Antonia Ashton is vice president of communications at SAP Africa based in Cape Town. She mentors Joyce Mbwette, managing director of Footloose Tanzania, a trading company that links small-scale craft and agriculture producers to international buyers.
What are your impressions of the Global Ambassadors Program so far?
An energising, inspiring and paradigm shifting immersion in the remarkable and humbling power of tenacious, feisty women who have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles that go way beyond the realms of just an experience. What a privilege this is. This is such a two-way mentoring engagement.
What have you learned about Joyce?
Joyce’s quiet gravitas and poise, ongoing determination, despite the fact that the world has thrown her some real injustices, have left me floored. Her resourcefulness and willingness to quietly explore herself and thereby venture into unknown personal territory in her quest to grow and learn is extraordinary.
What are you working on together?
Developing a brand identity. We have come up with an idea to approach a local Tanzanian advertising school or the marketing division at the university with a brief that asks the students to take this on as a project. Remuneration would be job experience at Joyce’s business, Footloose.
How does mentoring play a role in this region, in empowering women and creating positive change?
Mentoring is something so innate to African culture, especially amongst women. Knowledge is often seen as group knowledge from which all can benefit and upon which all can improve. As such, an exercise like this where mentoring is being effected in the spirit of “ubuntu” and true exchange is incredibly powerful. It’s the power of the ‘us’ as opposed to the ‘me’ and all that that wisdom implies. Growing evidence shows that investing in women is not only the right thing to do – it is the intelligent thing to do. African women have the unique potential not only to help drive economic growth but also to help solve some of the pressing challenges of our time.
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Photography: David Hume Kennerly