Nila Yasmin is an Award-Winning Media Professional who uses media and art to empower women. She has extensive experience as a broadcaster, actor and director. She also runs a social enterprise—GLIM which celebrates and empowers women. She recently won the 2019 African Women in Media Awards by APO Group for her contributions to the media industry in Africa. She discusses her journey into the media industry, the work she does through GLIM and the many ways sisterhood and having a thriving women’s circle has enriched and impacted her life’s work. Enjoy!
I am Nila Yasmin, a Ugandan actress and journalist with both radio and publications experience who uses media and art to empower women. I retired from radio in December 2018, to start my own media company GLIM, a lifestyle women empowerment brand that celebrates and empowers women. I am also currently working with Media 256, a media production company in Uganda contracted by CNN to produce CNN African Voices and CNN Inside Africa.
I am passionate about women and my goal is to see an Africa where all women are empowered enough to take an active role in the development of the continent.
Growing up, I was an active kid who took part in all school activities, very curious with a profound love for reading especially newspapers. I fell in love with the media early on from childhood. I remember my grandfather used to buy newspapers everyday so every time I would go for holidays at his place, that’s the one thing I would eagerly look forward to, soaking up to world events and attempting all those puzzles. In primary school, I used to write articles about topics that were close to my heart and have them published in newspapers.
My parents always encouraged and supported me to make my own choices but stepped in to offer guidance, that way, I gained the confidence to grow into my own person. I was brought up by a sheroe whose abilities have no bounds once she sets her mind to something; a true embodiment of a strong empowered woman who I watched make endless sacrifices to see me thrive and instilled in me the virtue that being a boy or girl had no limit on who I could be and do for the world.
SETTING OUT INTO THE ‘CORPORATE WORLD’
I joined media during my first year at university. While at campus, I wanted to do something that wouldn’t take much of my time from studies. I somehow found myself walking into a radio station to ask for a job. At the time, I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do, I just felt I belonged there. When the boss asked what I wanted to do on radio, I just blurted out reading news because I thought it was the easiest thing that you could do.
Two days later, I landed the job. I was on radio for 6 years anchoring news for Arien FM, Record FM and HOT100. Being on radio and editing for entertainment online publications like Big Eye and Chimreports, exposed me to the power of media and the instrumental role it could play in driving change in the society if channeled the right way. I have always felt women are the most underrated and untapped human resource in Africa yet we make up the vast majority. Think of the impact of having all the over 519million women empowered, skilled and actively taking role in the development of their communities. We would be able to achieve the goal of the thriving and economically giant Africa we all want to see within the shortest time period possible. This informed my decision to retire from radio in 2018 and start GLIM with my Co-Founder, Namyalo Consolate. I wanted to have the creative freedom, a creative space where I could offer a solution and contribute to the empowerment of women.
ON FEMALE EMPOWERMENT AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE MOVEMENT
Women empowerment to me means creating a safe environment where women can express themselves, have choices and live their life to the fullest without society or anyone trying to impose their opinions or beliefs on them. I have made it my life’s mission to use media and film to empower women. Consolate Namyalo and I officially unveiled GLIM, in February this year, with the sole focus of empowering and celebrating women. I noticed there was a gap. Women weren’t being celebrated enough, like most of the times amazing women made the news, it was for the wrong reasons. Media rarely made noise about their accomplishments but rather amplified less important things like their dress code, looks, relationships, things that, to me took away from the young upcoming generation of girls in a way that they don’t have many inspiring stories to look up to. What we do at GLIM is to put out these stories that a young girl will read and be like ”wow, when I grow up, instead of dressing like JK, I want to be a successful singer like her, so how did she get there, she got there by doing this and that so this is what I’m going to do.’’
That’s what we want. We also noticed women in different fields were not being celebrated enough. Their accomplishments were not being amplified enough so that sort of showed that if you are not in the entertainment industry then you are not that big a deal. We are saying, ”No you can do STEM and be a big deal.” We also publish opportunities that women can tap into to further their career growth, tackle entrepreneurship, and personal finance because we subscribe to the adage ”an empowered woman is an empowered society.” If the vast population of women is a vital human resource for the development of the African continent, then we shall try to empower that vital resource. Ensuring women are empowered will scale up development of the continent.
My contributions to the movement has been extensively through GLIM and in part what I do as an actor. I have been part of film productions that tackle themes that affect women. For example, the 2019 first all-female-crew film ‘Bed of Thorns’ that talks about Gender Based Violence that women mostly fall victim of and urges them to speak out. The film recently won an award at the London Art (LAHF). I Co-Directed and acted in 2018 all-female cast and crew short film ‘Me Myself and YOU’ that tackles body image and identity. I have more projects lined up that we shall be revealing
GLIM is a lifestyle online magazine /platform that celebrates, inspires and empowers women to develop their talents and skills, live up to their fullest potential, feel good about themselves and take up active roles in offering solutions to the challenges their communities face. As Editor-In-Chief at GLIM, I ensure we have the right content published. Our work mostly involves reaching out to, and interviewing inspiring women who have had an impact on their community ,and experts in particular fields of interest related to women.
ON WINNING THE AFRICAN WOMEN IN MEDIA AWARD BY APO GROUP
Winning the African Women in Media Award by APO Group was such a surreal experience. It was incredible, still is! But mostly a great nudge to pay it forward and do more to promote women entrepreneurship on the continent. I am eternally grateful for APO Group for creating this wonderful space that recognizes and empowers female journalists. I am so much looking forward to starting the online courses that come with the award to hone my journalistic skills which is so much needed especially for me who studied business (Bachelor of Commerce) at university.
LIFE LESSONS LEARNED ON THE JOURNEY
Always keep it moving. Whether people believe in your dream or not, that’s not your business. Your business is to believe in it and ensure you keep your ship sailing. Whoever wants to fall in, will fall in, whoever wants to fall out, will fall out but regardless, just keep it moving forward because only you will live with the consequences of your choices and decisions.
The power of intention and attention. In everything you do, be it your thoughts always have the noblest of intentions, do good, it always comes back. What you feed your attention on, always grows.
Just breathe and relax. Sometimes life deals you a couple of huge blows, you fail to piece the pieces together but just stay in the moment, and have faith that things will work out eventually. At the end of the day, things always work out the way they are supposed to .Usually, when I find myself during times of setbacks I usually tell myself,’’ ten days from now, 10 months from now, 10 years from now I will not be going through the same thing.’’ and that usually keeps me grounded.
THE POWER OF SISTERHOOD AND HAVING A THRIVING WOMEN’S CIRCLE
Sisterhood is having a circle of supportive women around me. I have a tight knit circle of friends who pull each other up when we are going through stuff, and during those moments when you are down, they’ll hold you just to let you know that you are not alone. They also play a role in helping each other further their growth. For example, when we were starting GLIM, we didn’t have enough resources but a friend was like ”you need office space, it’s here”. Another was like, ”I want to connect you to a potential mentor who has been in this business longer.” Before you know it, things are moving on boom! That’s what sisterhood means to me, it means unity, infinite support, telling you the ugly, constructive criticism, sharing about life’s crazy twists and turns, holding down each other during the bumps, celebrating the rides, and I can personally attest to its positive impact. I am so grateful for my girls.
IF YOU GET THE CHANCE TO BE THE PRESIDENT OF AN AFRICAN COUNTRY FOR ONE YEAR, WHICH COUNTRY WILL IT BE AND WHAT CHANGES WILL YOU EFFECT?
I would be the president of Uganda. I would ensure that all girls and women get access to free menstrual sanitary towels. Social stigma around menstruation periods and lack of access to sanitary towels remain a prevalent challenge that has forced many girls to drop out of school. You know what that translates to? Low literacy level which negatively affects the country’s Gross Domestic Product as statistics show that for every 10% increment in the enrollment number of girls in school, a nation’s GDP rises by 3%. We need the numbers increasing and not dropping if we are to scale development.
WHAT COUNTS AS FUN FOR NILA YASMIN?
Music and a good book
WHAT WILL YOU LIKE TO REMEMBERED FOR?
My warmth, honesty and love for plantain!
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.
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