“Be yourself and be unique. We all have something to contribute to society no matter where we are. In my professional capacity I simply offered to speak to a few students which resulted in me being invited to speak at the Women's Engineering Society student’s conference at Birmingham University. In my free time, I began to feed my passion for food; taking photos of what I had cooked in my kitchen and writing about it. As a result I now write for a New York based internet Giant, africancuisine.about.com and have been featured on CNN in the article ‘5 African food bloggers to follow now’.” [Freda Muyambo]
Freda Muyambo is a young Motswana who lives in London. She is a wife, a mother of three children and an experienced project professional, managing infrastructure development projects in the UK's rail transport sector. She has a BEng degree in Electrical Engineering and an MSc in Construction Economics and Management. In her spare time she runs a digital business birthed entirely out of her passion for promoting African culture through food.
In line with the Global Shapers – Gaborone Hub’s #TakeBackBotswana project, I decided to interview Freda because I believe that she embodies the objectives of this initiative and she is also one of the most inspirational and ambitions young global citizens that I have the pleasure of knowing.
Give a brief description of yourself
including your passions and interests.
I am very serious about my profession, particularly working in the engineering field where there is a severe lack of female role models. I am also an extremely proud African and have made it my cause to promote our culture through food. It is my hope that it inspires the next generation not to be ashamed but remain true to their heritage and identity.
Give a brief description of your cultural background
I think of myself as a pan African because of my cultural background and experiences. I was born and raised in Francistown, where I attended primary and secondary school until I moved to Gaborone to complete my A'levels. I would often travel to Ghana as a child, as that is where my mother and father hail from. That country holds my cultural and familial heritage. As Africans, we also live through our children, as such I have a very strong connection with Zimbabwe through my husband.
What motivated you to start writing about food?
I have always loved food and have chosen to lend my voice to the elevation of African food. I just felt that we Africans often elevate the cultures of the West, often at detriment to our own. When I started writing about African food, that space was filled with the voices of external observers who often shamed our food. That type of narrative still needs to change and I am committed to this task.
What leadership role do you play in your community?
I am currently a mentor and Engineering Ambassador promoting careers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) to high school and university students. I often go into schools and participate in events to promote such careers to the next generation. Engineering is the foundation that makes societies function well.
Why did you take up the above position?
I took up this position because I always want to contribute to the development of society, particularly as a woman working in a male dominated field. I truly believe in the Swahili proverb which translates "A woman is an important part of any development effort."
What is your "take back" vision/ statement for Botswana?
My "take back" vision for Botswana is for our nation and track record of success to no longer be a surprise discovery to the world outside our borders. Alexander McCall Smith has written amicable stories about Botswana. It is time for Botswana to shape its own stories from within.
What advice do you have for women in business?
For a woman in business I would say stay true to yourself and move forward whether or not others understand your struggle. Leadership is a road less travelled and we often have to pave the way. When we make these strides, we should be the first to tell people about our achievements and not wait to be picked. I have found over the years that we need to place a bet on ourselves before others follow. It takes a lot of courage to do this but we as women should stop second guessing our position and relevance in society.
What is the role of the urban woman in today’s society?
I think the urban woman has far more choices today than any woman would have had in the past, and they are really standing out and re-shaping societal norms and expectations of the role women should play. This is one of the biggest successes of education and I hope the investment in the education of women continues to expand beyond the urban woman
What role should young people play in securing a bright future for Botswana and/ or the African continent?
Young people should have an ambition to build their countries for the greater good of society. A huge proportion of this will involve playing their part professionally as well as in entrepreneurial endeavours. It is an exciting time for Africans, especially in this digital age which is opening up opportunities for anyone who has access to a mobile phone. I would encourage young people to really engage with our elders and gain deeper knowledge of our culture. Doing things as simple as photography of our indigenous foods such as mogwana or ditloo and sharing them can open doors for us. I am actually appealing to more Batswana to write about seswaa because right now the Google search engine implies that a middle aged woman living in the depths of America has all the answers to cooking seswaa. The world is hungry for knowledge and our content. It is best for us to tell our own stories.