of Christians prayed for security and peace in Syria; so that they could return to their homeland. Pope Benedict XVI also prayed for peace and harmony in Syria in his annual Christmas message. The Pope also urged for dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict. The United Nations peace envoy Brahimi is also on an official visit to Syria where he has held detailed meetings with President Assad and other relevant staff in a bid to find ways to restore peace and stability in the volatile country. Let’s see what Brahimi’s visit brings up for ordinary citizens of Syria.

The Syrian situation doesn't only remind me to be grateful about what I have, even the little that I have, but it reminds us once again all that still needs to be done to make this world a better place.

There are many ways that you can help refugees, whether they are right in your own community or half a world away.  If there are refugee services in your area, contact them and see if there’s something you can do to help, even if it’s just extending a smile and a welcoming hand.

Also I am sure you have heard of the saying, sharing is caring. The more we share about the injustices in this world, the more we will be heard, the more awareness we will build around the issue and hopefully something will be done about the issues plaguing our fellow human beings.

Wishing all of you a Happy New 2013!

Friday, 28 December 2012

My views on Christmas and on being an African woman

So Christmas season is almost over, for others its in actual fact over. For others, we are still enjoying the nostalgia that comes with the season, after all it is termed the season to be jolly. For others it was all about traveling, for some it was visiting family. Well, if you are an African woman, and Zimbabwean at that, you probably spent your Christmas at kumusha, the rural areas, visiting family and cooking over a hot blazing fire for 2 or 3 days non stop. The competition is particularly stiff among what we call the varooras, sisters in law, to out-cook each other, out-wash the dishes, out-work our hands to the bone. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think this stigma still exists to some extent. Whether its just African cultures or just the overall "norm", its something that has taken place for decades to come. Because of this, Christmas has just become another huge hassle for women to out-perform each other. Can I honestly say, to me its just another unnecessary platform to showcase our insecurities, without sounding too brutal?

Happily enough, I wasn't in Zimbabwe this Christmas, so I managed to dodge the whole cooking and cleaning extravaganza, but I still feel for  my African sisters out there who must still slave away at the stove in order to prove their worth. It demeans a woman's worth to nothing more than just a substitute for the gadgets that now exist for domestic purposes. Okay, so maybe that was a bit brutal, but my overall understanding is that Christmas is supposed to be a time to spend with family, because you genuinely want to see and visit family, because you genuinely want to find out how the aunt or uncle you have not spoken to in a while is keeping. In other words, if we could afford take-out, would it be so bad to just buy take-out and enjoy still the company of our relatives or would we feel incomplete as women, as if we haven't had a proper Christmas without all the hard work that is expected of us over the seasons. Would take-out take away the meaning and essence of the season? Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying lets not cook at Christmas! What I am saying is, the objective is not to cook and clean and do who knows what to prove that we are the perfect hard working excellent chefs and wives and women that I believe we are. The objective is to enjoy the company of your relatives, to be of merry cheer. Now if cooking is one way someone shows their giving then go on ahead, but this cannot be the norm for all of us women for some of us prefer to give in other ways.

The role of the African woman has been defined for so long, I now begin to wonder if we even know who we are anymore. My point is, let Christmas be Christmas. Let it be a time to be merry, to be happy, to be jolly. It can even be a time to rest. Why not? Lets celebrate what its really meant to be about. If you want to give to the poor go ahead, if you want to have pizza go ahead, if you just want to be at home relaxing and watching some television, go ahead. Its a time to be merry and joyful and I personally believe, restful. Spend time together, sing, gift-give if you want, just have fun! No segregation, no expectations! Is this too radical? Lets be more grateful for having one another, than what we can do for one another, and what we can give one another. Lets change our mentality. Hoping you all had a Merry Christmas this year!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Girl mutilation needs to end!

I read in the Tanzania's Citizen newspaper recently, that a 4 month year old baby bled to death after her parents had allowed a sangoma or witchdoctor to mutilate her genitals as a way of curing diarrhea. Her parents believed that mutilating her genital would cure the disease she was suffering from traditionally known, as ‘Lawalawa.’I was surprised and shocked at the lack of knowledge our society still has on such issues as these and how a lot of effort still needs to be made to educate people on the risks that come with using "traditional" forms of medicine and curing. Something has to be done to save the lives of girl children being mutilated because of traditional and cultural beliefs and also as a way of curing diseases. Female Genital Mutilation is a centuries-old practice used to control women's sexuality in some religions, although both Muslim and Christian leaders have spoken out against it. The procedure involves the removal of the clitoris and sometimes also other genital parts, usually in childhood or early adolescence. It can lead to infection, painful sexual intercourse, complications in childbirth, and eliminates any pleasure for women during sex. According to Amnesty International, FGM is commonplace in 28 countries in Africa as well as in Yemen, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and among certain ethnic groups in South America,

Coincidentally enough, I also read in this same week that the UN Committee has called for a global ban of girl mutilation. What does this exactly mean? It calls on the UN's 193 member states to condemn the practice and launch educational campaigns for girls and boys, women and men, to eliminate it. It also urges all countries to enact and enforce legislation to prohibit FGM, to protect women and girls "from this form of violence" and to end impunity for violators.

Ultimately, this information has to get to those who dont get any access to the internet, here I am speaking of people in the rural areas. Lets hope all efforts will end the dogma around FGM.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Helping underpriviledged kids through Art

In continuation on the topic of Kilakala Primary School, we came up with some activities to assist the school. EXIM bank took a call to adopt the school and assist it as a long-term project. The needs of the school are plentiful and it will take time to get everything running in good order at the school. The good news is, the work towards improving this school has already begun.

On the 13th of august the bank gave 100 desks to the school and is in the process of purchasing more desks to give to the school.

One of the ideas we came up with, in order to assist the school was to do a one-week Art project of teaching the kids how to draw and paint. After this project, the kids’ paintings would be auctioned at a high-end masquerade dinner to be held in celebration of EXIM Banks 15th anniversary. Through the assistance of Shama Jaffer, a professional art teacher for children the kids not only acquired useful art skills through this project, but also their paintings raised TSH7.1 million at the masquerade towards their school.  Overall, it was a success.

A fun filled family Day fair was held by EXIM Bank and all ticket proceeds went towards the development of the school.

Here I am with the ladies from EXIM Bank at the Masquerade dinner

One of the kids paintings being auctioned at the Masquerade dinner

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Together, lets make an impact on young lives!

Hey all,

So in the pursuit of making the world we live in a better place, we have come up with an initiative which we are running together within the 15th anniversary celebrations of EXIM Bank. I haven't posted in a bit, because we have been absolutely consumed running these activities, but let me start from the beginning. On the 13th of August we held an event at Kilakala Primary School in Yombo that is meant to assist the kids with getting educational material and helping in the overal development of the school. The present conditions of the school are not pleasant to say the least.

The school is situated in Dar es Salaam, Temeke Region in Yombo Vituka area. The students are coming from families, which live below poverty line of which most of them are orphans living with HIV.

The school has 2896 students with 53 teachers only. All these students are accommodated in 15 class rooms and they scramble for only 230 desks to seat on.

90% of the students write on the floor because there are only 230 desks meant to cater for all the students. During National Exams the school has to rent desks from nearby primary or secondary school for it’s student do exams. In addition, the school also does not have enough books, as the ratio is one book per 60 students.

The school doesn’t have a teachers office and so teachers use classrooms or they just sit outside.

This is their only toilet that is used by 2896 students and 53 teachers plus other students of nearby schools

This is the new toilet that they have been trying to build since beginning of last year, but it has not finished yet due to lack of more funds

The school has got no water facilities, if they need water they have to buy Tsh 30 per bucket.

The bank took a call to assist the school as a long term project. The needs of the school are plentiful and it will take time to get everything running in good order at the school. The good news is. The work towards improving this school has already begun.

On the 13th of august the bank gave 100 desks to the school and is in the process of purchasing more desks to give to the school.

In addition, we have done a one-week project of teaching the kids how to draw and paint through the assistance of Shama Jaffer, a professional art teacher for children. Not only have the kids acquired useful art skills through this project, but also their paintings will be auctioned at a Masquerade dinner being held this coming Friday and all proceeds raised from this will go towards the development of the school. Will let you see the update once the event takes place! Excited to see change taking place at this school!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Its time for us to be HEROES & HEROINES

I went to donate blood today and I think this is the 1st time I have voluntary gone to donate blood without being coerced into it. I once did it in High school and for me it was more because the whole school was doing it. But today I actually willfully went to donate blood. EXIM Bank was doing a blood donation at the bank and since it is one of the clients I deal with I decided to go and be a part of this initiative. What made me do this? To be honest when since I worked on the corporate communications material for this campaign for EXIM Bank, I did my research as to WHY we need to donate blood. Now its very surprising that we, and by we I mean I am included, don’t know WHY we should donate blood especially for our continent. Let me tell you why you need to just take a few minutes of your day to donate blood, and especially if you are a woman, an African one at that.

Because it saves lives. 

Don’t take this statement lightly. Let me give you the facts, but first you must read the story below that took place in Uganda.

“Jennifer Anguko was slowly bleeding to death right in the maternity ward of a major public hospital. Only alone midwife was on duty, the hospital later admitted, and no doctor examined her for 12 hours. An obstetrician who investigated the case said Ms. Anguko, the mother of three young children, had arrived in time to be saved. Her husband, Valente Inziku, a teacher, frantically changed her blood-soaked bedclothes as her life seeped away. “I’m going to leave you,” she told him as he cradled her. He said she pleaded, “Look after our children.” By CELIA W. DUGGER Published: July 29, 2011

An estimated fifty percent of maternal mortalities recorded in Accra are as a result of the unavailability of blood for onward transfusion to the pregnant women who need it. This is according to the Manager of Donor Services, at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital Blood Bank, Tetteh Carboo.

EXPRESS also indicated that less than one percent of Ghanaians donate blood across the country adding that “the percentage is so small you can’t even compute”.

It is regrettable that Ghana has never achieved a 50 percent voluntary blood donation status, with the percentage fluctuating between 28 and 45 percent despite other African countries like Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Togo having achieved 100 percent status.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, where blood supply is critically inadequate, severe haemorrhage is a leading cause of maternal deaths.

Heavy bleeding during pregnancy or labour, is the leading cause for maternal deaths in Rwanda, accounting for 34 percent of deaths, according to the Maternal Deaths Audit, 2010.

Your one-pint of blood can save 3 lives! Imagine that. You can never know the day when someone will need your blood. You could save a mother and a child! That to me is great. And it only takes a few minutes of your time, you wont lose ANYTHING at all. Go ahead and save a mother and her child, plus one more person with your one pint of blood. If we all commit to donating blood 3 times every year, we will be able to drastically reduce maternal deaths in our continent. Come on everyone. We need to be the CHANGE we seek!
Its World Blood Donor Day on 14 June. Be a part of giving back and give your blood. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The 2nd Dar Jazz Event

Hi! I got to do this interview for the mag "Whats Happening in Dar" for the 2nd Dar Jazz event sponsored by the American people through the U.S. Department of State's Arts Envoys Program. The event showcased American jazz musicians Bobby Ricketts, Delmar Brown, and Tony Bunn to Tanzania for the Annual Dar Jazz Event from April 18 - 21. Bobby Ricketts also offered workshops and performances at Triniti, the Alliance Francaise, the Goethe-Institut, and at Ambassador Alfonso E. Lenhardt's residence. In all venues, Bobby Ricketts was joined by aspiring and top Tanzanian musicians, including Tanzanian hip hop (Bongo Flava) artist Fareed Kubanda (Fid Q), a 2010 International Visitors Leadership Program alumnus.

Bobby Ricketts is an American saxophonist from Boston, Massachusetts based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Through numerous artistic collaborations, his reputation has spread throughout Scandinavia, Europe, Japan and the U.S., and Tanzania. Bobby has made multiple trips to Tanzania, holding workshops and performances to inspire and raise the level of local musicianship.

The intimate venues of Alliance Fancaise and Triniti entertained an outstanding crowdfor the Dar Jazz event this April. The concerts featured an all-star hot jazz quad led by internationally renowned saxophonist Bobby Ricketts, which included Delmar Brown(keys), Tony Bunn (bass), and proudly one of Tanzania’s own, Ezekiel Mwanja, on the drums. The quad performed songs that wereuniquely blending urban, jazz & world influences.

Lead Event Designer and founder of French Kiss, Sabrina Millet-Kanabar (SK), shares about this event with Tadzi Madzima (TM) from "What Happening in Dar" magazine.
(French Kiss is an event planning and marketing company/agency based here in Dar.)

TM: Give us a brief history of the Dar Jazz event. What is it and when does it happen?

SK:The Dar Jazz Event is the brainchild of its Creative Director, saxophonist Bobby Ricketts, and is a natural progression of his "Band Doctor Seminars" held at THT. Using a jazz or music festival format as a platform for development, The Dar Jazz Event seeks to create a yearly event allowing the entire music community infrastructure of Dar es Salaam to come together, and benefit from input and mentorship from a team of international music professionals.

TM: Who are the main sponsors?

SK:The 2nd Dar Jazz Event has been supported financially and many other ways by the American People & U.S. Department of States but has also received the support of the Goethe-Institut & Alliance Fancaise who have graciously hosted the 3 days workshop/rehearsals and the TZ Freestyle Jazz Jam concert on Saturday 21st April.

TM: Recently you had your 2nd Dar Jazz event at Alliance Francaise and Triniti. How does the 2nd Dar Jazz Event differ from the 1st one you had?

SK:The 1st Dar Jazz Event has been our first step into the materialization of Bobby's dream, a learning experience reflected in the achievement of the 2nd Dar Jazz Event. The 2nd Dar Jazz Event was a success at many levels.The first and most important one is the workshop, as we had a young up-coming Tanzanian Jazz Band "Wakwetu Jazz Vibes" through the entire program.Each Band member did leave with something to nurture till next year when we meet again. And of course not forgetting the inspiring collaboration between International and Local Artistswhich was a great success to note, such as Ezekiel (drums), Twaba (percussions), Mbeya (hip-hop up-coming talent), Yvonne Mwale & Mzungu Kichaa and their outstanding performances during the shows.

TM: What were the highlights of the 2nd Dar Jazz event?

SK: The highlights of the 2nd Dar Jazz Event was its ability to reach even deeper into the local music community and inspire many more musicians and artists, the huge audience success of presenting a new Bongo Flava/Jazz Fusion - Mzungu Kichaa in particular - and the emergence of young artist Yvonne Mwale.

TM: In comparison, what would you say was the highlight of the 1st?

SK:I think the highlight of the 1st Dar Jazz Event was the discovery of drummer Ezekiel Mwaja, and his intuitive ability to heighten his skills almost daily, in order to be able to perform alongside top international musicians. Also, we discovered that the fusion of Bongo Flava and Jazz is an exciting cocktail.

TM: Which bands performed in the 1st event?

During the 1st event we had Tanzania House of Talent Band, feat. Mataluma & Jessica as opening act and vocalists Barnaba, Amini & Mwasiti performing along with International Artists.

TM: What makes you decide which band should perform that is what qualities will you be looking for? General themes, social commentary and personal sentiments.

The qualities we are looking in a band would be: passion, motivation and dedication.

Bobby Ricketts (sax)
TM: You put together an ensemble of internationally well renowned jazz artists for this event, Bobby Ricketts as the pioneer of the event, with Tony Bunn on bass and Delmar Brown on keys. Have the 3 performed together before?

The 3 musicians named are not a band, and have no history of performing together. What DJE does, is to assemble a team of international artists and music professionals who are able to perform as soloists in their own right, yet function as instructors or mentors during Dar Jazz Event seminars held during the day. The primary goal of The Dar Jazz Event is to provide an instructional, motivational, or inspirational platform for the local music community, thereafter enabling music fans in Dar to benefit for the results of the interaction, not only during the event, but hopefully all year long.

TM: There were some great appearances from young upcoming artists such as Yvonne Mwale, Ezekiel Mwanja (drums), Mzungu Kichaa, Twaba (percussions) and Mbeya (hip-hop up-coming talent). How do these get to be chosen to perform, that is, what is the merit?

SK: During the course of the year, certain artists or musicians are brought to the attention of The DJE Coordination Team, Creative Director Bobby Ricketts, and the incumbent artist team, who endeavor to provide a spotlight opportunity for young talent with global potential.
In our experience, young artists such as Yvonne Mwale, or young Tanzanian drummer Ezekiel Mwaja, are deeply inspired and uplifted after days of interaction with a team of professionals who are accustomed to performing with the top music names globally. One of the results is, the Tanzanian artist becomes highly motivated to do the work necessary to further develop their skills, which in turn increases their odds of meeting the challenge of opportunity. When opportunity knocks, only those with the talent and skill set required will be able to answer and benefit.

TM: Which Tanzanian artists did you promote in your 1st event?
SK:In our 1st DJE we promoted young Tanzanian Talents Barnaba, Amini & Mwasiti - Barnaba & Amini have registered with Bobby a track during the Band Doctor Seminar "Mapenzi"; which appears in his new album "Into Deep". It was the perfect moment to introduce and demonstrate this amazing collaboration.

TM: What are your plans for the future for the Dar Jazz Event? What can people look forward to for the next event?

SK:On the short-term our objective is to strengthen our collaboration with current Local artists we have been working with, continue discovering new talents and create a scholarship program to give a strong ground to these young talents. We also plan to expend our International Musicians Team but also widen our scope of expertise and propose a new workshop program for next year. On the long run we see ourselves as The Dar Jazz Festival, a platform for the convergence of top music artists from Tanzania, the African continent and USA - Homeland of Jazz - upon the city of Dar es Salaam!

TM: What is your message to all those young and aspiring Tanzanians who are jazz inclined and want to be part of this event?

SK:The more, the merrier! Karibuni Sana! We have started working on the next DJE and for those who would like to participate or have an interest in the 3rd DJE program, please inbox us, We will add you into our mailing list and keep you up-dated in due time. Our workshops are also open to Music students, Music lovers and Artists.

TM: What is your message to all your fans and people who love attending the Dar Jazz Event?

SK:Thank you for your continued support but also for making The Dar Jazz Event a success. We look forward having you next year for another mind blowing musical experience!

 Bobby Ricketts and team entertain a great crowd at the Alliance Francaise and Triniti. Check out this array of pictures of the event on The Dar Jazz Event page on facebook and enjoy photos of the amazing performance and this glorious wintertime event in Bongoland, Dar.
Thanks for reading!

Ezekiel Mwanja (drums), Tony Bunn (bassa) & Yvonne Mwale (singer) 

Delma Brown (keys) sings at the event

Friday, 18 May 2012


Its been sometime since I posted in this blog and I had absolutely missed catching up with all of you and especially writing about “a day in the life of a career African driven woman.” And so what has been happening in this career driven african womans life? Well I relocated to Tanzania, am living in Dar es salaam and am working as the Head of Creative and Corporate communications for an agency. I must say that relocating is a big career step and takes a lot out of an individual. And as a mother and a wife, its even more challenging especially for an African woman to make such a decision that moves her away from her usual and comfortable “safe” surroundings. So what gives one the push? And can we say that this is a decision that most african women are having to face especially those who are in pursuit of their careers and are caught in between their commitment to their comfortable environments and actually moving away from that comfort zone into unknown territory in pursuit of career. How many of us are actually willing to take that sort of a risk, of forsaking our friends, family, familiar environment in pursuit of a career we desire? Is it an easy decision for the african woman to make or does it still come with resistance?

To be honest with you I honestly think that todays society has changed to a great deal, is willing to accept change and never ceases to surprise me. What was unheard of a few decades ago, is perfectly acceptable in todays society. At some point women were not to be seen in jeans/trousers/pants whatever you would like to call it, but today its the norm. So a woman who is as passionate about pursuing her career, an african woman at that, is nolonger such a surprise to people especially in africa. Look at Nonhle goes to hollywood and i could mention a few more women who have forsaken the comfort to pursue greater prospects.

My sister in law is actually going to complete her masters in the USA, she got a scholarship, she has 2 kids and is married, but guess what, she is still pursuing her dreams and career, and her whole family is tagging along with her! So i believe in all honesty, being married, having children, being a mother, cannot possibly stop you as an african woman from pursuing your career. All i can say to you is do it. There is no better time than now. I can tell you, moving to Dar, was a great move. It came with a lot of skeptisism not only from my family and friends but from me as well. Dont get me wrong. Tanzania is absoultely beautiful, with its beaches and great resorts. But there is a lot to adjust to, like the lack of town planning for one, the really bad roads, the threat of malaria and a not so efficient healthcare (and the scare that this poses for a mother like me). But there is one thing that drove me out of my beautiful country Zimbabwe, and thats career and opportunity. So I ask all women out there not to be afraid to dare. Dream big. Trust at the end that the powers that be, and here I mean God, is with you all the way. Once again, it’s great catching up with you after so long!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Zimbabwe's Divine Ndhlukula, wins AFRICA Awards for Entrepreneurship!

According to Forbes, she is ranked as one of Africa's most successful women, proudly our own, Divine Ndhlukula. Read article from Forbes:

Divine Ndhlukula, a Zimbabwean national, is the founder and Managing Director of SECURICO, one of Zimbabwe’s largest security companies. The Harare-based outfit is a market leader in the provision of bespoke guarding services and cutting-edge electronic security solutions.

Ndhlukula has done remarkably well. In less than 15 years of doing business, SECURICO has achieved a number of significant feats: The $13 million (revenues) company now has more than 3,400 employees – 900 of whom are women. The company was also the first security outfit in Zimbabwe to achieve an ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) certification. Last December the company was the winner of the prestigiousLegatum Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship.
Divine Ndhlukula is immensely proud of what she’s been able to accomplish so far. The Midlands State University MBA grad granted me an interview recently during which she recounted her start-up journey, shared a few lessons she’s learned in doing business in Zimbabwe and relived her experience in winning the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship.

Take me back to your earliest beginnings as an entrepreneur, right to the time you founded SECURICO. Of all the opportunities in the world, what prompted you to venture into the very male-dominated realm of security services?

I have an Executive MBA from Midlands State University and an MBA (Honorary) from Women’s University in Africa conferred me in recognition of my business leadership and efforts on gender equality. After attaining an accounting diploma from an institution in Zimbabwe, I worked briefly for the government and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation as an accounting officer. I went on to take up an appointment at Old Mutual and later took up a job at a local insurance company in 1985. While I was working at these places, I was always running around doing some small business on the side – I was ordering clothes from Harare factories and selling them to colleagues at work. Sometimes, I gave my friends in other companies some clothes to sell for me and I gave them commissions on clothes sold. Within a short while, I had made enough money to buy an 8-tonne truck, which I hired out to a construction company.

As time went on, a situation cropped up where I had to rescue my late father’s farm from being auctioned. My brother (who had inherited the farm according to our customs) had taken a loan with a local bank which he had been unable to service, so the bank opted to auction the farm which my brother had tendered as collateral. As a result, I had to sell the truck in order to raise funds to rescue the family farm from being auctioned. The title of the farm was changed into my name and I ventured into the farming business in 1992 and quit my job. I then took a loan against my house in Harare, to prop up the farming business and poured the loan in a maize crop that flopped due to a drought that season.

As I was almost losing my house in 1995, I then went back to my former employers,  Intermarket Insurance (now ZB Insurance), and asked for my job back. Since I had been one of their top performers, the company was happy to take me back. In no time I moved to the executive team.
Let me say that right from a tender age, I had always told myself and everyone that I was going to start and run my own business which I always envisaged as a large business. Hence the time I had stopped working, I had taken time to learn about all the critical elements of business as I had learnt my lesson the hard way. Among the various development programmes I enrolled for was an Entrepreneurial Development Programme which I did in 1995 and this indeed sharpened my entrepreneurial competences in a big way. I learned elements like opportunity seeking, to goal setting, business planning, networking etc.

My quest to start and run my own company never dissipated and therefore, even as I was back at work, I started scanning at the various opportunities that I could see and think of.

Eventually in 1998 I saw an opportunity in the security services sector. The opportunity was prompted by what I had noted in this sector- a total lack of professionalism, quality and services that customers really yearned for. There were two distinct groups of security organizations: the first group was comprised of the long established and larger companies – there were about five of them at the time. They literally had the market to themselves and did not see the need then of meeting the customer’s expectations as they could simply rotate the business among themselves in a cartel like arrangement.

The second group was the small emerging or submerging companies which did not have the resource capacity to service big corporations and the multinationals. In short, the decision to start this company was made on the understanding that only service and value addition was going to carry the day.

Monday, 5 March 2012

African women who changed our world

Jessica Horn – WNN Opinion


Women from The Greenbelt Movment in Kenya work to save the ecosytem 2007. Image: Kasuga Sho

(WNN/OD) OPINION Africa: In the company of souls departed and souls vibrantly alive, Jessica Horn reflects on the significance of the lives of Nobel laureates Leymah Gbowee and the late Wangari Maathai, and the transgressive power of African women on a mission.
Since I started to write for Our Africa I have been sitting with the souls of African women who have changed the world. For a week the spirits of Wambui Otieno and Funmilayo Ransome Kuti inhabited my life and provided a reflection point on the meaning of “activism” and the direction and strategies of women’s and feminist movements in Africa today. These two women told stories of personal sacrifice and willingness to defy convention, always for a purpose and regardless of ridicule. They kept reminding me of commitment, how deep and how life-long your contributions to transformation have to be if you want to see anything shift. They spoke about being honest with yourself- learning to drive if you know you might need a getaway car someday, organising your life on the basis of ethics rather than the limiting social norms you are expected to follow, be it the choice of who you love or your allies in political activism.

In September I was to interview Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate, environmentalist and political activist Wangari Maathai for Our Africa. I had begun to chart out a dialogue with her, a conversation which kept coming back to the same fundamental questions: after all you have seen and done, how do you think change happens? And what do you think us young women need to do better if we are going to nurture the kinds of transformations that you have catalysed? At the end of September I heard the news that Wangari Maathai had passed away- and there I sat, mourning and celebrating in the company of a soul who had changed the world.

Fortunately history has its own way of providing solace. A little over a week after Wangari ‘s passing the Nobel Committee announced that they had awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to three women – two of them from Liberia- current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and feminist peace activist Leymah Gbowee. My mind began to fill with the songs sung by the women from the Mass Action for Peace , the famous ‘women in white’ mobilised in their thousands through the inspiring leadership of Leymah Gbowee to bring an end to the Liberian civil war in 2003. And so I sat again, in the presence of souls departed and souls vibrantly alive, considering the transgressive power of African women on a mission….

Not just what you want, but how you get there. I may not have had a chance to pose my questions to the Wangari Maathai in person, yet when I sat recollecting my memories of wise words I had heard her say, and reading the many eulogies to her life by fellow African feminists, I realised that the answers lay there in front of me. The answers lay in the way that she had lived her life and the ways in which she faced injustice – and won.

The late Wangari Maathai often used fables and imagery to convey her analysis of the world and of what needs to be done. In one powerful story she speaks of a hummingbird who sees a forest going up in flames and decides, against the disparaging comments of its fellow animals, to carry water in its beak and attempt against the odds to put out the fire. The hummingbird’s response to its sceptical onlookers is to say: “I am doing the best that I can…I may feel insignificant but I certainly do not want to be like the other animals watching as the planet goes down the drain!”

Wangari Maathai was a hummingbird, but she did not envision herself as a lone fire fighter. Instead, she rooted her leadership in inspiring others to yearn for an end to the fire of political deceit and environmental devastation, and a sense that even they could do something about it. The Greenbelt Movement that she started in 1977 was built through popular education, developing and passing on knowledge about conservation and later about politics and social change with “everyday” Kenyan women. Her populist approach remains an inspiration for a new generation of African women activists. “She worked on environmental justice, but she spoke about it in a language that even my grandmother could understand” reflects Blessol Gathoni, a young organiser from Dandora – a Nairobi community listed as one of the most polluted places in the world. Wangari Maathai motivated people to plant millions of trees- inspiring each pair of hands that touched the soil to consider the wellbeing of the earth and of future generations. That collective act carries tremendous symbolism for young Nigerian feminist Amina Doherty, who reflected in a personal email: “when I think about Dr. Maathai I keep coming back to this wonderfully beautiful image of planting a tree. Planting just one tree….and of groups of people coming together to plant trees…to bring about change. It is about recognizing the value of one tree, and of connecting individual trees to be part of something that is much bigger.”

Wangari Maathai exercised fearlessness in the face of her calling. Alongside the “small acts” of growing forests, she vocally denounced corruption and land grabbing, joining other women in daring displays of popular public opposition against the dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi. She mobilised thousands to defend the commons, and as Zimbabwean human rights activist Elinor Sisulu astutely notes, “she articulated and struggled for accountability long before it was a safe buzzword.”
If you have met Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee you will know that she shares this quality of fearlessness, and a voice that never shies from speaking the truth. During the Liberian civil war Leymah mobilised thousands of Liberian women to form the Mass Action for Peace, calling on Christian and Muslim women to unite across religious lines in public protest against war and the devastating violence committed against their fellow Liberians. It may seem incredulous that a field full of unarmed women could succeed in ending a lucrative mineral-fuelled civil war, and yet they did just that. Leymah Gbowee and the women of the Mass Action for Peace were as strategic as they were brave, using their moral power as mothers and daughters, their rights as citizens, and their connections to the women in Charles Taylors’ life to gain audience and put their message for an end to war across.

As a leader amidst this group of women Leymah Gbowee was relentless in her commitment to the possibility of a Liberia at peace. In 2003, while governments focused on supporting formal peace negotiators and warring factions from all sides to come together inside a conference room in Ghana, she and her colleagues found a way to bring Liberian women as close as they could- camping outside the conference centre and continuing their protest for peace. At the time the international community was yet to recognise the power that Leymah Gbowee and her fellow women could wield. In fact the protesters relied on the support of fellow African women to persevere, including financial support and solidarity from the African Women’s Development Fund and women from Accra and Northern Ghana. On hearing that the men inside the conference room were refusing to agree, Leymah posed the ultimate insult to a system of men’s power by threatening to bear her naked body in public- a form of ritual humiliation common in many African societies. That act of defiance, communicated in a language no official peace negotiator can speak, is credited with breaking the stalemate in negotiations. The result was the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement and a formal end to the second Liberian civil war. Two years later Africa’s first woman President and now fellow Nobel Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was voted into office with the support of- and a pledged commitment to – the women who had fought for a better Liberia.

In the book Voice Power and Soul: Portraits of African Feminists, Leymah Gbowee reflects on what inspires her own activism, saying: “the level of passion for change that is exhibited by ordinary African women speaks to me personally. My thought is always, ‘if she is not giving up, despite the odds, who am I to give up?’”. The irony is that we feel the same way about Leymah, as we do about Ellen and our departed sisters and mentors Wangari, Wambui, Funmilayo – and all the African women who had led in deed and not just in word. They are hummingbirds, calling on all of us to consider making an equivalent commitment to quelling whatever flames of degradation and injustice we encounter. As the African activist salutation goes- Viva! Long live their example, and long live each of ours.
Jessica Horn is a writer and women’s rights consultant. She is a founding member of the African Feminist Forum and co-editor of Voice, Power and Soul: Portraits of African Feminists. She has consulted for a range of organisations including private donors, women’s rights organisations, international NGOs and UN agencies on advancing sexual and reproductive rights, ending violence against women, supporting women living with HIV and ensuring women’s rights in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding.
©2012 WNN – Women News Network
WNN encourages conversation. All opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Women News Network – WNN. This op-ed is part of an ongoing WNN partnership with openDemocracy.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Welcome to "a day in the life of an african career driven woman"! My main inspiration is the ordinary african woman out there, who is passionate about making a difference in her community. Hopefully I will get all you career driven, hardworking, self employed, employed, political, non-aligned and any revolutionised modern african woman of today who is out there to share their challenges, joys and experiences on their road to so called success. To be recognized and known, because african women are the marginalized people in african society. Let your voice be heard through this forum, if you have the boldness it takes and the fun that it entails! Share with us your exhilarating yet exciting experiences that are worth it!