The world of a woman is quite different from what it is assumed to be and that is why her uniqueness is unimaginable. To the woman, strength and visibility can be delayed but they can never be hidden. Her act of defiance and pace-setting is sublime. In every woman lies that intrinsic quality that the next generation needs and it is uniquely passed down to other women magnificently. One of Ghana’s most powerful media moguls had a lot to say about how every woman can discover her specificity. Meet Anita Erskine in her interview with Gabi Media as we dive into her world of becoming great.
Anita Erskine, a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist, and Strategic Communications Specialist as she expresses the versatility of womanhood. She is a passionate advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals, Girls’ Education, and Women in Leadership. She is a Compère, TV Producer, Actress, and Communications Trainer. She has accomplished this feat by utilizing her media platforms and engagements to reach millions of women across Africa, as well as through her self-funded scholarship program, Women’s Elevation Fund.
WALK US THROUGH YOUR JOURNEY, TO THE MIGHTY ANITA WE HAVE NOW?
Well, honestly, I think I’ve never really said that my journey started by God’s grace. I think now as I’m growing older, looking back, I realize that the moment where my career started, was when I went on my knees and begged God to use me for something. I remember exactly where I was, in which room, and I remember exactly what words came out at the time, I was 13. I said God use me for exactly what you want me to do. Then I started to feel a great and overwhelming sense, to use my gift of speech, my gift of music, and my naturally given ability to embrace the stage. I can’t tell you if it was intentional or designed, however, I knew that I was immersing myself in the arts. That led me into working as an intern at radio stations. The first one was at Groove FM and I was a Librarian, a young girl at 15 and this was usually on weekends. Then when I had to do my national service, I applied to be a TV presenter at the Denver Metro TV, and at the same time, I was a presenter at Groove FM. Then I had to go to study at Trent University in Canada. I worked on the University Campus Radio Station, and I applied for an internship with Canada’s first black-owned radio station that was in Toronto Flow 93.5. I worked there as an intern, then as a receptionist, and eventually I got my radio show.
When I got to Flow F.M, I knew that when I came back to Ghana, working in media is what I wanted to do but Ghana woke me up. Africa is a place where you can choose one path, but it’s better to have four paths. I immersed myself in TV work. I worked at TV 3 but I realized that I had to diversify. So I added communications, and I kind of remodeled it into what we know as Corporate Communications.
I started working in marketing communications at the telecommunications company called Airteltigo. At the time, it was only called Tigo. When I had my children, life threw me to the back burner. It was then I realized what challenges the world poses for women. It was a harsh reality of wanting to have everything but perhaps not all at the same time. So I knew I had to make time for my family and move out of the huge, high competitiveness of the telecommunications industry. I had to sideline myself a little bit. That was where I taught myself the mentality I have now. Which is, when you are met with a specific kind of challenge, what do you do to make it a good challenge and a beautiful learning curve? When I came back, I decided to dedicate my voice to women. Women from all walks of life and women who are going through all sorts of things.
I said that when I come back to work, I will not just stand in front of any TV, camera and do anything, I will make my voice specific. So today, Anita speaking to you is somebody who has been very intentional about what she uses her voice for and merges that with what I call a career. My television, which might as well be my media production area, and of course, I always go back to one of my passions, which is corporate communications. Once in a while, I go back to my heartbeats, which is the radio. I worked at Star FM for about four years or so. And then I left because I wanted to start my own company. So that is the long and short of who I am.
THE SHEROES HAS BEEN AN INSPIRING PROGRAM, ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN. WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND THE BRAND NAME?
Every woman has a story that empowers the next woman. This is it, your experience as a young girl is what you went through. Whether you were able to catch yourself maybe when you were falling, or whether you were able to embrace greatness when it was happening to you. Your story is your story. If you had an opportunity to tell somebody else who may have not yet experienced it, or who has also experienced it, when you have the opportunity to share that story, the person is one step wiser than before they came into contact with you. Sure, especially if they haven’t gone through it and because you’ve been so authentic with what you said. Even before it happens to them, they can see the science. If somebody’s coming toward them with aggression, they will immediately remember what you said. “She said she went through something like this.
How do I protect myself?” If somebody is sitting in a boardroom and going through a job interview and they are asked a specific question, without the privilege of the wisdom they heard from a woman who comes on sheroes, they answer the question the best way they know-how but it is the stories that we hear on hearing that empower us. And it’s not just “oh, yes, I can do it and can conquer”. No. It is knowing that somebody has gone through a particular challenge, good and bad, that helps you not only pay attention to the science but also helps you prepare for how you would react when that same thing has happened or is happening to you. So that’s the philosophy behind Sheroes, a platform, space, and opportunity for any and every woman who is ready to share to empower the next generation of women with her life lessons.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OR CRITICISM YOU FACED WHEN YOU STARTED THIS JOURNEY AND HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE CRITICISM, WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
In every room, I was the youngest and I had to eventually understand that it is not the age that determines how you deal with a situation. It is wisdom, your wisdom. In Ghana, when a child is too wise, you know, they have a local term, they say that you’re talking like an adult. Today, with the blessing of hindsight, I realized that no, a child who talks like an adult is simply a child that is handpicked by God himself to endow with wisdom. So it is the adults’ responsibility to shape that wisdom so that it plugs into the right kind of conversation.
So in most places, when I found that I was the youngest, I had to find humility in as much as I had answers. I had solutions, but I was very young, energetic, and passionate. So I had to learn the art of stopping to listen to what the other person had to say. So that as I’m responding, you don’t see it as just a child who seems to simply have something to say, but a child who has thought through what is happening, and who by the virtue of opportunity has something to say in that particular regard. So that’s one of the experiences I had, as I was maturing in space. And then at the end of the day, learning to learn. You know, it’s easy for you to say I’m gifted and talented, but as much as you’re gifted and talented, there’s more to learn. So I had to learn in every single space. I found myself, even though in most places I was the youngest.
AS A SENSATIONAL MEDIA MOGUL, WHAT ARE THE FIVE MAJOR THINGS YOU WISHED YOU KNEW EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER JOURNEY?
First, I wish I knew I was good at what I do because if I knew at the time that I was good, I would never have doubted myself. I doubted myself many times. Secondly, I wish I never diminished my light because if I knew I carried so much light, I would have sought help to mould it and give that light more direction.
Thirdly, I wish I wasn’t so critical of my various talents because if I wasn’t so critical, I would have been very intentional with moulding each one of them both in, you know, an academic space, in a technical way, and you know, in an emotional way.
Fourthly, I wish I had been a lot more attentive to the various changes that were happening in the world. Thank God eventually I caught myself but if I had just been more attentive to how the world was evolving when evolution hit me, I wouldn’t have been destabilized. I wouldn’t have felt that motion of instability because sometimes when you’re unstable, it takes grace to bounce back. Well God was good. When evolution happened, and it hit me, I caught myself and brought myself back.
Lastly, I wished to have been authentic about my story and to know now that it changes people’s lives, I would have started a long time ago but again, with all that I’ve said I thank God that over time, you know, we all get second and third chances, I’ve been able to implement those things. So these are the five areas that I wish I knew back then.
AS A MOTHER AND MEDIA MOGUL, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN BALANCING THE EDGE?
Do I balance it? I think it’s safe to say I’m not perfect. Sometimes, I do drop the ball. Sometimes, I do forget that I need to pick up my son and my daughter from school at two o’clock, I get to the apartment and I rush to school. I’m a human. Sometimes at 7 pm, I do feel exhausted, but yes, my children want to have a conversation and I have to muster the courage to sit at the edge of my bed and listen to them. Sometimes I oversleep. Do you know what I mean? I do want to sleep. I just explained why I am human. So this thing called balance is a daily challenge. Then at the end of the day, I’m blessed to have serious and huge support. If you want to go and conquer a certain world, the people in your network have to believe in it. So if I sit here and I say, Oh, well, girl, I have a calendar.
And I write everything. Yes, that is an element. Oh, yes, I have my calendar on my phone. I like a hand, right? I have a calendar in my book. Yes, I know where I need to be when I’m when I need to be but that doesn’t mean that it is not a struggle but it’s a beautiful struggle that I embrace. I’m not even going to lie to you. And then I pick and choose what’s my priority. So today, our conversation is the priority. So I’ll clear my schedule to ensure that I have that conversation with you at 9 am. At three o’clock, my children are my priority. I cleared my calendar to ensure that I am at school by 2:45. Because I have to pick them. Then everything in between is what I like to call, you know, the icing on the cake. I’m in the office at the moment. So I do know that after the session, I’ve got to have one or two meetings. So you can be present, you can be organized, but you need help. And I always need help. Whenever I can’t pick up the kids I call my husband and he does his part.
When I am not available I reach out and explain. I am telling you the truth, my time became a major factor. It’s a chess game, we are in control of a chess game to ensure that we don’t over burn ourselves. I do what I can, when I can, to the best of my abilities. I pray that the people around me accept it because I’m not a superhuman. You say balance, I say the word balance is a huge word but at the end of the day, I just go on my knees and I thank God that today’s struggles of having to be in different places and having to be present are successful and then I prepared myself for the next day. That’s how it works.
SPEAKING OF CAREER WOMEN IN AFRICA, WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU THINK AFRICAN WOMEN FACE TO SCALE THEIR CAREERS?
I believe that a woman’s ambition is sometimes derailed by the community and the society in which she’s growing but this explanation is not a blanket explanation. It’s not for everyone’s situation, I hear stories about women whose parents were very intentional about their careers, the biggest in their space. I also hear stories of women who say, under the kind of community or society they grew up in, they knew that their education wouldn’t go beyond a certain stage. So I think that when you are a child, this is why I work with young girls, you simply have a dream.
When you are a teenager, hopefully, you are surrounded by a community. And I don’t say just parents, because the parents can decide no, you will be a lawyer, but your grandfather, your grandmother, your auntie, your uncle can talk your parents into allowing you to be a pharmacist, or a dancer or a singer. So I use the word community, what affects a lot of women, or what allows them to thrive in a career of their choice in the community that surrounds them, the circle that inspires them, and the people who are in their path that either encourage them or discourage them. Then at the end of the day, why that is important is because if I share my ambition with you, as an auntie, or as a, you know, whatever it is, if you believe in me, you’ll talk me into believing in myself more but if you don’t believe in me, you probably force me to derail my ambition.
Yes, the challenge they would face is how they are either encouraged to strive for more, or encouraged to settle for average? Yes, that is where it stops because we don’t live our lives in a bubble, we don’t exist in a bubble. I want to be Ghana’s first female president, that is the challenge I have set for myself. This is feasible in two ways, mentally, I forced myself to get there, and community-wise, I’m surrounded by people who urged me on. Even now, when I’m at my lowest, when I’m emotionally broken, when I’m tired. My community upholds me. So for now, I think I would choose, you know, this area, as one of the major challenges that I see, or I have seen through the work that I do primarily with women.
CONSIDERING AFRICA’S CURRENT ECONOMY AND SYSTEMS, HOW CAN A CAREER WOMAN POSITION HERSELF TO BECOME A GLOBAL VOICE LIKE YOU ARE?
Remember what I said about learning to learn? Yeah, positioning is the result of the art of learning. That is, you don’t wake up in the morning deciding this is how I’m going to be, the world should take it or leave it. Because in that, the audience that you’re meeting with this voice you’re talking about has to be receptive to what you’re giving them. So your positioning starts from learning. What do they want? What are the voids? What are the challenges people are going through professionally, personally, emotionally, and financially? How do you plug-in? By virtue of your experiences, you have something to give to them.
How does your work help people? It could be working in the corporate world, right? Now, by virtue of what I do, yes, I’m always in the public eye but there are also exceptional women, who are not in the public eye, but they’ve got experiences. So it’s even bigger than mine and that can be shared in a global space. You’ve got to figure out this thing called global space. It’s not just a vacuum or some blue cloud. No, it is human beings who are looking for something. So positioning is the byproduct of learning. Learn what people need to hear, how they need to feel and what they need to know. And if you are in that position then come back and plug-in, then you can teach them.
After all, the words I’m speaking to you right now, is a lesson we’re going through, I’m teaching but I’m not a teacher. I’m teaching what I have chosen to learn and simply plugging into an audience that I believe is ready to hear. That, then positions me on a global scale, simply because I’m not having this conversation with only one person. I’m having it with the world because there are people everywhere in the world that can benefit from this conversation.
RECENTLY, YOU WERE RANKED AMONG THE TOP 100 CAREER WOMEN IN AFRICA AND ALSO RECEIVED AMAZING RECOGNITION. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS AND WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR BRAND IN 5 YEARS?
I am at that age, where every time somebody calls me, they say, Hey! I just wanted to congratulate you. I stand up from my chair. Yes, when I get an email that says, hey! you’ve been nominated, or you’ve won this, I stand because I choose to look at it from a spiritual perspective. What I do is my work, I don’t do it hoping that once I finish talking maybe tomorrow, I’m going to get an award. No, it is work. Remember, I didn’t pray for the awards and the recognitions, I prayed for the ability to do what God wants me to do and to do it with an exception and without apology. So when I get these messages, when I see these nominations, when I see these awards, I stand up, because it’s a moment of honour and I serve my people.
The awards are not by virtue of how good I am. No, it’s by the work I have done for my people. So I feel honoured, not even proud. I feel honoured because the people I serve are saying, thank you for what you’ve done. Because of that, you are going to be ranked one of the most inspirational or one of the most dedicated, whatever you want. That is exactly what the feeling does for me. And it’s almost insatiable. You feel honoured. If you want more opportunities to do what makes people happy and to do what makes a few people feel like they are also accomplishing something.
You say Global, I say universal. I want my work to transcend boundaries. I want my work to reach the people who never dreamt that I would one day talk to them in person, or I would one day hold their hands or I would one day give them advice. I want my profession to escalate to bridge gaps, you know, to bridge communities. I work in television, I work in media, I work in films. For every single role I play as an actress, I want a real person to say how did she do it?
She is exhibiting exactly my sentiments when I was going through this particular thing. I want when you see me on film for you to feel “oh my god, is that real?”. I want you to watch my TV shows and feel “Oh my goodness”, I want to watch this interview again because something in there struck me in a positive way”. I want every time you listen to my podcast, for you to say “no, I have to share this podcast with my friends because something in there is going on, and it is essential and has to be heard”. You see, so where do I want to go? I want to be a universal figure. What the new African woman is. She’s powerful, she’s beautiful, she’s confident, she’s vulnerable, she’s soft, but at the same time, she is in control.
She knows how to ask and reach out for help. She knows how to help through open arms to other people who need her help. She shares both tangible and intangible and once you walk into a room, other women feel pride because she’s an example of what they want their children to be. So, that is who I want to be and I try my best to work every single day. Every opportunity I have, I pray to God to be able to do what the African women want. I want to be able to hold her hand so we can journey this life together.
FROM YOUR WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE, WHAT 5 MAJOR PRACTICAL WORDS DO YOU HAVE FOR CAREER WOMEN ACROSS AFRICA, WHO INTEND TO GET TO THE TOP OF THEIR CAREERS?
First, be honest with yourself, honesty in the mirror looks ugly. You are a beautiful woman, you are looking at the mirror and because you are being honest not about the physical but about the mental or the emotional you feel ugly but when you spill out the honesty, it starts to evolve into something beautiful because at least you know your weakness.
Secondly, know your weakness and accept your weakness because it’s only in that moment that you say, I know this is a weakness I’m going to work on it but when you hide the weakness it simply just grows, and eventually, it canoes and becomes something you can’t control at all and destroys you.
Thirdly, be very selective about who you want to share a meal with, It doesn’t matter what age you are. I like to say meals because if I put my hand in a bowl of food and someone puts their hands in the same bowl of food it is trust that they are clean that allows us to put our hands in that bowl. Yes, it’s not a fork or a spoon but with our bare hands so know the person you are with and be very selective about who you allow into your life and your circle.
Four, don’t think you know it, there’s no human being that knows it all. Learn every single day.
Lastly, when you share a thought or an idea or a concept with someone, the first person who asks you; are you sure? Is the first person you should never share anything with because it means they doubt you? Then the other person that asks you, are you ready to do this and that? That’s the person that is poking the holes that you know you have to work hard to fill. That is, a person whose intent is to help you achieve your dreams and I think once you start with these little practical daily exercises, you start to build and mould your life, and don’t forget at the end of it all, wherever you reach that you determine to be a place of success, do for others. Whether it was done for you or not, always go back and share your life experiences, so that you can empower the next woman.