African Women in Europe 2018


Two African Women in Europe, Josephine Karianjahi and AWE Co-Founder Joy Zenz
Two African Women in Europe, the author and AWE Co-Founder Joy Zenz

A decade ago, Joy Zenz and her co-founder Wambui Njau had a vision to bring together African women from across Europe in friendship, and to build community away from home. Today, African Women in Europe (AWE) have a square of the internet that is purely dedicated to their lives and their shared sisterhood.

On the last Saturday of June in Amsterdam a summit and celebration gala brought many of these women (and a few men) together to mark 10 years of AWE. Every attendee was greeted with a warm hug and a welcome to the workshop. Despite being total strangers, it felt like walking into a family reunion. There were a lot of breaks, and delicious food and snacks between to season the numerous chats and rich affirmation.

African Women in Europe
African Women in Europe 10th Anniversary Summit

Maggie Mulwa started us off with a talk on Discovering Your Talent, Gift and Strength.  She cuts a figure of a woman who knows her why, and it encouraged us to think beyond one’s training, or experience for talents and skills which help us create daily, and which can help one generate an income. She celebrated all those who work in fields where one needs not only talent, but a calling – like teachers and nurses, recognising that the things that lie in each of us are great.

Over the first tea break, I met women from Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe and we bonded over our shared Ankara outfits. No doubt we were ready to meet one another in amazing bespoke outfits. We laughed together like old friends and shared a light moment trying to get the very fancy and efficient coffee machine to work. Did I mention fresh cinnamon sticks for those like me who love herbal teas? 

Steve Odhiambo, an e-health startup founder entrepreneur who has created the African Investor Master Class led a capital-centred session. He asked us to focus on capital endeavors here, including for-profit entities such as cooperatives or small businesses as applicable. He wants to see more Africans investing in Europe while we are here, even as we invest in our home countries, and ventures in those areas. Statistically, right now in Germany 50% of new businesses are started by people with a Migrationshintergrund (migration background) , yet only 2% are started by Africans – even though those started by Africans invested among the highest amount of startup capital in their ventures.

Beside Steve was his wife, Mercy Odhiambo, founder of, a beauty and lifestyle product subscription box product lovers. I got to talking to her about the product box, and for those who have been searching for products that are good for you, and to feed your product habit, this is it.

Laura Tinzoh, a Köln based author and motivational speaker took the podium with a stirring presentation on how to soar higher. Trained as a food scientist, Laura brings much precision to exposing the elements of a life well lived.

Laura Tinzoh, Motivational Speaker and Panelist African Women in Europe
Laura Tinzoh, Motivational Speaker and Panelist

Based on her life experiences in Germany and in her home country, she wove a beautiful narrative of the things we need to love in order to soar higher. Her presentation was creatively put together by one of her sons, and it was a terrific example of talent right at home. Do you collaborate with the young adults in your life to learn from them? Laura did! As for the elements of love – Ourselves, positivity, standing out(because of your talent), challenges and forgiveness were the top five. Her September 2018 Women Empowerment Summit is in Köln.

Over lunch, I got to hear one of the co-founders, Wambui Njau share about her experiences with AWE to date. Wambui Njau Co-Founder AWE

Two African Women in Europe, Josephine Karianjahi and AWE Co-Founder Wambui Njau
The author with AWE Co-Founder Wambui Njau

After lunch, we moved into a young adult section which was led by Malkia Jeri Designs founder Njeri who shared her career journey with us. She moved to Europe with her family, and although she knew she has an entrepreneurial and creative fashion side, she has also worked on building her fashion to include both African and Western designs. She stressed the importance of keeping close with her mentors, and also making sure that we always incorporate the elements of style within our day to day fashion. We also had a fun Gele/Headtie tying contest!

Youth motivational speaker Victoria Nkatha spoke at length about youth and depression. While this topic seems to be more common among pop culture, she shared the experience that she has as a young woman who came out of her teen years while living here in Europe with her family. She talked about the struggle to maintain identity and the ways that one can try and be understood. For the parents reading this, I saw her takeaway as a call to keep asking after ones children on a daily and continuous basis.

African Women in Europe Attendees
African Women in Europe Attendees

On matters legal, Jennifer Obaseki aims to increase the number of black judges in Europe. As a solicitor and owner of her own law firm, she wants more people across Europe to take advantage of work experiences at different firms. Her office welcomes enquiries about students who can take up work experiences. She also encouraged us to adopt business strategies in our work, in particular knowing the plan, the budget and the value proposition of all our ventures. She let us in on her start as a law firm owner with 3,000 Pounds and a bank overdraft, to its growth to the point of employing lawyers and other staff. A ‘Mom on the Run’ she reminded us to learn about how to get clients on the internet, and to learn how automation can make the difference between new business and our current way of seeking out new clients with old techniques. You can find her at Legalpaal and engage her firm Obaseki Solicitors.

African Women in Europe Book

AWE has written a volume of African Women in Europe containing autobiographical snapshots of a sample of the members. You can buy the book from the organization here

As such, it was not a stretch of the imagination to walk through a ‘Write Your Own Book’ session with author Cecelia Mwaniki on reading and writing our own books. For those of us who are always on our phones or watching TV and catching up on the Netflix queue, you can relate to not being able to read paper and other physical books the way we consume digital content. She called to mind the great writers of the past and the fact that their work survives them. I was happy to get a few tips on how to read offline – in a no-distraction room, taking occasional notes, and even make sure that this is a physical print of the book.

Finally, we had a session on financial freedom with Mema Ngunga. Thinking about money really should not be an exercise in frustration or anxiety. She offered some concrete tips on how to apportion money – 50% needs, 20% savings and investment, 30% leisure. She had some solid tips for how to start creating financial freedom, having a passive income in your lie. You can learn more about her and book some personal finance review time using Facebook: African Professionals in Germany 

Throughout the workshop, you would just be able to turn and meet new people. I met a home health entrepreneur, a humanitarian worker on home leave, a children’s author, registered nurses and teachers, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, clergy members and many other new friends. Afterwards, there was an evening program which I could not unfortunately attend. I left recharged and excited to connect and take home all the lessons, joy and sisterhood in that workshop. I even learned how to tie my hair differently. If this post has made you plan to attend 2019 AWE – get in touch with them and book as soon as registration opens up.

Thanks to Mkenya Ujerumani, the leading site for Kenyans living in Germany.

Have you interacted with African women in Europe who inspire you? Please share your experience in the comments section.

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Celebrating Black Women in Film and Television and Kenya

It is the golden age of black film and television content and creators, a historic second Kenyan female director joins the Academy and a glimpse at Rafiki (Kenya’s 1st at Cannes), Yellow Fever( Ng’endo Mukii tackles colorism), Lupita Nyong’o directs a Roadside drama and Kenya’s iconic Lamu through Philippa Ndisi-Hermann’s New Moon

This past week has been a beacon moment in film and television. Netflix, which is one of the biggest content providers across the world recreated an iconic moment in Hollywood, which re-centers the talented and black feature film and television series stars. It features, among others Ava DuVernay, who is one of the leading black female directors today, who did not pick up a filmcamera until she was 32 at the start of her blockbuster career.

Secondly, a first happened for Kenya, one more amazing film maker was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, better known as the Oscars. Wanuri Kahiu is an Afrofuturist, and film director of Pumzi, From A Whisper and the Wangari Maathai-focused From Our Land. Most recently lauded at the Cannes Film Festival for Rafiki, the first Kenyan film to be screened at the festival – and banned in Kenya, she was this week the second female Kenyan director to be inducted. The first was the versatile Judy Kibinge. Check out more of her work

The recreation of A Great Day in Hollywood recalls A Great Day In Harlem, which was a photograph captured in 1958 of the most iconic jazz musicians in what was the Golden Age of Jazz. For those who have always had photographs at home, you have to imagine a time when this was a rare privilege to be memorialized on film, let alone to get so many incredible artists to be available at the same time in history together. And this is incredibly what this moment of film greats together calls to mind. In every part of the world, new content in the Netflix bouquet localises the experiences of the viewers, and there is a sense in the content that one should now be able to see oneself. This is the triumph of the moment, that being black and on film is never again going to be a limited engagement. That this is indeed the golden age of black television and film.

Nowhere more personal for me, is it to see Kenyan female film makers being screened, and being elevated in the world. Often when I was growing up in Kenya of the 1980s and 1990s, we watched one television station until 1990, which was the national broadcaster and had two channels until the mid-late 1990s when more stations went on the air. Until then, we watched cultural staples like Star Wars, the Karate Kid, and beloved animated cartoons on videotapes played on high-maintenance VHS Players. Head Cleaner and careful handling of equipment mandatory. And this is not forgetting that there were only a few video libraries where one could borrow the videotapes. I was very fortunate that my Dad took up this film selection seriously. A few of my cousins and I used to put on our own skits which made the films and cartoons come to life for our parents. I am more than sure that the filmmakers who are creating now went a step further to start writing scripts and putting together storyboards.

Moreover, we knew women read the news, or presented the weather, but we did not have an express understanding of women in the media being the decision makers, even though they invariably were pioneers in the newsroom. On the stage, if one was fortunate, we watched women acting in stage plays at the Phoenix Players theatre in Nairobi. I wished more women directed the plays, and I am sure some did. However, the vast majority of those who appeared in the playbills with the director credit were men. This may seem very outdated thinking, and it was very last century. Now, interviews with Kenyan women in film reveal that there were so many women waiting, building skills, building portfolios and this is their time to shine. Well in Wanuri, and Judy. You have done us proud.

If you have not yet had a chance to see Wanuri’s film Rafiki, watch the official trailer below

If reading this has made you want to discover more work by black film makers from Kenya, check out the work of the following Kenyan female film directors

1- Ng’endo Mukii, Yellow Fever an incredible short about the politics of black skin

2- Lupita Nyong’oIn My Genes and The Roadside – if you have seen her other films, you will enjoy this offbeat short film about the roadside experience in Kenya

3- Philippa Ndisi-Hermann‘s New Moon – a film about one woman’s spiritual awakening in the middle of her storytelling journey through one of Kenya’s most beautiful and historic coastal areas, Lamu

You can follow me on Twitter – @SunnyKay

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Bra Hugh has rested, and we are only fortunate because he gave us the gift of his timeless music, social activism, leadership and heart.


Dinner Nairobi, Breakfast NYC

Kenya Airways is from this October going to be flying between two of my favorite cities, New York City and Nairobi. I have every bit of excitement knowing that what would take at least 12 hours of flight time via Europe or the Middle East, is now one flight direct. Last night, to much fanfare, Kenya Airways launched this flight in Nairobi.

How big a deal is this move? New York City and its region handled 130.5 million passengers in 2016 alone, and Nairobi joins 1400+ other cities with enjoying a direct flight. (Source: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

New York City is about to enter its 5th Century of existence. Nairobi has just passed its 1st century. Kenya is one of the top exporters of flowers, and now New York City may not have to look to Amsterdam focused wholesalers for daily fresh bouquets. Not only do we have a case for getting more business leaders to our side of the world faster, we have a chance to have folks who have never been to Africa come live from New York City. Initiatives like Be Girl World, a Philly organization which was started by Deesha Dyer (Elle just did a feature on her incredible journey), which empower teen girls through global education and travel can make it over to Kenya faster – allowing their students to visit the cradle of mankind and bring their history to life.

Lupita Nyong’o, first Kenyan of Oscar Winner and of her name, can today personally attend the premiere of Black Panther in Kisumu, a great Kenyan city where Kenya Airways connects to from Nairobi  if she so wishes and tomorrow get back to the East Coast to continue preparing for Star Wars: Episode IX without missing a take. Speaking of movies: You can watch The Godfather, Coming to America and King Kong today in Nairobi and tomorrow visit Harlem, Dumbo and the Empire State Building where all three were shot.

Coming To Nairobi: New Yorkers can leave the City today and enjoy a stunning evening gamedrive in the Nairobi National Park tomorrow afternoon, and sleep in a room where giraffes say good morning that same night. The timing of the flight means visitors to Nairobi can do all these things in 36 Hours (Source: NYTimes)

What do you need to know to get on the flight? The BBC says:

  • Tickets are going for KES 89,000 (US$ 890)
  • It will be a 14 hour flight from NBO -NYC leaving at 23.25 and arriving at 06.25
  • Kenya welcomes over 100,000 tourists from the United States of America annually.

On the preparation side, Kenya will need to continue energizing the Magical Kenya tourism effort, and put every effort into welcoming and hospitable for all visitors, and locals of course. Articles like this one: TripAdvisor Top Destinations on the Rise No. 3: Nairobi, Kenya will not hurt either.

If I have my way, I will be making my way from Nairobi to New York on 28.10.2018 with the inaugural flight. The year is young still and this may just come to pass.

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