Tanzanian women who influence the digital space

Tanzanian women who influence the digital space

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By Salome Gregory

The growth of social media use in Tanzania has been a blessing to many. As is the case in the digital world, some users have stood out among the rest and become celebrities overnight, thanks to their growing following.
Due to their online popularity, these people, who are known as social media influencers, are inspirational to their followers, who look up to them on a number of issues. These influencers have established credibility in their specific industries, have access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations.
As influencers, they have the ability to attract many viewers or followers consistently and can motivate others to expand their social reach. Anyone can be an influencer, be it a blogger, a celebrity, an online entrepreneur, a YouTuber, journalist, politician, you name it.  
The online platform comes in handy for many to share their messages or views to a wider audience, prompting discussions among followers.
Woman had a chat with some of the women leading the online conversation in the country. They discuss a number of issues regarding their online engagements.

Maria Sarungi – 652K Twitter followers
Maria Sarungi, a communications expert and Miss Universe Tanzania director is another social media influencer.
Maria discusses different topics on Twitter, from development to politics and good governance. She also retweets other people’s tweets, which cut across current affairs issues.
Maimuna Salim, one of her followers says she has been learning a lot on politics through Maria’s tweets. She likes her ability to talk openly and her courage to correct the government on various issues.

Fatma Karume -388K Followers on Twitter
Another influential woman on social media is Fatma Karume, popularly known as Shangazi, which is Swahili for aunt. With a following of over three hundred thousand, the lawyer’s tweets mainly focus on topics related to human rights, justice and politics. Most of her posts attract various reactions from her followers and most of her fans seem to enjoy it more when she posts about politics and current affairs affecting people’s welfare. One of her Twitter followers, Leonard Ferdinand says, very few women are as informed when it comes to current affairs. He says women like Fatma should serve as an example for women to express their views without fear.

Meena Ally,  1m followers on Instagram, 6,720 on
Twitter
Meena is an actress and a radio and TV presenter who holds powerful influence on young people. She presents programmes on youth and development.
She believes her influence is a result of her unique content as compared to other media personalities. “I invest a lot of energy in creating content but I think God has blessed me and my work is loved by many. I do research before I post my content and since I get instant feedback, I have learned to take everything positive even when my followers are negative.”
For Meena, social media is also another way of making money. “I always think about numbers because it is a way of making money. This makes it very challenging as I have to keep checking on the reach out. It is very stressful to handle such stress.”
To cope, Meena normally keeps her phone away as soon as she posts on her page. In the beginning it was just posting for knowledge sharing but with time, she started making money out of it. People started giving her work contracts. “I cannot disclose how much I get in a month but I thank God I am making money out of it. I am very careful about what I post and I avoid posting about my private life as I believe there is a lot to post on social media.”
Most of her followers are young people and women. Meena likes the fact that she has women followers given that “it is so hard to get young women” with an interest in social media as compared to men “so this is good news to me.” “This is my dream job. I live my goal.” Meena describes herself as a very serious person who thinks before she acts. “Whatever I say or do, I usually calculate it before it comes out. I am this person who cannot be stopped. I am limitless and I always try what has the possibility of working out. I am looking forward to continuing empowering youths through my work.”
The presenter has been involved in different programmes such as BBC Media Action’s Niambie radio programme, which addresses youths’ issues and influences engagement of young people in development matters.  She has also worked to promote and advocate the rights of youth and women in Tanzania, through the media. “I have worked on an informative rush hour radio programme called Amplifaya, alongside famous radio presenter and news reporter Millard Ayo and later on joined XXL, a youth entertainment radio programme on Clouds fm. In my acting career, I have starred in the Sitcom Comic Series, Mjumbe, which aired its first season on Azam Tv.

Dr Vicensia Shule, 8,369 followers on Twitter
She became popular in 2018 after raising her voice against rampant sexual harassment against female students at the University of Dar es Salaam. The University of Dar es Salaam lecturer raised the issue using her twitter handle, which was followed by a heated debate on social media.
Dr Shule is known for tweeting about politics and development. She has been vocal on issues to do with democracy and human rights and has been using the online platform to point out things that she thinks the government is doing contrary to the laws of the land.  “People think I am against the government due to what I post. I am a very big supporter of the government but I am against individuals who decide to go against the constitutional procedures.”
Dr Shule says she is against corrupt individuals, people who misuse power and those who disregard women’s rights simply because they are women. Dr Shule says she is on Twitter “to push my agenda, which is, regarding all human beings as equal and therefore have to be treated equally regardless of their gender.”
According to her, this country does not belong to a single individual and so no one should be treated with less importance. Through tweeting, Dr Shule says she has gone through tough moments with the government. However, this, will never make her change the way she tweets.
“I am ready for anything and I will keep posting to highlight what I think is not right. I cannot be quiet on things that are not right. I want Tanzanians to start living and get out of the surviving mode just to please people who check on what we tweet. I do believe for the society to grow and change, we need people who are ready to share their thoughts as long as the thoughts are true.”
Outside social media, I am a very abnormal person. I don’t follow routines. I am this person who can sleep for three days and work for ten days. I am an artist and I do a lot of filming activities and this makes me who I am out of my work and out of social media.

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Dr Julieth Sebba, 10.4K followers on Twitter
Her Twitter page has attracted over ten thousand followers, thanks to her tweets on health matters. A medical doctor and public health consultant, Dr Sebba’s audience include both Tanzanian and non-Tanzanian citizens with an interest in health, fitness, well-being and health research.
“I am about health. Knowing your audience will help you understand if your content is understood and accessed by your target population.” Using social media gives Dr Sebba the opportunity to share knowledge on health and well-being. As a medical personnel, Dr Sebba has learnt that a lot of things are happening in the community, which people are not aware are risky for their health. She, therefore, finds social media as a  place to communicate health messages…“to make sure things which can be prevented are prevented by making informed decisions.” Things like how people eat, how they work and making them understand health habits that are likely to affect their everyday life.
“I also amplify other health stakeholders’ messages by sharing other people’s health accounts with good content, commenting on their posts and making them visible to my audience.”
During Covid-19, Dr Sebba says there was a lot of misinformation going around so as a media person, she used the opportunity to educate people on what was right and what was wrong. She also uses social media to learn and connect with other medical personnel and health researchers, with whom she has meaningful conversations. These engagements make her study more, read more and research more. “Going digital has made it easy to reach out to different people and impact their lives through digital platforms since the majority are using smartphones.”
She says the digital space has become an open platform to reach out to many easily. Through social media conversations, Through what her clients and followers ask her online, she has been able to understand the right contribution she can make in her community.
“Sharing my career insights on social media has also helped me stay connected, I have been recommended for different work opportunities and through these, I have been able to gain more experience, broaden my skills and earn more money.”
Being a social media influencer is not all rosy as one may be made to believe. Dr Seba says being influential on social media can also affect ones personal life. However, she says this is a choice since one can choose what they want to put on their platforms and what to reserve for oneself. “You have to choose how you want to be identified as you need to have a specific agenda. My agenda is to inspire healthy living so this is what I carry on social media. I don’t keep every aspect of my life because I don’t want to take responsibility for it.” In every platform people go for different reasons, some to have fun, some to give their perspective whether you like or not, some to impact, so what you expose on social media is what you have to accept to take charge of.
Since she encounters different personalities online, Dr Sebba says she “respects each other’s opinion as we also learn to agree to disagree and that humbles me. This makes me choose my battles as I can’t argue on everything unless I have proof over it. I like learning new things and I am always looking forward to new things. I also love children.”

Lilian Madeje- 4,621 Followers on Twitter
Many know her not only through social media but as a moderator and facilitator in various events. Lilian has made a name for herself through her technology posts on social media.
She has experience in the innovation and technology industry and more than seven years in the human resource industry.  
Using social media has made it easy for her to meet different people. “I share different things on my social media platforms but I use Facebook more on family-related issues. I decided to use my expertise and experience to share what I do with the world as a way of trying to share knowledge and make an impact in the lives of different people.”
She does not share much about her personal life as she believes it is not okay to put much of her personal life there. Out of social media, Lilian wears many hats, including moderating and facilitating different events. She is also a co-founder of an innovation and technology platform called Bits & Bytes.
“We work with corporates in finding community solutions around different areas such as urban planning and agriculture, through organised Hackathons, Business Pitch Competitions and Conferences.”
According to her, all of these inputs can never end on the meetings, which is why she decided to share them on social media to help others learn as well. “I don’t make extra money through sharing on social media but through comments and responses from people, I am happy that I have been able to reach out for the needy people who want to learn more from my field of work.”
About the challenges she faces on social media, Lilian usually chooses comments to respond to and which ones to ignore if at all she has to do so. “Otherwise I tend to ignore comments, which might cause problems.”
When she is not on social media, Lilian likes climbing mountains. “I love nature and I share a lot when I am on a nature trip,” she says.






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