CIVIL SOCIETY ACTORS MUST REMAIN VIGILANT IN THE WAKE OF COVID-19 IMPACT IN KENYA.

This pandemic is not just a health crisis, rather, it is a revelation of the failure in governance. The leadership of this country is finally on the spotlight, the one time that it matters most. To come out of this havoc alive, we will need rational governance responses, and it is for that reason that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) must remain vigilant, if this government is not checked now, there is a likelihood that it will turn into the worst catastrophe of our time, worse than COVID-19.

CSOs must guard against the possibility of the political class taking advantage of the pandemic to further balkanize the country or even to form partisan political outfits.

The Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) recently released a white paper titled, “Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 through democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG) assistance” in which they identified 6 critical issues with regards democracy, human rights and governance. I will consider three of them that directly relate to the Kenyan context.

  1. Preventing the abuse or concentration of power: CSOs must prevent this government from using the pandemic to settle scores with individuals or groups which are seen to be anti-government. Recently we have witnessed scapegoating by government, when it laid the blame squarely on youth (a marginalized group) for the spread of the virus in the country. Further, we must stand against the spread of fake news, internet censorship and overreach by security agencies in the implementation of government directives. Civil society must also ensure transparency and oversight over emergency measures so that they are inclusive and adhere to democratic principles.
  2. Reducing opportunities for corruption: The Kenyan government has recently mobilized resources towards the tackling of the pandemic, from tax payers money, to grants from the World Bank and other agencies, CSOs must keep a keen eye on the utilization of the resources, pandemics have a way of creating opportunities for theft and mismanagement. Truth is that our financial systems are flawed, and healthcare has been a siphoning ground for a lot of grand corruption in Kenya. Vigilance might be the only way that the much-needed socioeconomic cushioning is realized by all Kenyans during these trying times. Our situation is made worse by the fact that our elections are only 2 years away, with every election, comes an insatiable appetite for public money by the political elite. We must safeguard against this risk.
  3. Reinforcing good and inclusive governance: Persons with disability, youth, women, and other minority groups continue to face the risk of illness, violence, and loss of livelihood. They must be protected with targeted messaging and emergency care packages. CSOs must guard against the possibility of the political class taking advantage of the pandemic to further balkanize the country or even to form partisan political outfits. Civic education must continue to target youths, women and PWDs with an aim of increasing their representation in political spaces and building their capacity to respond to such a crisis.

The 2015 film, Mad Max: Fury Road perhaps offers an example of where civil society organizations find themselves today and what they must do; in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, max, a drifter and survivor, unwillingly joins Imperator Furiosa, a rebel warrior, in a quest to overthrow a tyrant who controls the land’s water supply. The secret to the success of the mission was in collaboration. In these turbulent times, CSOs can no longer work in silos, this is the time for new and more effective partnerships in tackling the above challenges. Even as the donor community shift focus towards averting the health crisis and reconstructing the economy, they must remain alive to the fact that the success of their interventions rests on effective, accountable, and democratic governance systems in individual countries.

 

Submitted by:
Jim India- Policy, Research and Communications officer

Spreading Love amidst Covid-19 Pandemic

I lost my struggle to sleep earlier than expected last night. I had worked for thirteen hours straight. Though it may sound as if it was a bad thing, something good came off it. I awoke without the alarm, no struggle with the loud tune or snoozing. I could not envision a better way to start a new week than this. The morning birthed energy and brought hope for life’s renewal. Did you feel the same energy this morning? Each day has its own style of making an entrance. People wake up to it bearing different emotions. In life we have a couple of basic emotions that humans feel, and they are all valid, since they give you a sign of what is happening to you.

No matter the emotions you bear waking up; be it enthusiasm and positivity, hostility, dampened mood, defeat or aggressiveness; there are things that can cheer you up and beautify your day. One of them is your attitude. In Franklin Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he states that ‘Between a stimulus and a response, there is a freedom to choose how you will react to what is happening to you or what you are going through’. This means that we have the power to create our own realities.

When someone genuinely compliments you, learn to accept that compliment and soak in it.

Self-love and affirmation are other ways you can create positivity around you. This can turn sad emotions to happy ones. When is the last time you stood infront of a mirror and admired everything about you? Have you ever had a self-talk in the mirror and affirmed that you are beautiful, gorgeous, a performer, energetic, infectious smile or that you are the most brilliant being you have ever met? Self-affirmation gives you a boost of confidence as you start your day.

Affirming others and giving honest compliments are best way to inject life and energy into another being. It brings out the vibrance, renews energy and widens smiles. I am blessed to be with my younger sister during this Covid-19 period. As a hard worker she is, she wakes up before the alarm to clean the house, enjoys cooking and is easy with every other task around the house. These simple words “I do appreciate your service to us, the food is delicious, and the house is sparkling clean, you are the best!” makes her smile widely and gives her a sparkle in her eyes. This shows how powerful a compliment is to human beings.

When someone genuinely compliments you, learn to accept that compliment and soak in it. Allow yourself to feel great about it. And when you see something worth affirming or complimenting, go ahead and offer it. It may change someone’s life for the better, and they may carry it for life.

Now that majority of the population are working from home, you rarely see your colleagues, classmates, friends or family. This does not mean that we affirm or complement them less. On the contrary, this is the time people need it most. Think of someone from your circle of influence. Recall one genuine and amazing thing they are good at, then call or text them (a call would be great!) Remind them of that gift they have, tell them what you truly miss about them, what you admire most about them. Knowing that someone cares, remembers them or misses them will lift their spirit and brighten their day.

We all want to bring a smile to someone’s face, right? So, lets dive in and make this day special for the people we care about.

 

Submitted by:
Stella Cheboi-Programs officer, Leadership Development 

 

Why Mentorship Is Really Worth Your Effort

Life is a game that needs to be played, a tune that needs your best dance. This same life happens in seasons, some of which are awaited, and their arrival is well known but some, arrive unannounced; Unannounced because we were distracted, and they caught us off-guard or they arrived earlier than expected. Just like every human is peculiar, so is how each handles these seasons in life. While some individuals slide into every season with grace, adjust and flourish, most of us need awakening, a tap in the back, a whisper giving a clue of what we have that will validate our survival for the season.

At birth, you were so fragile, vulnerable and were dependent on your parents/ guardians. As you grew, you gained strength and skills to do most things and with time you became independent. In learning institutions, we interact with educators who teach us the skills we need in our specialty, after which we graduate and by the powers vested in us, go out to serve the world. One season that is most confusing in life is when you get your first employment. Mixed feelings fly at this moment because not only are you a starting new, beautiful season as a taxpayer, but you are so naïve and clueless on what is expected of you since the curriculum in learning institutions omitted this training.

Training and orientation are crucial for new entrants in all industries, but things on the ground……are different. To cut on costs, most companies and organizations welcome new entrants with just a few explanations and leave it up to you to figure out the rest as you go along. This is literally baptism by fire. If you are lucky, you will get a kind colleague who will patiently guide you and familiarize you with the process. On the contrary, if you find colleagues that have bad attitudes and are a frustrated lot, who are unwilling to offer you support, then you fry your way to enlightenment.

Do you have a mentor in life? How are you making use of that gift of mentorship?

Whatever your case may be, it is up to you to determine how you will show up, thrive and overcome all the setbacks you will face. This is where mentorship comes to play. See, in every industry, there are professionals who have years of experience, who have executed they duties with integrity, who have failed forward and gathered lessons that come in handy for newcomers. These professionals are often, individuals who are willing and interested to share the in-depth knowledge of the craft with youngsters that come after them; that will confidently approach them and express their interest to learn and to be mentored. These professionals will gladly set aside time to walk with you, to show you the tricks, to share their life lessons and it will be their pleasure to give you an opportunity to create yourself, as Steve Spielberg would allude.

So you have approached a professional you look up to at work, or through ELF’s Leadership Development & Mentorship Program, you have been paired to a mentor according to your area of interest; for your relationship to thrive, you need to practice some of the tips shared below;

  1. Be teachable – Show up and respect your mentor’s time. When you agree on a date and time to meet, show up on time and ready for the session
  2. Be very clear regarding your expectations – In your first interaction with your mentor, clearly outline what you struggle with and need mentorship in, and your clear expectations from the mentoring relationship (It is always about the mentee, so it is up to you to drive the conversation)
  3. Honesty – Always voice out any concerns or doubts. If you feel you are not gaining any knowledge or growth from your mentor, have that candid conversation with your mentor. Going back to the drawing can guarantee better results
  4. Commitment – You need to be intentional with the mentoring relationship to guarantee your growth. Submit any assignments and your progress report to your mentor. It doesn’t matter how much potential your mentor sees in you, if you are not commitment to the process, you will remain stagnant.
  5. Ask the right questions – “The answer to any problems preexists. We need to ask the right questions to reveal the answers” ~ Jonas Salk
  6. Be present in the moment – In the engagements with your mentor, you should be interested, listen and take notes. It is in those ‘By the ways’ in experience sharing that real answers reside. Through stories, you will learn important lessons from your mentor e.g. You can learn how to deal with frustrations, haters and competition in the workplace.

I would like two celebrate two professionals who have given of their time to guide me, point me in the right direction and cheer me on; my mentors Ms. Patience Nyange & Ms. Bianca Malata. Thank you for your passion to grow the next generation of values-based, thriving leaders. I honor you for your service of Mentorship to the world.

Do you have a mentor in life? How are you making use of that gift of mentorship? If at all you are being mentored, have you picked up the challenge to mentor one or two students in Primary or high schools? Are you passing on what you have learnt and giving time to mentor, in order to create a ripple effect?

Food for thought.

#ThePowerOfMentorship

#FailingFoward

#RelationshipBuilding

Submitted by:
Stella Cheboi-Programs officer, Leadership Development 

Your Network is Your Networth

Think for a moment, how many new contacts have you created in the past five years? How many of those have you been in touch with? Better still, how many have you had a hearty conversation with over hot chocolate or lunch? When you get stuck; be it in need of advice, someone to talk to, in need of a job, want a partner to start a business with. Can you comfortably approach any of the contacts you created five years ago to sort you out?

Despite the ever-evolving technology and rise of social media platforms for human interactions, there are several traditional ways individuals get to meet and interact. These include learning institutions, trainings or conferences, weddings, funerals and other social gathering. Often, individuals are quick to exchange business cards with the promise of keeping in touch and catching up soon. Sadly, such business cards are never looked at after being tossed in the pocket of the receiver.

It is always a pleasure to get to learn about other people, their life stories, what drives them, their passion and ambitions.

What we often forget is that most solutions to our current problems and challenges; lack of employment or capital, volunteers for our initiatives, book reading partners or mountain climbing buddies can all be found within our networks. I confidently speak on this from my experience as an Alumnus of Emerging Leaders Foundation. Walking into the training room as a Cohort two participant, I had the curiosity and intention of getting to interact with each participant. It is always a pleasure to get to learn about other people, their life stories, what drives them, their passion and ambitions. It all lies in asking the right questions, listening emphatically and being present in the moment.

One intention we had in common was building relationships, and below are some of the benefits that came with that:

  1. Birth of a book Club – A lean team of dedicated book lovers in our cohort were able to start a book club ‘Mustard Seed Book Club’, which meets monthly to read and discuss works of various authors. This has in turn  inculcated a reading culture amongst us. One of my favorite books  from our earlier reads is I know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and my favorite quote from this read is, “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
  2. Investment Group – After reading books for a while, we decided to do more and started an investment group. Through our able leaders, we opened a savings account and started monthly savings as each team member explored possible sectors we could invest in and get great returns.
  3. A family – We are each other’s support group, a go-to team. A place to pour your heart out without fear of judgement or ridicule. Sleepovers were birthed. We opened our private spaces to each other. There is magic in preparing a meal and dining together, making time to freely engage in topics that are not spoken about yet they keep hurting the society and being each other’s accountability partner.
  4. Travel & Exploration – With the fast-paced life in the city, it is rare for individuals to take time to rest, rejuvenate and re-energize. As a team, we decided that part of our group savings would facilitate our travel across the continent, two capital cities each year. Last year (2019) we visited Kampala, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda. This was to get the team out of the rush of the city; to relax, analyze and evaluate our goals in life, progress made and forge a way forward. Travelling also accords us time for play e.g. Karaoke, table topics, bicycle riding among others.

All of the above came to fruition out of intentionality to build relationships. Asking yourself what you can do for the other person and what you can collectively do to make communities better. It is a blessing to have a support team that cheers you on as you start up a business, open initiatives or get married. Emerging Leaders Foundation taught and trained us;  we discovered ourselves, connected with like minded young leaders and strived to create positive change in our own small way,starting with what we had and not necessarily waiting for the ‘perfect’ time because at times, it may take long or never come.

The mentors we were paired with didn’t disappoint either, they played a major part in guiding us to be the leaders we are today; thank you ELF and the mentors that serve under you. After ELF’s training and Mentorship, Alando Kelvin has created several business ventures and in turn employed several young individuals; Kibe Kimani who practices small scale agribusiness is training other young people in his village best practices in agriculture as well as engaging them in meaningful topics on leadership and accountability; Isaac Odhiambo has started a YouTube channel to sensitize citizens of Kenya on Leadership and voter awareness tohelp reduce ignorance; Sonnie Gichuhi a staff at Strathmore University mentors her students to be the best versions of themselves and Cheboi, founded an Initiative, ‘Narrafiti Locale’ which introduced Storytelling, Journaling and Creation of Reading Clubs in rural schools in Kenya.

As a young leader who has created networks over the years, as an Emerging Leaders Foundation Alumni, what are you doing with the network you have created? Are you birthing brilliant ideas over coffee dates as Oprah Winfrey would put it? Are you collaborating to ensure mutual benefit for all? Are you leveraging on each other’s strength to positively transform your communities?

Food for thought!

Submitted by:
Stella Cheboi-Programs officer, Leadership Development