NAVIGATING THE “GLASS CLIFF”

What do YOU stand for? There has to be something that you stand for in life. That’s exactly where leadership begins. Mhh…quite evidently, my leadership journey began way long before I ever thought of it as such.

Although I did not hold a leadership position for a long time in life, the qualities of leadership have been at work in my life since childhood. Now that I know so much more about leadership, my definition of it is more sophisticated and detailed and I no-longer see it as something on the other side of the barrier of natural talents. I strongly believe that ‘You do not have to hold a title to be a leader.’

My Sisters’ Keeper has taught me that leadership is not just about title but service.

The main reason I enrolled for the MSK 2020 training was because I had always wanted to learn how to be a leader for years. However this is just not any leader, but a leader with a difference, who stands for principles, purpose, people, and performance and speaks for the voiceless. I wanted change but I didn’t know how to go about it. I kept going round and round in circles not knowing how, what and when to do it. All this was in a bid to improve my ability as a young woman to analyze policies that inform the relationship between communities and workers in order to improve services rendered to the citizens of my country. Thanks for the admission to the program because it has enabled me to unravel the complexity of my myths’ and subsequently been able to get more than what I expected. Emerging Leaders Foundation, the blessing, gave me what I was looking for in the midst of a global pandemic.

But how?

I have learnt a lot of things in the program .The three major segments were on self-discovery, how to connect and eventually create impact which were facilitated by various speakers. After taking the classes on Ethics, Integrity and Values according to the Bill Of rights, Article 10 and Article 232 of the constitution I am now able to give leadership in my field of service with dignity, ensuring that there is justice for all and excellence in service without discrimination of anybody whatsoever. In addition to that, I have been equipped with the skills and knowledge on the face of challenges that young women face as they try to rise in leadership and know how to tackle issues that I face along the way.

The lessons on personal branding changed my general outlook of how I get to present myself to the society. This is because I got to learn that making a name for myself can be tough and sometimes frustrating .It requires a lot of patience and effort in some cases. Image may just prove to be everything. Lisa Gansky once said that ‘Your brand is your public identity, what you are trusted for and for your brand to endure it has to be tested, redefined, managed and expanded as markets evolve. Brands either learn or disappear.’

The training has been so important to me since it has taught me how to be my own brand  as I embrace leadership because if I don’t actively build my brand, other people will build on it by forming their own beliefs on what I stand for.

My Sisters’ Keeper has taught me that leadership is not just about title but service. By getting involved in the community service, I was able to get in touch with the community, understand their needs and able to look at life from their point of view.

This is what I want to propagate and demonstrate in the future ‘Servant leadership’

 

Written By: Martha Murunga- #MySistersKeeper Fellow, 2020

MY SISTERS KEEPER PROGRAM; A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

For the longest time, I thought that you must have a position for you to be considered a leader. I thought that leadership roles and responsibilities belonged only to the ‘leaders’. I used to try so hard to change my behavior so that I could fit in, never believing in myself while constantly letting other peoples’ opinions inform my decisions. All these beliefs and doubts prevented me from doing the things I loved. I was lucky enough to find light at the end of the tunnel.

In the past few weeks, I have been attending MY SISTERS KEEPER, a training program by Emerging Leaders Foundation. The goal of the overall project is to promote accountable leadership among young women in the health sector. Being chosen for the program was a complete honor.  I remember the mixed emotions I had at the time; excitement, hope, gratitude and even anxiety compounded by self-doubt on whether I was good enough for the program.

I especially enjoyed the first session on different human personalities. I realized that our personalities make us stand out. I finally understood that there was nothing wrong with me, I just had a different way of viewing life and it was okay, I never needed to fit in.

The second session on self-awareness made me realize that I did not know who I really was. I remember the speaker saying that we need to be our own cheerleaders. It was at this point that I remembered the many times that I had self-sabotaged by doubting my abilities. I learned that I should constantly live within my own parameters so that I would finally stop letting external factors define me.

As a health advocate, the program has also equipped me with knowledge on social accountability, public participation, advocacy and personal branding. Courtesy of the training, I have managed to change my views on leadership, and I am fully aware that a leader is anyone willing to take a stand. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

My Sisters’ Keeper was heaven-sent, a life changing opportunity.

 

 

By: Esther Aoko – #MySistersKeeper fellow, and  Sexual and Reproductive Health Youth Advocate.

 

 

 

 

MY SISTERS’ KEEPER: THE NUGGETS, MENTORSHIP AND IMPACT.

I AM POWERFUL BEYOND MY IMAGINATION!!! This is the most important thing I have learnt through my time in this program.

When I joined My Sisters Keeper, it was at a time when I was not sure about myself and what I wanted out of life. I felt that I wanted to make a change in this world and leave my mark in this life because I did not like how some things happened around me. I felt oppressed and stepped on. I just did not know how I was going to make my mark. Then this opportunity showed up and I joined the program not knowing what awaited me as I embarked on this journey.

ELF has opened me up and given me nuggets to make my brand and making my impact and mark in this society. I have learnt to do life-mapping and known my personality and this, has changed how I view life and the people around me.

Through the speakers that ELF brought in, I have learnt to speak power truthfully as well as advocate for social accountability and leant the power that my voice has. Should I choose to start my own organization I know how to make budgets and what the national budget cycles include.

What I say after the words ‘I am…’ really matters. How I ask my questions matters and determines what answers I get.

This has been an eye opener program, I am ready to conquer and be an advocate of social accountability in my sector.

 

By: Ms Musiega Osundwa, MSK 2020 FELLOW

Alumni of the week: Wendy Omanga

Wendy Omanga is a graduate from the university of Nairobi with a B.A in Political science and communication. Additionally, she is the founder of Moonlight Initiative which is a youth lead sustainability and circular economy consultancy which has specialized in Bamboo consultancy. The initiative also sells bamboo products through her ecommerce site called Bambooka. In August this year, she was awarded the Top 35 Under 35 Youth of the Year award for her environment, conservation, and advocacy on bamboo consultancy.

She was an alumna of the first Husika program, Axelerataz movement, where she had a capacity building training on Digital Advocacy and learnt on the power of social media and opportunities that exist in it. “The knowledge and skills I gained from ELF have positively impacted my advocacy of Bamboo at national level and grassroot level.”

“One of my major interest in life is being at the forefront of the Bamboo policy, especially now that it’s considered a cash crop. The digital advocacy training is helping me in creating platforms to discuss the bamboo policy and the way forward as a country.”

Wendy holding her Top 35 under 35 award

Her most difficult part of her journey has been being a youth in a space where most youth are rarely found. Being in the environmental conservation space has been hard for and pushed her to tougher and consistent as she engages her peers on the same.

“Moonlight Initiative has begun planting Bamboo along river Nyando. With the digital advocacy training I got, it helps me run good campaigns on social media. This has earned me an award with Top 35 Under 35 Youth of the Year: Environment, Conservation, Advocacy,” Wendy.

Wendy has picked several lessons along the way but has three key lessons:

  1. Discipline: As a young leader, having personal principles is key to longevity in any industry. It takes extra ordinally discipline to stand out in a crowded industry. It helps in dealing with compromising situations.
  2. Consistency: Time is a huge factor to success. This separates passionate people from people with a ‘get rich quick scheme’ mindset. Giving up is not an option when you have identified your calling in life.
  3. Mentorship: it saves time and helps one avoid mistakes they would otherwise not known without a mentor.

Moving forward, Wendy plans to establish a bamboo cottage industry at grassroot level in Kenya. “I also encourage my peers to follow the right role models and mentors. Its key to success.”

Walking Through Mentorship- Yvonne Nkatha

I have been at home for over six months since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country. During this period, I encountered a call for application for My Sisters’ Keeper, a program meant to train female health practitioners on accountability. At first, I puzzled on what the program would be about several times. Eventually, after frequent checks, I decided to apply.

During the first day of our one on one meetings, I felt great joy just for being there. The program was scheduled to be virtual but for some reason, we were called in for the face to face meeting. My excitement surpassed the launching which has been held roughly 3 weeks prior. Seeing other female health practitioners from various cadres in the same room with me was very fulfilling. There is something that glows in me when I see women winning.

The first session was on self-awareness. I have previously gone through a self-awareness program but I sat and listened. The speaker took us gently on various aspects of knowing our selves and how it helps us in our daily lives. Her delivery of the content was immaculate.

During the session, we discussed how we view other people whether good or bad with the words we describe them and how it affects us and what it says about us. We are challenged on whether we are the same people when in public or private. We were taken through a self-journey evaluation and how we can better it. The most remarkable statement to me was everybody has their journey, we can negotiate with ourselves but not to procrastinate and never to move the goal post.

The next session was about personalities. I have done some of the personality tests but this was the most fun session I have ever had. The facilitators were a couple with completely different personalities and they used themselves as examples. I used to think that I am an introvert but realized that I am a chilled extrovert. The most notable thing was that it is alright to be different and by knowing so, we can maximize on our potential and have more impact.

The last session was on life mapping and storytelling. I have had a chance to hear people tell their stories before but when I last tried, I failed at the ending. The facilitator took us through his story which was deeply moving. We were challenged to chart down our life maps and tell a story out of it. At first, it looked like a difficult task but when I put it on paper, it was very easy. I got a chance to tell my story, share on my journey. This was my first experience

I love writing and days after the training I got inspired on how I can write and tell more stories. Check out for my first book that will be out soon. Thank you, ELF for selecting me to be part of this amazing journey.

 

Written By: Yvonne Kiogora, Clinical and Public specialist, writer and lover of life.
Check out her blog: https://nkathakiogora.home.blog/ 

 

The Nexus between Leadership and Discipline

Imagine jumping out of a skydiving plane and discovering your parachute doesn’t work. What memories would flash before you? Now imagine the parachute opened. How differently would you act when you landed?

I grew up thinking that being a leader was all about giving orders and being an untouchable figure. I have since realized I was all wrong.

It is unfortunate that most leaders today have distorted value sets, living in opulence and influencing corruption which holds back socio-economic progress threatening peace, security, and stability. As many young leaders try to stand for the truth with their well-guarded value sets, it has been impossible due to the leadership vacuum experienced across Africa, where dissent is crushed and alternative views are discarded, culminating in low accountability. This explains why most of the African countries continually experience bad governance, poor infrastructure, high taxation, poor border crossing policies and inequitable developments. Could this be because of leaders do not understand what leadership means and what it means to be a disciplined leader?

So, where does leadership and discipline adjoin?

Leaders are individuals who do things that failures are not willing to do even though they might not like doing them either. They have the discipline to do what they know to be important and right versus what is easy and fun as quoted by Robin Sharma.

A good example of a great leader is Tom Mboya, who massively influenced social and political revolutions in Kenya through trade unions, his writing and his value for friendship when he fought for the release of Jomo Kenyatta and other leaders who had been imprisoned.

A second example is Thomas Sankara, an army captain who took power during a coup d’état and one who strongly believed in changing foreign and domestic policies to influence change in his country. Often remembered through one of his powerful quotes, ‘while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.’

These stories paint determination, commitment, hope, purposefulness, perseverance, and selflessness in the hearts of many across Africa. Celebrated every day, not because of the properties they possessed but the values, they shared with their people in their journey of leadership that were rooted in proper discipline and mastery.

This affirms that leadership is more of what you do every day, by choosing to move away from doing it to being it. On the other hand, discipline equals freedom which creates the power to more flexibility and control over every personal aspect of your life and that makes a great leader. In the space of clear principles and intentionality, you find honor and the discipline to own the results of what you do and will yield your space with influence to call the shots because unconsciously you create trust within and without.

In the words of Peter Drucker, “You can either take action or you can hang back and hope for a miracle. Miracles are great, but they are so unpredictable.”  This just emphasizes that in real leadership there is a mandate for a leader to have command of who they are and what they stand for. Being self-authentic and willing to take in the knowledge of personal mastery and the only enemy to this is fear. Fear that everyone won’t love you: That your choices will not make any difference as compared to past leaders forgetting that every human being is as powerful in the different purposes we serve.

It would be fulfilling to see young people support a political candidate who is not driven by self-interest, but their concepts, principles and the peoples’ need. Unfortunately, the opposite is what we constantly experience.

By being disciplined and authentic, you get the freedom to work under your own values, owning your voice and bringing the best out of yourself. This requires only fur critical skills; vision, influence, implementation and execution.

In the spirit of the national values that demands of patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people amongst others, it is my call to all leaders and citizens of this great nation to choose service, not for you but for us all. Choosing Kenya and its people over self and choosing to push aside mediocrity and bad governance. Let us all champion for good leadership that is founded on self-discipline and the power of an excellent character.

As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” As Africans we must be able to deal with our problems. Help from outside is alright, but we must learn to be responsible for our own attitudes and discipline. We should be dedicated to lead with discipline and that’s how change is going to be part and parcel of us.”

So, my fellow Changemakers:

Cherish your visions.

Cherish your ideals.

Cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts.

For out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment, of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.

Each of us has an opportunity in this complex and noisy world to make some time each day to reflect on the how short life is, strengthen our commitment to goodness and then step out onto the street with a heart full of love.

Will you be hurt? Yes.

Will you be misunderstood? Yes.

Will you feel like closing? Of course.

To stand in the fires of challenge, resistance and adversity and still maintain your fundamental decency is the mark of genuine heroism.

This world needs heroes, you are one.

 

By: Edward Kipkalya, Governance Program Officer

Never underestimate the power of dreams- George Kombe

George Kombe Kagohu currently works with the county government of Kilifi as a Medical Social Worker and attached at Malindi level 4 hospital. He is also an environmental conservatist working with youth in his community in tree planting and environmental cleanups.

Since his time with ELF as a mentee in 2019, he has been able to engage in a number of forums, online and offline with his new found knowledge.

Before joining ELF, Kombe had no idea of how being a what being a leader was all about, what Africanism was and what roles am he to play in the society as a young person.

His greatest take from the ELF was the great knowledge and skills that he acquired from the ELF which have in turn led him to be elected as a coastal regional chairperson in the association of social workers.

“I tried advocacy before joining ELF though had little knowledge on leadership. I tried to assist a friend clinch an MCA’s position. We lost the position but didn’t loose on hope.”

“ELF has had great influence on my life. I was recently voted as a representative at UNDP- REED+ project, this goes back to the power I got at ELF. I have managed to influence several youth groups in my region to start and implement programmes on environmental conservation.”

His most difficulty moments in his journey so far go back to his time as a mentee at ELF. “I used to travel every weekend from Malindi to Nairobi which was a bit expensive for me, bearing in mind I was a family man at the time. I tried my best to involve the political class in my area I managed to get an assistance on the fee required and some part of transport expenses.”

After his time with ELF, George went back to his society and ventured into business, where he registered his own company. Currently, he runs a business, selling cleaning detergents to institutions and individuals. He has managed to create employment for three young people and offered training to many more in the community. His lessons at ELF have helped him earn from a side business despite having a full-time job.

Three lessons that I have learned

  1. Illiteracy can only be defined by those who refuse to learn, unlearn and relearn
  2. Leadership and governance are living subjects that tend to change with time and to some depending with the environment.
  3. Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried a new thing.

His next goals is to make sure that more young people acquire the knowledge and skills that he got from ELF and encourage them to put into practice.

“It is my responsibility to change this world and if can’t change 100 people then let me change only one. But again I ask them to start where one is.”

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit.”

Be Intentional – Jane Mutheu

It has been with so much greatness to be a part of ABLI as there was always a take away every Tuesday. I am Jane Mutheu Musembi passionate about Tech may it be in the morning, evening, or noontime. The one thing that got my attention with ABLI was the leadership journey which was coupled up with so many things.

I have interacted with a former ELF alumnus (Steven Muasya) and the leadership skill he portrays in different situations are always outstanding. We always know that when we need someone to talk to the youth he was the one because he would do decode heavy messages using a simple language understandable to his audience.

My journey started when Stella Cheboi called one afternoon as I was buying a movie with the question, “If you were a bicycle, which part would you want to be?” My eyes started to look for a bicycle nearby so that I could relate well, given that it’s not the one thing I interact with daily. You can be sure after that I was ready to start the sessions.

We started with introductions of who we are, what we do, and what we like. This was the perfect pace-setter for the sessions. I was challenged by some of the profiles my fellow ABLI mentees had and this made me more eager to know what made the difference.  The two things that I was expecting from the sessions were, “What does ABLI have for us and what can I learn from the others.”

Personality-types was the first session we had with the facilitators and it was a very interactive session. Getting to know who I am in terms of my personality gave a lot of meaning as to why I do things in a certain way. Emotional Intelligence came after, which was so deep that we ended up having the discussion at our Youth Ministry at AIC Kasarani. We spent 3 weeks just trying to understand the mind-blowing topic. I still carry the discussion in both sessions with me every day. It is so amazing walking and interacting with people and you just get to understand where they stand. For sure it does away with unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings thanks to ABLI.

Storytelling and life mapping came in with Jim India as our facilitator and it took us back in the days and it gave us a view of how life stands out both negative and positive. As I thought of what stood out for me I realized that life will always be empty and it’s up to you to fill it with beautiful memories and experiences. Letters to self, a session we also had, still holds the record of the longest assignment given to me by me. Those who were in the session can easily relate to that as I am still counting months to when I get to open my letter.

Every other session that we have had has always come with its weight and awesomeness. Let’s take public speaking, for instance, the facilitator made sure that we all had something to say before the session ended. I had my fingers crossed throughout the session so that am not given a hard question to speak about and luckily enough the charm worked but you can be sure I answered a question before the end of it all.

The things I have learnt from the sessions  are so many that every day, I plan to share lessons around. I am grateful for the opportunity. To ELF and BSK, thank you for getting this training out here.

 

By: Jane Mutheu, ABLI 2020

LETS EMBRACE CLIMATE ACTION AS A BUSINESS

Life is a long journey, and if you have an idea of where you are going, finding the right mentor or platform can be a gamechanger. I recently got hitched to one which changed my perspective for the foreseeable future; a 3-day stakeholders convening by UNDP that sought to engage young people in the environmental space on Redd+ readiness and nature-based entrepreneurship. Gladly, I would say sometimes an ember is all we need. A trigger of some sort, a spark. Somehow, we became more confident of the possibilities of the future.

The forum was largely centered on the environmental ecosystem, biodiversity, and entrepreneurship in nature-based businesses. Youth entrepreneurship, investment in the forest value chain and incentivizing climate action as a business were drummed up as a possible buy-in for the youth. Top of the objectives was to scale up climate change projects ran by young people and make them commercially viable. To that end, various partners including Ministry of Environment, Kenya Forests Research Institute, Kenya Forests Services, Net Fund Green Innovation and Youth Enterprise Funds were netted in to demonstrate the massive scope of potential and opportunities that were up for exploitation by young people. Sadly, despite the youth being the future of our country, youth remain absent in the environmental sector or at best limited.

There is need to challenge the idea that Africa’s extraordinary biodiversity and wildlife is a diminishing resource that needs to be protected because conservation efforts need to generate wealth for local people from sustainable businesses based on natural products.

World over, climate change is set to become the most fatal crisis of our time!  While climate change remains irrefutable, we are not too late to stem the tide, and this requires fundamental transformation in all aspects of our society. From how we power our economies, use our land, grow food and the transportation modes we adopt. Trees are finally getting the international recognition they deserve, thanks to their potential as a natural climate solution for absorbing carbon, restoring vital ecosystems, and helping humans adopt to a rapidly changing climate. In a perfect storm that includes Covid-19 and the intertwined crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, we need bold moves to build back better. Conserving, restoring, and growing one trillion trees all over the world by 2030 can help anchor our recovery, delivering equitable environmental progress and livelihood opportunities for the people who need them most.

In Kenya, forests remain the best opportunity to mitigate climate change. The Kenyan government aims at achieving a 10% tree cover by 2022, a rather ambitious fete. That means a whooping 1.8 billion trees must be grown, not planted. Statistics have it that only 10% of the trees planted survive. Tree growth, being an enabler of the Big 4 agenda, is an opportunity for young people to create green jobs through activities such as seed bulking, nurseries establishment, reforestation, afforestation, agroforestry, and sustainable forest management. Another sector to benefit massively from forestry is manufacturing as Kenya is a net importer of forest products. Plantations of Bamboo, Melia tree, sandal wood, and jojoba remain lucrative options for young people in considering forestry as a business. The future of forests in our country lies in investing in commercial forestry outside the gazzetted forests. Honey farming and butterfly farming are other worthwhile projects that promise decent livelihood opportunities for young people.

You see, nothing makes happy than being part of a resilient community that works too hard to fight for mother earth. A clarion call by the young people who attended the UNDP Stakeholders Forum was that time was nigh to swim with the sharks in the climate action. The youth do not know enough to be cautious and therefore they should attempt the impossible-and achieve it, generation after generation. The key to 1.8 billion trees? Many hands. This ambitious goal can only count on power players to deliver the actions that are needed. We must get all hands-on deck, including community groups and the young people of our beloved nation. This dream will require us to dig deeper than we ever wanted, always a little further! 10% tree cover can become a reality.

It became our audacious dream. We are the ones we have been waiting for!

 

By: Marvin Kimani, ELF

“Only Youth can decide the future,” Ken Ruto

Kenneth Ruto is a strong advocate of sexual reproductive health. Born and raised in Uasin Gishu county. He developed his passion to serve and lead the community when in high school where he got elected as a captain. This early responsibility gave him motivation to fight for the rights of students from poor families who are not in positions to raise school fees.

Currently, he is the Tunaweza County coordinator Uasin Gishu, leading a team of 20 fellows.

Before coming across ELF, Ken sued to mobilize young people to demonstrate against the county government, making noise with no idea of the best ways to approach duty bearers. It was hard for him to access important information on issues affecting young people in the county. His relationship with county officials was hanging in the balance as he was constantly accused of criticizing them without laying facts.

This went on until 2017 when he got an opportunity to be one of the mentees at ELF. The training transformed his life and built his capacity as he was able to get an understanding of the various ways to go through when approaching and dealing with issues affecting young people. This, further led him to a personal slogan which he stands by to this day “Noise to Voice.’

“The training equipped me well enough with knowledge to become a trainer and moderator. I have been able to mentor several young people on the Budget making process, public participation, and other governance issues. The relationship and cooperation with county government of Uasin Gishu is in high gear as compared with past years,” Ken adds.

He has since utilized knowledge and skills acquired by initiating his own project by the name ‘Youth Rights’ where he empowers young people to participate in key decision-making processes in his community. Through this initiative, he has been able to directly reach hundreds of youths directly and thousands indirectly.

He also runs an activity by the name ‘Our Adolescents’ which seeks to sensitize adolescent youths on sexual reproductive health and rights. Several young adults have been empowered through this and he aims to spread out his wings to more.

He has done this despite facing numerous challenges form his colleagues and resistance form politicians who feel threatened by his acts and deeds. However, Ken is not about to relent in his fight for the representation of young people in public spaces and sexual reproductive health.

His parting shot ‘Only Youth can decide the future’

Vijana Tunaweza