Meet Nawaal Nolwazi Mdluli, who describes herself as a woman with ‘brain, boobs and balls’! At least this is what she says is needed to succeed in the male-domi- nated South African and African media industry, where she is now a significant player.
The chief executive officer and founding editor of Kwenta Media, she exudes confidence as she speaks about what she does and her achievements. She spoke exclusively recently to Ilizwi Lolwazi’s PHOKA MOTSILILI about Kwenta Media, publishers of Essays Of Africa (EOA), a monthly magazine that focuses on black women’s issues. EOA is one of four publications published by Kwenta Media, where Phoka did
his mid-year media management internship as part of the Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management which he is studying at Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership. Excerpts from their conversation:
Q: As the founding Editor and CEO, what would you say is the mission of Essays of Africa?
A: Essays Of Africa (EOA) is a glossy lifestyle magazine. We look at it from the perspective of a girl embracing womanhood.We look at external and internal factors that affect a woman’s life.
Q:What is your target audience?
A: Women or should I say ordinary black women.
Q: How do you interface with your audience in terms of events and social media?
A: We have two major platforms -- the print version engages with readers who still want to experience the touch and feel of a magazine. We are very active on our social media platforms, and we get to interact better with our readers. We also have EOA Daily, an online version of the magazine which reaches just about 30,000 subscribers per day. It is very popular and it gives short snippets of information that is there to empower, inform and entertain. Our website is very mobi-friendly and it allows that 360-degree connection. We also have face-to-face engagements with our readers in forms of brunches, lunches and intimate audiences.
Q:After scanning the work environment at Kwenta Media, it seems management has adopted a deliberate programme to empower young women. How far true is this assertion?
A: The media space is very male-dominated in South Africa or maybe Africa even. It needs women to take a stand and transform the industry. Kwenta Media will continue to support, empower and create opportunities for women because we believe that a woman can empower a community. Kwenta Media is managed by a young woman who wants to support and give young women a chance to improve their skills.
Q: Given that people are a critical resource in any organization, how do you motivate your staff?
A: We constantly emphasize the importance of taking responsibility and accountability for one’s actions, and we give them their own space to grow and improve their skills. We firmly believe that people who are in the position of leadership should educate, empower and give opportunities. Having been around for seven years as a company, staff members who have been with us for that long encourage the rest of the team, especially the new young ones, to improve and be part of building the brand.As a company, we always work hard but we also make time for fun.
Q: How important is gender consciousness and gender mainstreaming in the process of your content development?
A: It’s very important. We have two major titles -- one title embraces both moms and dads, the content is equally shared, we try to address and change the poor engagement of males in the parenting fraternity. Black women have issues in Africa. They don’t talk, they fear change and this takes away opportunities.They are sidelined when it comes to talking about politics, economic matters and other key issues. EOA says this shouldn’t be the case; women can rise from grass to grace, from zero to hero and from nothing to something. Our magazine is very biased to women because it’s for women; however, this doesn’t make men any less important.We want to hear what they have to say because they are part of us.
Q: Media research reveals that the media landscape continues to ignore women empowerment throughout the Southern Africa region. Has this reality impacted on your organisation?
A: It’s tough to be a woman; it’s tougher to be a woman in the media and this is why you have to triple your effort.You have to use your brain, boobs and have balls. It’s about being smart and aggressive, pushing constantly for recognition, standing your ground when you make a decision. From the beginning, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy so we just have to soldier on.
Q: As an established entrepreneur, do you think that there is scope for young black women to start doing business in the South African media sector?
A: Media is broad, it’s not just magazines. There are a lot of opportunities on radio, television, and digital radio, to name a few. Media is key in our lives: the more we know the better the life we can have. The space needs to be explored. I believe that everyone can write, you can start out small, the more you write about your journey, the better it will be.
Currently some of the things we are fed by the tabloids are honestly disgusting; they are untrue and a lot of people are taken advantage of it. You can’t have a conversation with people who aren’t informed. The bounds reached today are astounding. If you read good media, you can have factual discussions and conversations. People are getting smarter and getting tired of tabloids. It is honestly up to the people to decide what they want to get into.
Q: Can you identify some challenges you have encountered as a black woman managing a media company in South Africa?
A: Challenges. There are many ways to look at them and they push you to do better. So I can’t really name one because there are a lot of challenges we face. It is all about taking or facing them head on and coming out with your head held high.