19 June 2016

Tanzania: Girl Who Puts the Crown Back On African Queens

Photo: African Queens Project
Gloria Mangi.

It takes a woman's story to inspire another woman and to change the way women view themselves.

At least that's what Gloria Mangi, the woman behind African Queens Project believes. With the slogan, 'Changing the African Woman's Narrative', Gloria is changing the script one story at a time through her project.

Gloria has taken advantage of the technological advancement of our times to promote positive narratives about women and empower women.

"Africa is predominantly a patriarchal society and the woman usually serves as a second class citizen, though this has slowly been changing. By promoting stories of influential women, we become a part of changing the narrative and document the stories for generations to come," she explains.

Gloria recently relaunched African Queens Project, an online platform that she uses to share African women's stories through videos, interviews, TV, Radio and audio bites. The aim is to come from a unique angle by profiling 'queens' from different walks of life, sectors and communities that are instigating positive change in their communities. In hope that by so doing, the audience will be motivated, inspired, and charged to instigate change in their own environment.

Content on her site is posted as part of a series. Each series determines the type of women "we are going to profile, whether they are in the entertainment sector, business, community work or advocacy." So far, they have profiled women such as Abby Plaatjes, Maame Afon, Vanessa Mdee, Seko Shamte, Chimamanda Adichie, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Gloria believes that storytellers in Africa have the power to change the narrative. They just aren't working on the power in their hands. "I would be amiss if I didn't say how creatives need to stop complaining and start creating. Stop complaining about the lack of diversity and representation in media and start using our talents and skill sets to contribute to the beautiful narrative that is Africa.

The talent pool that this continent has is deep and wide and this includes women. And it is time we not just dip our toes in but completely immerse ourselves in its waters," she says.

African Queens was born when Gloria was selected among 25 young African women leaders for a leadership fellowship called MILEAD in 2012, which took place in Accra, Ghana.

"The caliber of women in the fellowship with me and the work that they were doing in their countries both humbled and excited me.

Birth of the project

I remember asking myself, how come I didn't know half of the amazing things that these women were doing, some who were literally risking their lives on a daily basis through their work and advocacy," says Gloria.

The fellowship required one to do a project back home and Gloria did not want to do just another programme or project but something that encompassed who she was, a journalist and media professional. It had to be something that she was also passionate about. So everything just fell into place in her mind and she started working on building African Queens Project, she explains.

In 2013, Gloria launched her project as an Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) and she has been working on it ever since.

The site was the first phase of the project since the basis of it was sharing stories of different women and their works with the rest of the world. The next phase was the radio show called, The African Queens Show which aired on Choice FM and is now exclusively available as a podcast on the website. Gloria continues to launch different phases such a video series and books profiling 40 women from East Africa.

Gloria says that the project has changed her in many ways. "African Queens has not only opened many doors for me, but it has opened my eyes to a world I wasn't familiar with. I consider myself a humanist, one who values human life. And through interaction I have with a lot of these women, I am always reminded about how important it is for women to celebrate and support other women in their accomplishments and endeavors."

In her own life, Gloria has her parents to thank for inspiring her narrative. She says that she is fortunate to grow up in a household where her gender wasn't perceived as a handicap.

"I was encouraged to pursue and nurture my gifts. So I played sports a lot, did theatre, was part of the students council, cooked, cleaned, and so did my brothers. My parents are both hard working professionals. My mother just recently retired so she could focus on other things."

Through her mother, Gloria says she learnt that it was possible for one to study, work, be a mother, housewife and still be able to focus on her own dreams and passions. Since she spent a large part of her life abroad and making the choice to return to Africa, Gloria's world view was flipped upside down as she realised not everyone saw the world the way she did. This started her journey in advocacy and eventually women's rights.

Of course there are queens in her life that have inspired her journey. "The first woman in my life who showed me what a true African Queen is has been my mother, Monya Mangi. I have also been blessed to have other women in my life who both push and inspire me to different levels. Just to name a few individuals who have impacted my life and continue to do so are queens like Abella Bateyunga, Lillian Madeje, Modesta Mahiga, Dr Catheryn Massamu, Asta Christopher and quite a few others who I count as my inspirations and sounding boards."

Earning recognition

Through her work, Gloria has won various awards. She says she is grateful, for such accolades go beyond her and help promote the stories and the work she does.

Her first award was from the World Summit Youth Awards in 2013, the same time they launched the project. The award recognised her efforts in using technology to put the Sustainable Development Goals into action and making a difference.

Then African Queens was named by Google and Africa Connected in 2014 among the top 20 projects that were using technology to promote change. The project has since had numerous features and mentions from different companies, organisations, and groups.

For the last six years, Gloria has been at the forefront of media, innovation, activism, and technology. She headed the media and communications department for the last four and a half years for one of the leading youth-led organisations in Tanzania, Maanisha! Limited. She is also a 2015 Community Solutions Fellow, 2012 Milead fellow, Smart Partnership fellow, and the World Summit Awards Youth Ambassador.

"I continue to take on many roles as a TV anchor, radio personality, producer, director, writer, blogger and actress. I have also taken part in numerous social projects both locally and internationally. I speak and moderate in various panels and platforms on issues surrounding technology, leadership, activism, women, and Pan-Africanism.

Having grown up and studied abroad and Tanzania has given Gloria a strong background and a wide perspective on issues both on a global and national front, she explains.

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