Young leader with big dreams
Gonaya Monei Sethora’s life is an inspirational tale of leadership, entrepreneurship and activism.
She has advocated for students’ rights, women’s and children’s rights and academic freedom.
Sethora is a firm believer in social justice, female empowerment through entrepreneurship and training with an emphasis on mentorship and leadership.
Setlhora is the Former First Female SRC President of New Era University College of Arts, Science and Technology Botswana 2016 /2017.
At the age of 25, Setlhora is the founder and President of the Business Woman Africa Foundation (BWAF).
It is an International Women Advocacy Organization that has been endorsed by the African Union Ecosocc and the African Union Women, Gender and Development Directorate.
It creates a platform which affords African women, especially the young women, the opportunity to design their destinies and build social enterprises that have the potential to change the narrative of young girls on the African Continent.
Our reporter, Portia Mlilo, had a chat with the youthful leader about her business and programmes aimed at empowering young women in business.
Q. What inspires you to advocate and come up with youth development programmes?
The urge to see changes in the society especially in tackling our community challenges.
When you have the courage to see the change you must be the change yourself.
So I decided to be the doer.
You will realize that when you become the solution provider you don’t become an angry citizen who is angry with the government or politicians but also they are not doing anything.
Q. What inspired you to become an activist?
Growing up, my mother and I faced challenges and I felt like she couldn’t stand up for herself at that time because of the pressure of societal stereotypes.
It was wrong in all ways and I felt women need to stand up for themselves and know that we are good enough and we can achieve on our own.
Society rules and expectations do not define us. Culture is dynamic but our current society doesn’t want to change their ways to suit the new lifestyle of this new generation.
Q. Tell us about the establishment of Business Woman Africa Foundation.
I started BUWA Foundation in 2018. I registered my first company at the age of 20 while I was still a student.
It was a construction company and with the hustle and struggle with tendering it wasn’t easy to get any job with the government.
I realized there were few women in the construction industry, so the Foundation’s mandate is mainly to bring together women from different businesses as a singular movement of women entrepreneurs who will share opportunities and help one another in their respective business fields.
Q. What has been the foundation’s highlights and low-lights?
We have gained so much recognition locally but mostly internationally where we chair and sit in different women entrepreneurs network boards.
We have been able to get international funding for some of our projects for women in Business here in Botswana which is one of our biggest achievements.
We are indeed promising upcoming women cooperative with a lot of social entrepreneurship projects for our local women in the hustle.
The low-light, on the other hand, is that, as a growing organization, the year 2020 has really negatively impacted the organization so much that we found ourselves unable to support all our members and having to let go some of our volunteers.
Q. What is the mandate of BuwaAfrica Communication Company?
This is also another company I registered while I was still a Bachelors of Engineering in Telecommunications Engineering student with some of my colleagues from the BuwaAfrica.com.
It is a Telecommunications Consultancy company that provides Consultancy services on communication services within an organization and a newly established business.
This idea was also influenced by the fact that some of the female engineering students in my school had signed up with my foundation and when I brought up the idea to the table it sounded very lucrative, especially for telecommunications engineers.
I am proud to say under this company we have just developed an E-commerce platform which is an App and website (App name Buwamarket and website www.buwamarket.com).
They are already up and running for entrepreneurs in Botswana to buy, advertise and sell their products and services.
We are looking forward to bringing more solutions to Botswana’s Digital economy through this company.
Q. What does your role entail as the Chief Executive Officer of BuwaAfrica?
I’m a young CEO and learning the job so it entails fostering meaningful partnerships and coming up and approving projects that will sell the company well to the public and gain us a good reputation.
Q. What are the challenges you face as a young entrepreneur?
The main challenge is lack of support in terms of getting funding for projects especially here in Botswana both from government and corporate government.
I am only lucky that I have also made good business relations outside of Botswana.
I have been to at least 15 countries working as a youth policy development consultant with the African Union and the Commonwealth.
One other thing is certain people stealing your ideas.
They come as if they are willing to help while they’re just getting more information on your project.
Q. You have been the first SRC Female President of New Era University, how easy or difficult was it to work in a male-dominated committee?
Becoming the First female SRC President made things easier, especially when engaging with the school management and Education Training Providers like BQA, HRDR and also the Ministry of Education.
On this part of my advocacy work, work was much easier just for the fact that I am a woman.
People had trust and were eager to listen.
Problems arise when now the management of the university and the institution’s supervisors do not or rather take to respond to students’ grievances.
It is during this time that you have to woman up and organize peaceful demonstrations to get the government’s attention and getting quick responses to our issues.
Q. What does it take for one to be a good young leader?
Walking the talk.
I find it easy for me to lead and advocate when I don’t take sides in terms of being political.
This way you are able to air your views without judgment or offer neutral advice.
Q. Last year, you won two BNYC awards for Best Female and Best youth in leadership, what did this mean to you?
I was more encouraged to do more and it is one good youth initiative we have in Botswana.
We have a lot of young activists on the ground from far villages and these are the right people to use to build a better society.
These awards gave me more reputation for my work, especially in the international space.
Q. Young people always say it is difficult to make it in business, how did you manage?
Consistency and determination are my first answers.
It can be demoralizing along the way but one most important thing is I had a good base of the network.
We have young people like Raymond Setlhomo, Nijel Amos and others who are such a big motivation for success.
Q. Who is your inspiration?
Head of Human Resource – Midstream De Beers Group, Matlhogonolo Mponang.
She had a young women leaders meet and greet mini session at her house when I first met her in 2018.
I remember that night I was the last person to leave her place before my transport arrived.
We had a very powerful conversation about finding your true purpose and my life has never been the same since.
She has a program by the name TGM mentorship program that she hosts nationwide.
She is a champion in young women empowerment and I am sure I’m not her only successful mentee.
Q. What advice can you give to those aspiring to be young leaders and activists?
My best advice is, go for it!
That is the starting point of both political and corporate leadership.
This is where you build your public speaking skills, your confidence and reputation as you climb the ranks of social activism.
Q. Any ambitions of contesting for political office?
Unfortunately not anytime soon but in the future.
I am more interested in building my Business Ideas at the moment and most importantly building up my reputation and working with the international institutions I’m currently working with which are specifically the African Union.
As you know we have low numbers of Batswana working there and The Commonwealth.
I think I prefer to make money before becoming a politician it is a very good concept.
A lot of politicians would be able to deliver to communities if they were not broke.
Now our system puts hungry people who for the first four years of their term work on improving their own lives with public resources then later on they ask for another term.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
I drive a Mazda Axela hatchback new model and I have joined a group of women driving the same vehicle model in Gaborone.
We will be parading at Block 8 grounds today starting from 5:30 pm.
I am looking forward to that.
It’s really a great sport and also being part of women who are inspired to achieve and make it in life.
I wouldn’t be anywhere else this Friday except being around women of such kind of mindset.