Shilole: I wanted to be a pilot

Friday June 19 2020


She is famously known as “Shilole” a Tanzanian female artiste but if tables were to be turned she would probably be identified as Zuwena Mohammed, a Pilot.

As a young girl growing up in Igunga, Tabora, Shilole, now an acclaimed artiste in the Bongo flava music industry always dreamed of becoming a pilot, flying big planes – the likes of Boeing and Airbus. “But all my dreams were shattered when I got pregnant at the age of 14, I had to leave school and raise a child while I was still a child myself,” says Shilole.

She says her experience as a teenage mother was not easy, she almost died during labor because she was too young to give birth and biologically her body was not fully developed for motherhood. It was a daunting experience which she lived to tell.

“I am grateful that even as my career trajectory changed from an aspiring pilot to an artiste/entrepreneur who is now a multi- award-winning influential musician with successful businesses, I also find delight being a mother, sister and a role model. I wouldn’t want any adolescent girl to go through the same experience as I did. It is not easy having to overcome the magnitude of hurdles that were cast my way at such a tender age,” she says.

On the entertainment front, Shilole, is a musician and actress. She specializes in the R&B, Zouk and new generation Tanzanian music popularly known as Bongo Flava. She is considered one of the top female artistes in the country; her work has been nominated 3 times for Kilimanjaro Tanzania Music Awards (KTMA), Tanzania’s top music awards nomination. She has also recorded with a number of international artistes including Mr Camera (South Africa) and Selebobo (Nigeria).

Her years in music have seen her become one of the most influential artistes among her fans and is also said to top the list of the most-loved female artistes in Tanzania. This affinity is also based on the fact that she is the first female artiste in Tanzania to clock 1 million followers on Instagram, Tanzania’s most popular social network. Shilole is credited as one of the key figures in the popularization of Tanzania’s new music genre Bongo Flava, and seen as an inspiration to upcoming female artistes.


With her success in music and headlining some big gigs, Shilole a.k.a Shishi started a business in catering aptly known as ‘Shishi Food Delivery’. She also owns her own restaurant in Dar es Salaam ‘Shishi Food’, a business she has popularized and made successful through her platform.

On community work

Shilole is now a sole ambassador and influencer of Kipepeo campaign, a platform where inspirational messages are communicated to influence adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) behavioural changes and also educate them about early pregnancy and gender-based violence (GBV).

“I have used my voice and shared my childhood experience as a teenage mother to over 44,000 students in 91 schools in eight regions that the campaign has successfully reached out. The aim is to alleviate them from a possible influence that might lead them to take the same path I did. No young girl should have to go through what I went through,” she says.

The regions where the campaign has gone include Morogoro, Tanga, Arusha, Singida, Dodoma, Iringa, Mbeya and Njombe. The Kipepeo campaign is initiated by the Ministry of Health through the National AIDS Control Program (NACP), in partnership with the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation and Global Fund under Clouds Media.

“Being one of the ambassadors under this platform I have used the opportunity to share my profile and testimonial stories to adolescents and young people on the effects of early pregnancies. Tanzania has a growing population of youth and so it is imperative that they are exposed to such true-life stories early on to enable them to anchor a safer route as they mature into adulthood.”

She adds: “My call to adolescent girls and young women is for them to protect their dreams and avoid risky behavior that can destroy their future plans. They also need to be open to their parents and guardians on important developments in their personal lives. it is through sharing with their immediate guardians that they might find solace in trying times.”

Even as she continues to succeed in the music front, Shilole tries to the best of her ability to be a voice of reason for any young girl leading a bad path. Her popularity and at times controversial demeanour has deterred her resolve to play a part in community development.

In the campaign for young girls and adolescent women, she works with other organisations to try and bring positive change. The Ministry of Health has provided a toll-free number 117 and another 15017-text message and telephone advice about early pregnancy and other issues in particular.

Shilole says the risks of early pregnancies are still high among young girls and she urges parents during this period of Covid-19 to spend time with their adolescent girls to share with them practical skills on the related personal health issues in order to protect their dreams and visions.