Lesedi Anita Mashumba grew up the hard way but it was that experience that inspired her to rise against all odds. The 27-year-old fashion designer and criminologist is now a lecturer at the University of Botswana but currently pursuing her PhD studies at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. She was raised by a single mother together with her three siblings. Her mother was a house maid who earned about P400 per month. This inspired Mashumba to be a go getter. “I would say that’s the best thing that ever happened to me because it pushed me to want to see our situation at home change,” she said. Her passion for business started when she was very young. She was a creative who would make things and sell to her relatives, classmates and neighbours. At high school her school bag was known as a mobile tuck-shop as she carried more stock than most tuck-shops and even loaned people money. Doing Home Economics as an optional subject at junior secondary resulted with her discovering her passion for fashion design. She started making clothes for her siblings and her mother. However she prioritised education. In 2015 she enrolled for her Master of Criminology with Griffith University, Australia and proceeded to Queensland University of Technology for her PhD. That was a result of having been awarded a scholarship by the University of Botswana since she was the best student from her graduating group. “That’s how I found myself in Australia,” she said. This is where her love for fashion was reignited when diving fully into it was a means to save herself from a bout of depression. “My concept this time was different. I wanted to explore our African print; batik, Ankara, kente, wax, dashiki and others because I found the artwork that goes into making the fabrics exceptional; the colours and the vibrancy,” she said.
She wanted something that a person can wear at any time going anywhere instead of waiting for an occasion to wear African print and that is how the African-West Fusion was born. It was registered in Australia because that is where she is currently based. In addition, Mashumba designs and creates accessories from African Print to accessorise Western clothes. She wants everyone to be able to rock their identity each day no matter the place or occasion, demonstrating that African print can be worn everywhere. She said Australia was the best place for her to start this business because there was already a gap for African prints in the market. She has been invited to participate in fashion shows. The last one was the Red Carpet Multicultural Fashion Show and is due to take part in another on November 25 - the A+ Fashion Show in Brisbane. She said the response and love she receives from people has been overwhelming. She has been overburdened with work since she acts as the manager, the designer and the tailor. This is despite a heavy and demanding schedule as a research student who also has to teach during the semester. Mashumba loves doing community work and tries to have a social life as well - hence balancing the many demands on her time. “I guess it’s true that ‘the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential’ – are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence,” she said.
Mashumba has great plans for next year because she has spotted some young Batswana to work with as the demand for her products goes up. She is also negotiating with different potential partners in regard to partnerships or collaborations. She is involved with the Brisbane Women’s Club where they run women empowerment programmes. In Botswana they have established an NGO called Botswana Organisation for Fathers & Children at Risk (BOFCaR) which promotes fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives. She said they also help children who are at risk of offending, suffering from cases of negligence or having parents who are in the criminal justice system. “This NGO is close to my heart as having grown up without a father figure in my life and him rejecting me when I tried to make contact was a phenomenal experience, and the other part of it relates to my work as a criminologist so I am really inspired to see our communities change their attitudes towards fatherhood and caring for children through our educational campaigns and upcoming documentaries,” she said.