Being recognized for your greatness never comes easy for a woman. It is even harder when you’re under a cloud of a more reputable and recognizable family name.
Such was the struggle that Fatema Dewji, 29, had to put up with growing up, and it’s something she still struggles with till today. Since childhood, Fatema had the desire to become someone great, something that she would work for in order to achieve.
The name ‘Dewji’ isn’t strange to the Tanzanian society, business magnet Mohamed Dewji has been on the cover of magazines both locally and internationally. But little was known about Fatema, his younger sister.
Today Fatema stands tall and firm, crafting her own identity as an avid golfer and motivational speaker, empowering women all around. One of her desires is to see women rise above the ranks and getting their due recognition.
Fatema grew up in Tanzania and in 2006 went to Georgetown University in the US for her undergraduate studies in Finance and Management.
In 2010 she started working at Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL), one of the largest conglomerates in Africa. In 2016 she was recognized as one of Africa’s most influential women.
She received such recognition after being selected from over 4900 nominations and was presented with the award by The world Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna – Asheri Muslim Communities (KSIMC) as a finalist for the East African Region’s woman titan of the year.
As the Marketing Director at MeTL, Fatema uses her financial acumen to spearhead the company’s marketing department. But that is not all that she does, Fatema currently hosts a successful empowerment show on IBN-TV Africa called’ Educate, Empower & Inspire’ – a platform she uses to inspire those around her. With burning passion and gentle warmth, through her social media accounts such as YouTube channel and Instagram, Fatema has launched a series of videos on Marketing and Leadership with topics that include: Focusing on your customers, maintaining a connection with your consumers; the makings of great leaders; and finding your purpose in business as well as in your personal life.
Her other videos cover motivational messages of gratitude, self-worth, and emotional resilience. She has also conducted over 50 interviews with fascinating people from different backgrounds. Her vision is to make a difference globally.
Fatema’s determination to achieve greatness clearly elaborated itself early on. She would spend school summer holidays interning at the family company. But that didn’t make her relax; she’d wake up very early in the morning, much like men in the military in order to do double the work.
She spent her free time doing physical exercise, something that has helped her maintain her overall zeal and energy for further success. The occasional hangouts with friends were nice but she always felt slightly uncomfortable.
As if she thought to be doing something instead of chilling. Her upbringing made her frown upon restlessness – which was why her internship in the finance department at MeTL nearly gave her depression. She hated sitting in one place for a whole day. Gloom cast itself all over her. She felt utterly lost and knew she would hate it if she had to do it for the rest of her life.
At Georgetown University, she only took two classes on marketing. These precious and en-lighting experiences brought her to another level. She had new dreams and passions to pursue.
Fatema now wanted to write the truth about the other side of the world. That was her thought-process while searching ways to make an impact for other women in the world.
At MeTL, she made the decision to start up a marketing division. She did it right and she started from scratch.
While in the company, it didn’t take her long to find her bearings. She had majored in Finance so she requested to handle the financial portfolio of the oil refinery division just because she was always determined to make an impact as any other person could.
Yet at this time, she was aiming to make her stint different from the time of her internship. She used the family’s company as a Marketing Head just to gain more experience before she could venture into her own goals.
Fatema has managed to juggle her busy role at MeTL and pursuing her own goals by having a scheduled timetable. “My family has always been a ‘no excuse’ one. We were trained to utilize the shortest time possible in doing a lot of tasks,” she says.
One of the most fundamental principles she works by is respect through building relationships.
Instead of walking around like an entitled class, she’s chosen to take the opportunity to learn from people she respects, such as, Senior Dewji (her father), Mo Dewji, and Dr Muhammad Yunus (Bangladesh social entrepreneur and economist). Fatema always believes that if you want to learn more, achieve more, and get better results, you have to be humble. You have to respect others; you have to build genuine relationships.
She says that when you inflict fear in someone or when you are unapproachable, you are actually creating a wall between yourself, and employees. They would be either too scared or not bothered to tell you if there was a problem or if they had a great idea. But when you choose to listen and respect them, a world of improvement opens right up.
Fatema also uses her position to help uplift other women. “I am planning [with my team] on how to connect with hardworking female entrepreneurs who are waiting to realise their dream of building or expanding a successful business.
I want to support them mentally and physically because I believe this is the best way to make a bigger impact as a woman in my country and the world. So far I have connected with hundreds of them through my social media platform,” she says.
She adds, “Empowering women starts right in our families, workplaces, and neighbourhoods. I was empowered to empower. Now that I have different ways of reaching most women especially through my platforms and published works, I want to make a difference in the lives of others. This is currently my appetite.”
The time life stank and how she overcame it
“You probably don’t know this but up until the age of 15, I did not have my life together,” she says.
As a woman, Fatema believed that she was not capable of being smart, successful, and driven. She had convinced herself that she was not “worthy” and could never be.
She was always told she was average, always criticized for not being good enough. So for a long time, that was what she believed, too.
She made excuses. She constantly felt sorry for herself and gave up when things didn’t go her way.
One day, she was sitting at the school assembly, watching her friends go onstage to receive academic awards.
There was a huge pit in her stomach because she was so tired of feeling like she’d fallen short, that she would never catch up or make it.
Till this day, she doesn’t know what ticked in her that day. But in one incredible moment, she made the most important decision of her life, one that would turn things around.
She decided she would do whatever it took to make sure she was up on that stage the following semester. She needed to improve her academic performance. That was what happened later and from there she had gained enough confidence to compete in any environment as a strong woman.
“Being from a well-known family and studying in respected schools, doesn’t guarantee you a chance to become a genius, sometimes it may be the vice versa,” she says, adding; “I’m often told that I got life easy because of my family status. When people look at me, they see the titles or definitions of my identity: The capable businesswoman, golfer and motivational speaker.
What they don’t see are the 90-hours work week, the hours I would spend on the golf course every single day just to perfect my swing, or many number of times I had to give up a night out with my friends because I had to study...only to wake up 5 a.m. to do it all over again.”
With Educate, Empower and Inspire including, Marketing for an African Powerhouse, a book she just launched on October 5, 2018, Fatema hopes to change or move the world. Her team and herself absolutely believe that everyone, even women and young people have the capacity to fulfill their dreams.
During her leisure time, other than playing golf, Fatema does other activities such as playing tennis, Squash and swimming.
All she can share about her love life, is that she is not married.
Talking about her family, Fatema describes her father as someone with “a strong personality”, but he is also humble. He is all about helping the community and giving back. “If you spot my parents on the streets of Tanzania, you would never be able to tell that they are wealthy. Not in the way they dress. Not in the way they act.
That’s one of the many things I love about them. They choose to drill into us the belief that “No one is ever beneath us,” she says.
On Mohammed Dewji
Fatema describes her brother, MO, as a very humble person. “He is a loving and caring man. He always works closely with me and the other colleagues. I am here today because of him,” she says.
Sharing her views on Tanzanian politics and women leadership, Fatema expresses her delight in seeing fellow women taking up government seats to serve the society. “This is what we have to rise up to and maintain now,” she urges.