Earlier this month, Facebook announced the launch of ‘LeadHERs: Life Lessons From African Women’, a collection of inspiring stories and prudent advice from 19 women across Africa who are breaking boundaries in fields such as media, entertainment, politics, education and business.
Local radio host and media personality Samantha ‘MisRed’ Musa was among those selected along with four other Southern African representatives, Baratang Miya (South Africa), Dr Judy Dlamini (South Africa), Monica Musonda (Zambia), and Lelemba Phiri (Zambia).
“Our book highlights some exceptional African women who are trailblazers. Their individual stories, the challenges they’ve endured, the sacrifices, their moments of triumph and life lessons offer a guiding light for every young woman with ambitions. The underlying message in all these beautiful stories is that we are all products of community and to community we owe a debt – we all have a role to play in creating a better society.”Nunu Ntshingila, Facebook Africa’s Regional Director
Below are the profiles and excerpts from the Southern African women selected for Facebook’s LeadHERs book.
Samantha ‘MisRed’ Musa, media personality and philanthropist, Zimbabwe
Samantha Musa started her radio career on Zimbabwe’s ZiFM Stereo and has since added TV appearances to the mix. She is also behind Red Market Sunday, an initiative where small businesses get to use her social media platforms to market their products and services. Her advice is to be faithful to your happiness.
“I have learned that in order to help everyone around me, I really have to make sure I’m OK first,” she says. “I had moments of depression and I generally felt overwhelmed. It didn’t help anyone – I just felt like I was failing, a lot. So, I started prioritising myself from that moment on and the more I did that, the more effective and productive I became in my career and my home life.”
Monica Musonda, lawyer, entrepreneur and CEO, Zambia
Having practised law in Zambia, US and Nigeria, Monica Musonda decided to leave her general counsel job, return to her home country and become an entrepreneur. In 2012 she founded Java Foods, a food processing company based in Zambia, which exports its popular brands to other countries in Africa. She says that young people should learn by doing, rather than waiting for the perfect moment.
She says: “You need to have a bit of research behind you, and know your figures, but the best way to work it out is by doing. I can tell you that the business I have now and the business plan I wrote out are two vastly different things. I only really understood what the customers wanted, how they would pay for it, how we could transport it and a hundred other factors once we started, and we’ve had to adapt along the way.”
Lelemba Phiri, entrepreneur, investor and educator, Zambia
Lelemba Phiri runs an investment company Africa Trust Group (ATG), focusing on the growth and development of women leaders and entrepreneurs across Africa. In 2019 ATG launched a $5.7 million venture capital fund to invest into women-owned or female-led businesses. Her advice is: You are not your role or title – evolution is the key to thriving.
Phiri says: “As women, there are so many boxes that society places us into, and some that we play into ourselves that can limit our lives. Things like thinking, ‘I’m a mother so I can’t have a career’, silly ones like ‘I’m an accountant, so I can only wear dark suits’, or things like ‘There’s a big problem in the operations department, but it’s not in my job description, so I won’t suggest a change that I can see would help.’ If you allow yourself to fall prey to those labels it can be suffocating, and you won’t grow.”
Baratang Miya, entrepreneur and CEO, South Africa
Baratang Miya founded Girlhype to empower women and girls from underserved communities to create bespoke tech products for their communities and build careers in the industry. The initiative has now taught more than 500,000 girls directly. Her lesson to share would be: Entrepreneurs just do it, even if it scares you.
“There have been lots of times in my life when I’ve been afraid of doing something. It could be little things like speaking up in a meeting and suggesting an idea or starting a new business project. But what I’ve learnt over the years is that the things that I’ve been most afraid of doing, are the things in the end that I’ve been most proud of,” she says
Dr Judy Dlamini, entrepreneur, author and philanthropist, South Africa
Dr Judy Dlamini is a medical doctor who retrained and switched career paths into the business world, completing an MBA as well as obtaining a Doctorate in Business Leadership from UNISA in 2014 and a Stanford Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate in 2018. She is now one of South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, and also a philanthropist, author and the first female Chancellor for Wits University. Her life lesson to the younger generation is to get out of your comfort zone, learn new things – and never give up.
She says: “All my life I wanted to break the stereotype about people who look like me – just like they did. I had dreamt of being a doctor since I was four years old. In high school, I was considered to be one of the bright students and I earned a place at medical school. So, imagine my disappointment when I failed for the first time at med school! I had to come to terms with failure and I had to prove to myself that I was up to the challenge of keep going. But it was an important lesson, that when you fail, you just have to lick your wounds, give yourself a pep talk, and rise up and try again. It builds resilience.
LeadHERs: Life Lessons From African Women, launched in honour of International Women’s Day (08 March) and is available as a free download from ISSUU. A limited number of printed versions will be made available and distributed across 15 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Senegal and Kenya.
You can download the full book with the link here