They say a woman is like a diamond, she reaches her full potential under immense amounts of pressure.
The essence of being an African woman.
When I think about resilience and the sheer will to succeed amongst young women in Zambian society, I think Sibongile Muswema.
Having known her for the greater part of my teenage and adult years; I’ve seen her grow and embody unimaginable strength to become the make-up artist, business owner, and entrepreneur she is today. Strikingly beautiful, yet one of the most kind and humble people I have ever encountered.
This week I had the honor of sitting down with this incredible woman to get to know her story, and was left nothing but inspired.
Q: Briefly tell us who you are and what you do!
A: My names are Sibongile Sepo Muswema. I was born and raised in the capital of Zambia, Lusaka. I did my tertiary education from the University of Zambia. During my tertiary education I took part in entrepreneurship programs that boosted my entrepreneurial skills. This experience prompted me to set up and start a beauty and cosmetic salon.
I’ve been in the beauty industry for close to 3 years. In the beauty and cosmetic salon we offer different facilities: manicures, pedicures, nail sculptures, hair therapy, hair plaiting, waxing and make up facilities.
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
A: I’m highly motivated by seeing my customers constantly happy.
Customers that have appreciated the process as much as the actual service. I really try to ensure that the customer was treated with respect, and that they never felt pressured. Not only did that mean that they were satisfied with the experience they had with my company, but it also resulted in a number of repeat visits. It was this approach that helped me advance financially and to gain a large following, which further motivated me to continue to focus on customer experience.
Q:What goals do you hold professionally and personally? What drives you to achieve these goals?
A: My current and short term goal is to develop and use my marketing and communication skills in my beauty business. However, I eventually want to develop into a position that allows me to continue to use these skills while also managing a marketing group. I will prepare myself for this goal by taking on leadership positions in team projects by developing my business career by attending leadership conferences and women’s gatherings that allow women to have diverse entrepreneurial ideas.
Q: What led you to get into the profession/role you’re in at the moment?
A: I picked the beauty industry because the beauty world is filled with many chances to meet and work with fascinating people. This industry enables you have a mixed bag of clients and this helps you make your career fresh and challenging. One minute I’m working with a celebrity wife or a government official, the next I’m working with a girl going for her first prom. I never know who I will be meeting or what I’ll be doing.
I also joined the beauty industry because it takes me to places I’ve never been before. Even if I’m working close to home, I get to go to client’s beautiful homes. Being a freelance make up artist can take you places you never imagined or even considered.
Lastly I joined the beauty industry for the passion and to enable women look their best when they want and when they feel the need to.
Q: Who does your family consist of currently?
A: Including me, my family consists of two members, my young sister (who is a Purchasing and Supply student at the Zambia Centre for Accountancy Studies) and I.
My Mother passed on early this year and my Father passed on in the year 2008; which leaves and me and sister.
Q: When you’re not working or pursuing your passion as a make-up artist, what do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies?
A: In my spare time I like to cook and bake, so I watch culinary shows and also gather various recipes from magazines and social sites.
I also like to keep my mind intellectually active by reading novels, trade journals, solving crossword puzzles, solving rubix cubes, plumbing around the house and fixing faulty electrical appliances.
I also like to end my day with a simple work out that helps keep my mind and body active.
Q: If you could be any animal, what would you be?
A: If I could be an animal? I would be an elephant.
Strong, intelligent, unstoppable, loyal to its own and also regarded as one of the smartest animals.
Q: If you had a bucket list with 5 things to do before you die, what would they be?
- Travel to at least 50 countries both within and outside Africa to learn various norms and cultures of others.
- See the Great pyramids of Giza. They are believed to be 4000 years old . The tombs are said to be a majestic sight to
- Walk along the great wall of China that was built 7 years BC
- Learn how to play three major instruments: the piano, violin and drums.
- Go sky diving
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Lusaka, the capital and the largest city of Zambia. One of the fastest developing cities in Southern Africa. As of 2010 the city’s population was 1.7 million, while urban population is 2.4. million. Lusaka is the center of both commerce and government in Zambia and connects to the country’s four main highways heading North, South, East and West. English is the official language of the city but Nyanja and Bemba are also common.
Q: How was your life growing up?
A: Life growing up was pretty awesome. My childhood was before the technology era.
I got to play outside as opposed to staring at the screen for hours. I made a lot of friends. Some are still my friends, but others I never hear from really.
My parents were separated but both worked and lived in the same town. I grew up with my mum and my sister. They were what I considered my close family.
My sister and I traveled a lot with my mother, because my mother’s job involved travelling from one town to another. During this period we bonded a lot. My mother ensured we were comfortable, environmentally up to date and intellectually stable
Q: What did your parents do and how did they inspire you to be the person you are today?
A: My mother worked in marketing. She completed her tertiary education from Evelyn Hone College, and found solace in pursuing her marketing career.
She worked for Society for family health (SFH) for over 10 years in the marketing department and rose through ranks during this period.
My father was a renowned businessman that dealt in diverse businesses. Everything from motor trading to real estate. He also owned an international beverage company that was located in both Zambia and South Africa.
I learnt from both my parents that in order to achieve my goals, I need to add an extra push to everything and that nothing comes on a silver plate. I also learnt to humble myself in whatever situation I’m in. But most of all I learnt to put God first in all my endeavors.
These moral lessons have impacted my life positively in the sense that I’ve learnt to work hard for what I want because ‘nothing comes on a silver plate’ and they’ve also taught me how to trust in God without a doubt.
Q: Did you have any other mentors growing up?
A: While I’ve had several great mentors, perhaps my most influential was my mother. She scolded me when there was need. She guided me where I needed guidance. She advised me accordingly and loved me when I needed to be loved.
Most of all she helped me strive for excellence in school and my business, through her leadership ways. She set the bar high for mentorship and I strive to live by her example..
Q: What’s your educational background?
A: I completed my primary education from Chongololo School in Chipata, before my mother was transferred. I later continued my primary education at Dora Tamane school in Lusaka . Then I did my lower Secondary Education in the Copperbelt, and my higher secondary education at Rosebank school in Lusaka, where I obtained my GCE certificate. I did my tertiary Education from the University of Zambia, where I obtained Bachelors degree. My current goal is to further my education, and obtain my Master’s degree.
Q: Who in your life inspired you to be who you are today?
A: I regard my late mum as my true source of inspiration.
She was the most selfless, hardworking, assertive, intelligent and diligent person I ever came across. She was a fighter and a goal achiever. She hustled her way through life and she actually seemed good at it.
She always pushed me to do greater things. With that I took the bull by its horn to go by the examples she set.
Q: Do you have any life changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to doing what you’re doing today? If so elaborate.
A: I concretely discovered my talent and my current skill sometime in 2011 when my mother lost her job. During that period I was specialized in doing nails and a few clients were able to spot my talent.
The more clients I got, the more I discovered my talent in skin care and make up artistry and that’s how my story began. I found myself using my talents as a source of income to enable us enjoy a stable standard of living
Of course my mother was the main player in providing for me and sister but the little I made helped cushion my personal needs and our daily expenses such as electricity , food etc.
Long story short I’m still currently using my talents as my source of income.
Q: What are some of the biggest life obstacles you’ve faced in life? How did you overcome them?
A: The biggest obstacle I faced was 2 years ago during my tertiary education, when one of my male lecturers made direct (unsolicited) advances towards me.
According to my school calendar, I was supposed to graduate in 2016 but ended up graduating in 2017. This was because he decided to deliberately lose my exam script after I denied him his “manly needs”. It took me a whole year to finally graduate. It wasn’t easy for me to take the bitter pill of being left behind for something I could not understand but I pulled through. Mainly through prayer and faith. It also took a lot of perseverance and me having “thick skin”. However, the school managed to retrieve my results and added me to the graduation list in 2017.
Q: Being a woman that people look up to what words of wisdom would you give to future generations of girls in your field to come?
A: Its no secret that the Zambian job market is hard to break into these days, so it’s wiser to invest in your energy and your efforts in your own business. It might not be an easy journey, but it’s worthwhile.
Remember this: nothing worth doing ever came easy. Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right.
The CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg once stated “it’s not enough to simply find your purpose. Most young people today instinctively try to do that. Instead the challenge for today’s 20 something’s is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.
Purpose is that feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself, that you are needed and that you have something better ahead.”
Q: What life philosophy do you live by everyday which determines your success?
A: “Every journey begins with one step”.
This quote really speaks to me. This is one of the most famous Chinese proverbs used for start ups as well as leaders embarking on major national initiatives. You may plan and dream all you want about a long journey, but you have to begin from somewhere. You may have a grandiose vision or agenda for change, but the first step is crucial. The best one can ever do is to put the foot forward and realize that this humble step will one day take you down the path to a destination that you may reach only years later.
Q: What vision do you have for yourself? Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years or more?
A: Ten years from now I will diversify my portfolio in operations management and develop a holistic view point towards operations as a process for adapting it to the changing business environment. I definitely see my company as an integral part of my plans for the future.
Ten years from now I will master my job as a make up artist, and also train several others because I see this job as an opportunity to become a talent in my field and also to help people needing professional assistance by enhancing my professionalism while learning new skills, interacting with different people and integrating new work methods.
Q: The core belief of feminism is that of social, political and economic equality and equal opportunity of the sexes. What are your views on feminism?
A: Feminism is important in our day today society because it encourages women to strive harder knowing that there opinions matter in the society.
But looking at our Zambian culture, where men are given respect and priority as the head of the home, and the women have to follow the men’s decision- if we are going to be all equal then nobody will listen to the other. Moreover in various religions like Christianity, The bible clearly states in Ephesians 5:3 “For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, his body and is himself the savior”.
Another bible verse that connotes the same comes from the book of 1 Timothy 2:11-13 “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man ; Rather she is to remain quiet”.
Q: Do you think feminism is necessary in Zambia?
A: Yes to a certain degree feminism is necessary, but might not be applied accordingly in our Zambian society, because of our cultural and social background. However, Feminism is necessary in order to help women reach their full potential and to break the barrier that society has prescribed e.g “men are more superior than women or boys need to go to school while girls take care of the home”. These expectations suppress women in the sense that over the years they tend to believe and obey what the society expects of them and that on its own causes suppression or an imbalance on gender equality. So to conclude my brief response, yes feminism is necessary in Zambia, otherwise women will just be looked at as objects and will not be taken seriously.
Q: Do you think feminism could empower women in Zambia to reach their full potential ?
A: Yes feminism could empower women in Zambia to reach their full potential.
I stand for this notion because our culture has been gender biased since the 1900s. Our culture has always favored a boy child with regard to education while the girl child stayed home to take care of the home. This mentality needs to be scrapped off because it suppresses the potential of the girl child.
However, women can reach their full potential in that they air out their views and grievances knowing that there opinions matter.
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes what we should be, rather than what we are. Imagine how happier we would be or how freer we would be if we were our individual selves if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”
-Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi
So society gives gender expectations which shouldn’t be the case. Feminism helps break that barrier by helping women not to succumb to what society prescribes but rather being their full selves hence unleashing their full potential.
Q: Describe feminism in one word!
Q: If you could go back in time and write a letter to a much younger you, what words of wisdom would you tell yourself knowing what you know now?
I write to you believing you are well. I just thought I should give you little words of encouragement to help you through the years.
When you grow up stop worrying about what other people think, and be who you want to be and not who your peers expect you to be. Express your individuality; it will be your ticket to success one day.
There will be some unimaginable losses in the years to come, but don’t be afraid to face them head on. You are going to walk through a valley of grief, but you are you going to come through stronger and braver because The mighty Lord Jesus will have shielded you. You’ll need these experiences to hold up when your chips are down.
Appreciate the time you have with your family. Spend more time with your mother and sister. Don’t assume they will always be there.
Life is full of twists and turns, don’t be afraid to stray from the well worn path that everyone else is walking. Embrace the challenges you will face and don’t let the fear of failure box you into years of regret.
Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up, slow down and enjoy. Even though you are struggling with some tough emotion issues each experience is a small piece of puzzle, a composition of a beautiful person you’ll become. Everyday will be your happiest. Live life to the fullest. It will never be this way.
Go to school and pursue your dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon. Don’t forget to put God first in everything you do and persevere to achieve what you want.
Your older self.
You can catch Sibo on all her social media to follow her work, access her services, or simply say hi!
Facebook: Sibo’s World Of Beauty