Upcoming entrepreneur and activist Mantate Mlotshwa says her vision is to see young Zimbabwean women rising to occupy spaces of influence through hard work and by exploiting opportunities.
Mlotshwa (MM), a programme lead for arts for change at Magamba Network, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that she believes African women are beautiful not only from the way they look, but also in their resilience.
She also talks about how being raised by her grandmother inspired her to work hard and pursue her vision. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: How do you describe yourself and the things that you do?
MM: Thank you so much for having me, it is an honour really. I can only say that when it comes to defining Mantate, I am aboutÂ role modelling, phenomenal leadership, particularly in Africa.
I think for the longest time as young women growing up we see a lot of men in spaces that we wouldÂ love to be proud of, but we are not seeing so many women.
So for me, it has been always about how do you model the kind of leadership that other young women will look at you and sayÂ I want to be like this woman and they can look at the background and say she started where we started and being able to build the Zimbabwe and Africa that we want to see.
TN: Would you like to share how you celebrated your turning 25 last year?
MM: I was so excited because it was not only about me, Â but I was looking at my background and say I was raised by the community where I grew up, I would say.
I was in Bulawayo in Nkulumane Â and I was the grandchild of almost every grandparent in that neighbourhood.
People would know me,Â discipline me, they did not want me to do certain things because they had responsibilities to raise me.
So when I turned 25 I thoughtÂ to myself: How can I do a practical thing to appreciate this community?
I started the Water My RootsÂ campaign programme, which was about how do I use the available resources to give back to the community where I grew up because their problem has beenÂ water Â for a while and some people around me Â also support the Mantate vision.
TN: Did you do that once or it is an ongoingÂ project?
MM: Initially when I started I wanted to do one borehole to inspire other young people in different communities to do similar projects, including those in the diaspora and in Zimbabwe, so that we could have more projects together.
So I cannot say we have a borehole coming up soon, but definitely I am looking at other initiatives that I can put on to develop my community.
TN: You got into poultry in 2018. Is that project still ongoing and if it is, tell us about its state right now?
MM: I started working for Women’s Institute for LeadershipÂ Development in Bulawayo, but I was thinking about how do I get more money outside my salary.
I had to partner with my aunt who had a poultry space. In January Â 2018 we started with 50 chickens and moved to 100 in July,Â then in October I had moved to Harare for school and work.
We demolished the structures and started something bigger and it was exciting for me.
I remember the last batch we had in December was 500 chickens, which is crazy though in just one year.
Since it was going well, we tried to double that number and it is going well so far.
TN: I can see that you are wearing African products right now, are you wearing your products?
MM: Unfortunately not today, but I will actually send out a link.In the past few days, I was wearing those products because I have always been inspired by African fashion.
I said to myself let me do it for the sake of interest and get money at the same time.
TN: Explain to us why the Sesotho name.
MM: My father is Motswana and my mother is Ndebele, so I wanted to tap into my roots and it also takes it out of the Zimbabwean community because it is also a Southern Africa thing.
We started working on the designs in OctoberÂ and launched the brand with all the five Zimbabwean Â women with stories behindÂ themselves. some are survivors of cancer, and others are young women with different stories to tell.
Some are businesswomen and the business is going well. so farÂ people are loving our designs.
TN: Let us now talk about where Mantate was born.
MM: I was born in Bulawayo in Nkulumane in 1995.
I went to Eveline High School, which nurtured my writing and reading skills, and my teachers would tell me I had a bright future.
The teachers, who really contributed to who IÂ am right now, are Mrs Mafikela, my English teacher, and my debate teacher Mrs Maselo.
They are still in touch with me now and are like my mothers.
TN: You seem to have that kind of an intimate relationship with your grandmother, can you just walk us through?
MM: Very true, I love my grandmother. When she was raising us she would give us an opportunity to speak and beÂ ourselves.
In some householdsÂ young girls wouldÂ not be allowed to speak,Â but she would allow us to do so.
I always say my gogo is my everything and she is very proud of me as she would always say.
When I grew up she would always say I was a grandchild to Mugabe because she would see that greatness in me which she was seeing in Mugabe, especially because I was very inquisitive and inspirational.
She taught me how to be a strong woman.
TN: From this journey I have seen that you raised your hand, put yourself in places and volunteered. What lessons has that taught you?
MM: One of the key lessons that I share with young people is that you do not have to be the best in an industry to thrive.
It is about what you put in, there are so many youngÂ women that are potentially better than meÂ in terms of the way that I speak, in terms of the way that I write and in all things that I amÂ doing, but the difference between me and them is that I put in the work.
I do not like sleeping.
I push myself to say that now I have finished my work at 5 o’clock, how then do I do more like how I write articles and a lot of thingsÂ because I have noticed that people will only notice you if you are seen doing something .
Even at Magamba where I work now, Â I am likeÂ you are not just doing the job, but youÂ are also building a profile that someone outside MagambaÂ will look at and say we want to work with Magamba, we want to work with Mantate.
The other thing I learnt is based on where we come from because sometimes we look at our backgrounds and say it cannot be possible, but for me I was raised by my grandmother and we did not have money for university.
But I pushed myself by doing the hard work.
Sometimes I meet people and they are like what Masters did you do or what degree did you graduate with and I am like I am not there yet.
Right now I am doing my first degree in psychology at the University of Zimbabwe, but some people expect me to be at their level or even higher.
So I am like this is the meaning of hard work. So my advice is that if you want something, you have to figure out how you get something; after that, you need to put in the work because things will not work out the way we think they will, but you need to push.
- “In Conversation with Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. Please get your free YouTube subscription to this channel. The conversations are sponsored by Titan Law.