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June 06 2016

Kenya | AFRICAN WOMEN CULTURAL LEADERSHIP: “We do not apologize for existing”

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On the 7th of May 2016, Arterial Network launched the first African Women Cultural Leadership (AWCL) mentorship programme in Nairobi, in partnership with Creatives Garage. We all agree that the African continent would benefit enormously from the growth of its Creative Sector. However, how can the African Creative Sector reach its full potential when 50% of those who could be contributing members of the sector are being deprived of their own potential? Rather than being just another programme formulated to make women feel “appreciated,” the AWCL programme puts the responsibility to stimulate the creative sector on us all, women AND men, by providing practical means to empower women in the sector.

Women face multiple challenges within the African Creative sector. For example, women are often confined to stereotypically female roles and safe spaces. - Playing the role of a loving mother who cooks very well - Women must also perpetually try to tread the line between social and professional spheres. - Nurturing professional relationships without giving the wrong impression - When they don’t face discrimination or sexual harassment, women have to deal with disproportionate domestic responsibilities. - Missing out on opportunities to avoid being called a “bad” mother, a “bad” wife or a “bad” daughter - As a result of all those challenges, many women in the sector lack skills and self-confidence, perpetuating the myth that they do not have what it takes to be leaders.  

In a recent paper[1] Yarri Kamara presented the findings of a survey she conducted to learn more about the challenges women face in our sector: “Women in the survey felt that it was common for African women to lack self-confidence as a result of the low status that is accorded to them in society. One established choreographer laments that she sees women come through her school who simply in their way of carrying themselves apologise for existing”.

With the AWCL programme, Arterial Network not only believes that women should never apologise for existing but that they should grab every opportunity in order to affirm their position. “Leadership belongs to those who take it” says Sheryl Sandberg[2]. The vision of the programme is of an African Creative Sector in which all women benefit from full recognition of their capabilities and are able, through their own leadership, to unlock the full potential of the African Creative Sector.

On the 7th of May 2016, African Women Cultural Leadership (AWCL) launched its first mentorship programme in Nairobi, in partnership with Creatives Garage. The project connects (the few women) role models of the Kenyan Creative Sector with aspiring young leaders who aspire to follow suit.

Through individual mentoring, training (fundraising, advocacy & networking, self-confidence & public speaking, cultural entrepreneurship) and public seminars, ten mentees will be prepared for cultural leadership. Balancing the production of new ideas with making a positive difference to the cultural sector and to the world, is the unique challenge of cultural leaders, but leadership is determined action and not only position. That is why mentees will be evaluated on what they have been able to accomplish over the next 6 months and on their progress in the following skills: Inspire and motivate others; Display high integrity and honesty; Drive for results; Communicate clearly, powerfully and prolifically; Build relationships; Display technical or professional expertise; Display a strategic perspective of the future; Develop others and Innovate.

At the launch, mentees and mentors connected for the first time through different activities that enabled them to create a common vision. We are very proud to announce that Sitawa Namwalie, Sylvia Gichia, Judy Ogana, Njoki Ngumi and Mutheu Mbondo have agreed to mentor the first group of mentees. “I made every mistake and that is why I will be a great mentor” said Sitawa.

Each and every one of the AWCL mentees is now working hard to meet the goals they have set for themselves with high standards, as it should be expected from any future cultural leader. We are very excited to expose them to the world and to see more women leading, creating and inspiring new ways of not only existing, but thriving.

Leave comment on social media about this article or about the AWCL programme with #AWCL2016 and tag our pages @Arterial Network and @AfricanWomeninCulturalLeadership


To contact any of the AWCL mentees, contact Arterial Network or connect with them on our Facebook page:

Faith Oneya:I am a lover and creator of words. I dream about being a successful writer and leading women up the same path. I joined AWCL because I wanted to challenge and grow myself to the next dizzying height of achievements. I am looking to connect with like-minded individuals- creatives, who will grow, challenge and inspire me. My favourite quote is by writer Anne Bruce: "Do less of what lessens you. Do more of what magnifies your soul, your gifts and your higher purpose."”

More info:

Christine Gathiuni: “I am a Creative Entrepreneur, Designer and Innovator at AfriShiq. I run a shoe upcycling business where we give your used shoes and accessories a makeover in African fabric. I joined AWCL because I felt the time has come for Women in the arts, to take leadership positions in the Creative industry. I am super passionate about youth empowerment especially because I feel their potential is largely stifled in my country and if it were properly harnessed the entire continent would explode culturally and economicallyI'm looking for connections with fashion industry leaders who would like to empower women and youth on the continent. It’s Time for Africa!”

More info:;=br_tf

Ivy Kimtai:I am the founder of The Young Clover Media, a Not for profit organization with mission to transform communities through the arts and to make arts and culture a self-sustaining industry in Eldoret Kenya. I joined AWCL to get a sense of direction and perspective on how to effectively start an Arts and Cultural Centre in Eldoret. I now have a great sense of strength and capacity as an aspiring leader. I would like to collaborate with a reputable arts and cultural centre in Southern Africa.”

More info: and

Millicent Muthoni: “I got addicted to words and performance at the age of six, when my mother, a literature teacher, took me along to her poetry and drama sessions. I am now an author and a journalist with nine years of experience in writing and editing, and I share my thoughts in my arts and culture blog. AWCL is for me an opportunity to network with other African cultural journalists, educate myself on the dynamics and players of the industry beyond Kenya. The future I want for the arts and culture sector is one where as Africans, we will be fully expressing our creativity, our wisdom and our values, responsible for our communities and the world!”

More info: 

Nyokabi Githahu:I am an honest, disciplined, hardworking, intelligent and smart African woman. My current project is called “Big Brother Big Sister”, a mentorship program for the youth in my community (churches and public schools) which focus on leadership skills. I am also working on new designs for Hand crafted Nyokabi African Beads.”

More info:  and

Sherry Abraham:I am a Filmmaker.  My dream is to tell stories about Africa, its beauty, its culture and its values. I joined AWCL because I wanted to stand on a strong foundation and join a platform that would allow me to get to know myself better, to get inspired and always be informed about various opportunities.” More info: Youtube channel: notoriousfilmhub

Wambui Lamu:I am a career Graphic Designer. I joined AWCL because I felt stuck in what I was doing but had yet many ideas to implement. I am currently working on the launch of a magazine “Natural Hair & Living Magazine”. I dream the magazine will be a force to reckon within the Hair & Beauty industry. I am looking for fundraising opportunities and expertise. I am unique because I have a highly creative way of looking at problems and have worked at learning to provide creative solutions for the last 12 years. My favourite quote is by Gina Din (Gina Din Foundation) which states “#BecauseICan; I believe I can and I shall achieve what it is I set out to do.

More info:

Kawira Mirero: “I am a creative entrepreneur, Owner and Designer at MamboPambo, a Design Studio based in Nairobi, Kenya. I dream one day to design and make thousands of beautiful clothes that find homes all over the World. I am currently working on my Kenya AutumnWinter 16 Collection, the Collection Look Book. I joined AWCL to meet new people, grow as a leader, to validate my belief and strong love for Africa, and the African Woman, and to be part of a community that is propelling Africa onwards and upwards through art and culture. I am looking for connections that will give me opportunities to light someone else's candle, by serving, touching and inspiring others. My favourite quote is by Father James KellerA candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”.

More info:

Sue Wanjiru:I am a full time actor and writer from Kenya. I am the founder of Lokhem kids Entertainment Ltd, an organization whose aim is to creatively develop and nurture talent and leadership skills in children aged 6-12 years old. I am currently working on a kids magazine, an animation and the pre-production of a short film, Msaliti. I also run the Afrikan Renaissance blog which mainly focuses on showcasing young African Leaders under 35 who are empowering and transforming their communities. I am looking for partners who are successful filmmakers within and without Africa, as well as connections within organizations that focus on the African child. My favourite quote is from the Bible,In whatever you do, do it excellently”.” More info:

Sheila Akwany:I am the Programmes Officer at Kuona Trust, a leading Visual Arts Centre in Nairobi. I work closely with artists designing and implementing an exciting array of art programmes and projects. I am currently working on the development of a 3 year artist incubator programme that aims to nurture the growth and development of artists, while providing them a platform to implement their business and artistic ideas. I joined AWCL because I believe in the potential of Africa’s creative sector and want to develop viable and sustainable strategies that will provide better direction for the industry as a whole in the present context. I look forward to connecting with other people who believe in Africa’s creative economy and see the potential of its rich and diverse culture.”

More info:


Photo credit: Creatives Garage Agency 

[1]Challenges for African women entrepreneurs in the live arts and designer fashion sectors”, by Yarri Kamara, In book: Gender Equality, Heritage and Creativity, Publisher: UNESCO, Editors: Penelope Keenan, Keiko Nowacka, Lynne Patchett, pp.108-121

[2] Current CEO of Facebook, in her book “Lean in”, Publisher:Ebury Publishing , Editor: Random House Group Limited.

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