A social entrepreneur and the executive editor of ElleAfrique, a blogzine dedicated to challenging the perceptions of African girls and women in the world today. Salha Kaitesi is a mother and daughter of Rwanda. She is originally from Kigali and currently based in the United Kingdom.
She founded ElleAfrique to encourage African women to pen their heart’s desires and individual and collective voice. ElleAfrique is an online bilingual multi-user publication with the vision of creating a space for African women to empower each other, celebrate each other, and unite through their stories.
Salha says, “African women from around the world blog for the magazine. There are about 41 contributors at the moment, and they hail from Gambia, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya to mention but a few. Our biggest readership is from the United States and Uganda. Worlds apart but sharing the same passion.’’
Continuing by, “We receive mail and comments from readers who tell us how the blogs are empowering, made them laugh or just connected the dots for them. We also get comments that show us that we are doing a good job and we should be proud, all cool comments that you can check out in the blog section.’’
Lately, I’m in the habit of listening more and speaking less, so I had to hear her narration of why she felt this blogzine was something necessary for African women. – “It was through personal experiences that the blogzine came to exist. I felt that I had to please people around me because society expected me to do so. My needs and passions pushed aside. I was somber inside, and it showed on the outside because I started losing interest in things and people around me.”
Salha paused, and slightly chuckled, but with somewhat of acknowledgment. As though to appreciate the journey she has been through to arrive where she currently stands. Then promptly continuing by saying, “I was dying in and outside as I was tired of putting up with everyone else’s expectations, and not being myself. I say this, because, as African women, we are constantly ‘labeled’ a certain way. I’m not saying African women should all go out there and lose their culture and heritage. Rather, embrace that culture in you. Not the expectant society norms.”
Adding on, “I wanted to create a place where my voice as an individual is heard and also a place that would allow me and others to be comfortable in our skin. Making me think to myself that there must be hundreds of women going through the same experience. Therefore, if we can’t get all the much-needed support from loved ones, it doesn’t mean we can’t get it from somewhere else. Allowing me to accept the blog should be about sisterhood, sharing experiences and learning from them. Encouraging and celebrating each other. Hey, who knows, if one blog can empower someone you don’t know in Sudan, then it must be doing its job, right!”
ElleAfrique has indeed come a long way, with the Founder’s back story, to where it is now, and in a few years time, growing in bloggers size and making real money is what Salha hopes it to be. As there is a growing number of women who like to write for ElleAfriqe. However due to over capacity from editors already, not everyone can be hired, but they are all still encouraged to carry on empowering, educating, supporting and celebrating more African women to join this blogzine movement, shall we call it that.
Salha is not all about ElleAfrique and derives inspiration from her other projects from the likes of the late Professor Wangari Maathai’s work and deeds. This is validated through her own work, also acknowledging that Wangari Maathai’s features remind her of her late mother. She has also founded Beauty of Rwanda, a non-profit organization that economically empowers women and girls in Rwanda. The Beauty of Rwanda buys handmade crafts from a group in rural Rwanda and sells them to customers worldwide via their website. Each of the handmade products are of high quality, environmentally friendly and locally sourced in Rwanda. You can shop their store here: Beauty of Rwanda.
Salha herself has received a few accolades, for the Beauty of Rwanda. – In 2011 Salha was listed as one of the 20 inspirational women of the African diaspora in Europe 2011, and that same year she was the winner of the first African diaspora at work awards. Allowing her to be nominated in three categories for the Women4Africa Awards two years later in 2013, and that same year she was listed amongst ‘100 women who inspire us in the world today’. Lastly, two years ago, she won the Women4Africa recognition awards for her commendable work.
I took it a step further with this piece and reached out to some of the remarkable diverse ladies who blog for ElleAfrique to hear what they had to say.
Check their responses out below!
Mahbuba Matovu, a Ugandan lifestyle blogger, said – “I think ElleAfrique gives not just female bloggers a voice but also Ugandan women a voice. People are more open about telling their stories in a space where everyone is open minded understanding and not judgemental.”
Noluvuyo Bacela, a young creative from South Africa said – “It is imperative for women to be in communication with each other continuously. Over the years many atrocities have violated and made a girl look down on herself and ultimately look down on other girls. I love ElleAfrique so much because we get to connect on a human level through sharing everyday stories about relationships, work, and cultures. Each post makes me fall in love with Africans, and I hope this platform can become a haven for all girls across the world.”
Vivienne Amijee, a Kenyan Economist, and Gender Advocate said – “When women of vision come together great things are bound to happen. ElleAfrique is a platform for African women living in Africa and also in the diaspora which happens to be the brainchild of Salha who is also the founder of Beauty of Rwanda, and she is unstoppable. ElleAfrique is our story field; we talk about anything and everything that comes to mind or current affairs both locally, and internationally, we are a family of different sisters.
What have I learned from my fellow bloggers? Well, a whole lot from the existence of Rolex festival in Uganda to the various struggles that women go through, the successes we ought to celebrate often, untold stories of unsung African heroes, featured guests who impact immense knowledge during our social media chats it’s a blogosphere which serves as an education powerhouse.
They say if you don’t land on the moon, be among the stars in the case of ElleAfrique, Salha is the moon and my fellow bloggers are the stars, I am honored to be part of this great family that tells African stories the best way we know how.”