Mmabatho Mostamai is a believer in African development through leadership, community engagement and the power of pen. She is the founder of The Afrolutionist, a blog that promotes dialogue on African Development in all sectors viewed in over 130 countries across the globe. Through her blogging experience, Mmabatho has explored the narrative of African Development across the globe, linking and learning with Afrolutionists in places like Ethiopia, France, and South Korea. The Afrolutionist runs CSR projects that promote sustainable development goals, centering all projects around SDG 17. She is also the Cofounder of Botswana Youth Jobs Fair, and a key correspondent of Positive Vibes KP Reach Program. She is also an alumnus of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), the APCIEU & UNESCO 2nd Youth Leadership workshop on GCED, An Anzisha Media Finalist (2016), an alumni of YALA Academy a Climate Tracker Africa Fellow and a FRIDA (Young Feminist Fund) Climate Justice Story Collector. Mmabatho is also an Ashoka Fellow (2018).
Why did you get into STEM?
I have always been a lover of storytelling. However, growing up, I fell in love with storytelling in the digital space. How the digital space is open to retaining information, expanding its outreach and if you work ethically, maintains your credibility and builds global trust. The digital world has helped make the world smaller yet enriched with diversity, proving different realities and creating inherent inter-connectedness which is part of the innate human experience.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
Over the years, I always assumed my greatest achievements to be external validation from institutions outside of me that recognize my work. The list of alumni’s I’m a part of award nominations. I only got to finally understand that my core achievements that inform recognition from said institutions is my daily purposeful work. While I acknowledge and appreciate every fellowship that I am a laureate of, I really downplay the stories I write, the platform I have placed and the impact I make. Through the steady growth of The Afrolutionist, in both hosting physical and online conversations, I realize the power of my citizen blogging work. Looking onwards, I only hope to keep the consistency in expanding the forms of digital storytelling into responsive, multi-form digital dialogue.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
Sexism is a constant within many economic and political institutions. This speaks true in the digital media space. There is a constant assumption that, because I am a woman, I lack the basic apt for web development, CSS etc. Additionally, it is very common for me to me misgendered in email conversation before we physically meet, or when someone presents me with a proposal. Many times, I have opened emails to me with “Dear Sir”, or Skype calls asking if my boss is unavailable (fun fact, Mmabatho is a Setswana name typically prescribed to women.) While digital media has additional issues of censorship, enhancing internet access (via pricing and geography), sexism remains the root cause – as a lack of diverse representation in leadership spaces creates a constant undertone of stereotypes and gatekeepers of growth in STEM. I have particularly navigated this challenge through forging a network of people who see sexism as a problem and creating my own opportunities with like-minded corporations. We can only solve this problem by building institutions of our own and enhancing gender, racial, and multi-tribal diversity in our own spaces.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
Please stay working and growing in this industry, and never downplay your work. It is important for more young girls who look like us, who come from where we come from, who are schooling at where we schooled to see that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is not a gendered interest. Outside of serving as role models, it is important to remember the “why”, what leads us to pursuing our passion within STEM – and our impact on the work we do every day.