February is a month dedicated to celebrating black history. I am one person who has considered race to be sacred. Growing up, I never thought much about my race. After all, I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, a sub-Saharan country. Most people looked like me or had a slightly different shade of black.
Studying abroad in the United States and Australia made me become conscious of my skin colour and be aware of racism. Yet, despite all this, I’m still honoured that God created me as a black woman, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Today, I’ll end my post with a post I wrote in 2013 when I was a senior in college at Hofstra University in New York.
“Celebrating Black History Month: Honoring a people who endured colonisation, slavery, prejudice, segregation amongst other atrocities. I am honoured to be a descendant of such a resilient and persevering race. I am proud and blessed to be black, and I would not have it any other way. Like me, my descendants will be standing on the shoulders of giants…” – Sibonginkosi Abigail Moyo(13 February 2013 – Facebook Post)
The second woman to be celebrated in this series is Getrude Matshe-Kanicki. Getrude is originally from Zimbabwe but is based in New Zealand where she relocated to in 2001.This woman wears many hats: She is an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Author Rooney International Scholar, TED Speaker and Rotary Member.
As an Entrepreneur She started Medical Recruiters of New Zealand Ltd, GM Global Investments Ltd (Property) and Simzisani Ltd, a talent agency catering for the film and advertising industry. As philanthropist Getrude founded a not for profit organisation Africa Alive Education Foundation, an organization that supports HIV orphans in Zimbabwe.
Getrude has written several books including ‘Born on the Continent – Ubuntu’ and “It’s not what happens to you that matters!”. As someone who has been a TED Speaker she has a conference called HERSTORY circle that gives women a platform to speak and share their story.
We celebrate you our heroine Getrude, keep doing the amazing work that you do!
The first woman to be celebrated in this years Heroine series is Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.Dr Okonjo-Iweala has a Bachelors in Economics from Harvard University, as well as a PhD from MIT(Massachusetts Institute of Technology). She also has built an amazing career in international development. She has worked for the World Bank for 25 years and and selected to be the Minister of Finance in her country of origin Nigeria,(2003-2006,2011-2015). She was born in the southern Nigeria town of Ogwashi-Ukwu. She is a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States.Also a family woman, she has a daughter and three sons and a husband who is a neurosurgeon.
This remarkable woman also sits on the board of prestigious organisations such Twitter and Standard Chartered PLC. With the COVID pandemic, her leadership has been sought after and she has been appointed as WHO COVID-19 Special Envoy and AU COVID-19 Special Envoy.
Dr Ngozi highest achievements include the following:
-Becoming the first female and African Director General, World Trade Organization
-Being named by Forbes as one of Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World four years in a row
-She continues to inspire young women to follow their dreams and make history. We celebrate you our heroine, Dr Ngozi.
Today is that one day where the world focuses just on women, so I’m taking time out to celebrate myself as a woman and other phenomenal women making the world a better place.
2021 has started off on a high note in the woman kingdom with Firstly the first ever female vice president of the United States was inaugurated, Kamala Harris. Also, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation(WTO). With representation in these spaces, young women will have role models to look up to.
To celebrate women’s day and women’s history month, I’ll be doing a series highlighting phenomenal women that inspire me.
Networking is really important aspect of success. It’s even more vital in the black community where there are a lot more barriers to thrive career and business wise.
In October, the UK celebrated black history month and I wrote and article on Building Strong Blaxk Networks for Black Founder Nation magazine. In this article I highlight Dr George Fraser who leads a global networking movement for people of African descent. He hosts the PowerNetworking Conference annually. The PowerNetworking Conference is recognises as America’s largest held conference in the world for Black business professionals, entrepreneurs and executives and has been running for 19 years now.
Some advice on building relationships from Dr Fraser- “Love, Serve, Give and Add Value First”.You can read the full article here
11 October is the day designated by the United Nations as the ‘Day of the Girl Child’, and it began in 2012. The International Day of the Girl Child is a day to bring focus on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
For this year, I have decided to focus on women in STEM careers. I studied Engineering up to master’s level, and I was fortunate to have parents who cheered me on and told me I could be anything I want to be. Even though my family was supportive, other people had a different opinion. I remember visiting a family friend who was in her 70’s when I was a student, and she asked me why I wanted to do a man’s job. When I remembered her age, I realized when she was young Engineering was not a career path for women. That being said, it’s sad to see in this day, and age young girls with the talent and desire to become Engineers or anything else in STEM say they are unable to do so just because they are girls. I am aware some of these girls come from families or societies that are not yet ready to break gender stereotypes.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, there is a low number of women enrolling for STEM courses in tertiary institutions globally. About 8% for construction, engineering, and manufacturing; 5% for mathematics and statistics and 3% for ICT courses. Also, women who choose to pursue a STEM career later face the prospect of unequal pay and restricted career progression.
As we celebrate the girl child, let us remember to tell the young girls in our lives that they are leaders, change-makers, and provide opportunities for them to shine.
The route of Entrepreneurship is not travelled by many. Although it has high returns, it also has high risks. With that in mind, it is not a surprise that many parents encourage their children to go to University, get a job and build a stable career, and this is quite common in African families.There is a lot of support if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant etc. but not the same enthusiasm if one wants to be an entrepreneur.
My parents were full-time entrepreneurs by the time was I was ten years old. My siblings and I grew up in the family business and understood how one could run a business. However, our parents wanted us to go to school, get a job and then maybe launch a business. Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o who is of Kenyan origin mentions the importance of getting a job for someone of an African background when she received her SAG award. Lupita said how she excitedly told her dad she would be working with Brad Pitt for the movie ’12 Years a Slave.’ To which her dad simply replied, “I don’t know him personally, but I’m glad you’ve got a job.”
You can read the full article on Entrepreneurship here.
In July, I wrote an article for Black Founder Nation magazine discussing the issues of race. Even though a person’s race is a visible part of one’s identity, it is one of those topics that most people shy away from discussing. The interesting thing is children do see race. One day a Caucasian child walked up to me and said you are chocolate everywhere, I smiled and told him that my whole family is chocolate and he was so surprised. If children think and talk about race, adults do too. Not talking about race will not make racism go away.
In the article, I tell my story of growing up in Zimbabwe, a sub-Saharan country that is a majority-black nation. Then the experience of being black in America where I studied abroad for four years, discovering the term ‘woman of color’, and then migrating to Australia, where I identify as an African-Australian. I also narrate my personal experiences with racism and my thoughts on the issue.
“I firmly believe that it is crucial to have safe spaces to talk about race and do our best to address barriers that exist between different ethnicity.” – Sibonginkosi Abigail Moyo