Women’s untapped leadership potential an unexplored resource

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid19 world. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen women all over the world standing fearlessly at the front lines, working tirelessly as health care workers and caregivers.

In countries like Denmark, Finland, Germany, and New Zealand where there has been effective, rapid and sustainable response to the pandemic are headed by women. This goes to show that women have untapped and unexplored leadership potential.

Gender inequality has contributed majorly to the lack of representation of women in leadership positions as it is in only 20 countries worldwide where women are the heads of state. Despite the already existing Barriers to women’s leadership like cultural norms, new barriers have emerged during the pandemic. There has been an increase in violence against women and denial of their Human rights. This in turn leads to unemployment and poverty and results in them being unable to realize their full potential.

Education also plays a key role in ensuring that women are empowered hence preparing them for leadership roles. But unfortunately, girls are still unable to attend school due to lack of sanitary towels, harmful cultural practices and poverty. This instead leaves women and girls vulnerable and uneducated, hence unable to know and understand their rights, fight for them, and make informed and empowered decisions. All these factors prevent women from getting into leadership positions.

I urge governments globally to fully leverage on women’s leadership potential and have their voices represented and integrated into decision making processes. Girls should be empowered at an early age while they are still in school on the importance of partaking leadership roles so that they may be accountable leaders in the future.
Let’s break all barriers.

Written by: Esther Aoko, My Sisters’ Keeper Alumni, Husika Fellow & Sexual and Reproductive Health Youth Advocate

The impact of COVID-19 on Mental health especially on school-going children.

There has been disturbing news of students physically attacking their teachers and fellow students; not forgetting last months’ gruesome incident of a young man who butchered his almost his entire family, blaming it consuming mystery and murder series ‘killing eve’. In retaliation, Prof. George Magoha, the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Education has proposed the return of corporal punishments. The question however should be, will that be a good-enough solution to get our students disciplined or are there other root causes of students going on rampage that we should investigate as a society such as the impact of Covid-19 and their mental wellbeing? Are we just ignorant?

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus its effect on different populations including school going children, according to journal of medical internet research , the pandemic has created new stressors and mental health challenges including fear and worry for oneself or loved ones, constraints on social activities and physical movement due to quarantine, sudden and radical lifestyle changes, where in Kenya, for instance, schools were promptly closed. The closure of schools and other education institutions caused increase in teenage pregnancies, rise of gender-based violence and increase of drug and substance abuse among many school going students which was experienced nationally, and it was established that school was a safe space for many students which was an underrated issue.

As the government, NGO’s and other stakeholders are putting efforts to come up with effective solutions and policies to better the situation, we have forgotten one important effect of Covid-19 to school going students and the entire population at large; mental ill-ness. There is stigma around families losing their loved ones due to Covid-19, anxieties and fear of losing our vulnerable family members to the pandemic, but we often forget the psychological and emotional toll on school-going students. According to Elizabeth Kubler, a renowned psychologist on loose and grief, there are five stages of bereavement which include: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance which due to lack of mental health awareness, school-going students are not accorded the chance to grieve. Hence, we get surprised when the suppressed feelings and emotions spill out and our children making them act out in bizarre manners since they have not been taught that it is okay not to be okay and that it is okay to grieve in whichever manner that they can since grief sits with everyone differently.

The ministry of education should work on holding capacity building forums for teachers in understanding mental health as a concept while bringing in its correlation with Covid-19 which will include understanding loss and grief and how to provide psychosocial support, this will be an important shift and change of dynamics since teachers would not forthright label their students as hardheaded but would consider understanding where they are coming from and offering the necessary support.

Secondly, the ministry of education should work together with the Ministry of Health to come up with policies that would make accessibility of mental health resources easy. Student based counselling centres should be made available while at the same time creating awareness around mental health, covid-19 and grief through student friendly avenues, like animations, magazines and games. This will help students have information on how they can be support systems for their friends at schools and improve awareness that will be important for family settings. Their psychological well-being will be improved, and they will always know where and at what point they need to get the necessary support to make their mental health better.

Written By: Amisa Rashid, Psychologist and My Sisters Keeper Fellow. She is also the founder of Nivishe Foundation

“MY SISTERS’ KEEPER GAVE ME A NEW BEGINNING” Dr. Esther Njeri.

I remember a time when I used to exalt over-working and never setting time for personal life. There were moments when I picked several bad habits which I was afraid of letting go. I quarreled with a colleague at work amidst the covid-19 pandemic. This did not go well, in turn, it affected my overall performances.

I remember not grieving the loss of my mother and just working, hiding my pains at work. It crushed me; or so I discovered way too late. I forgot who I was, and I had to actively work on it. I sought help; this was all in vain. I had a lot of tears, fears, my soul was troubled. This was until I came across ELF’s My Sisters’ keeper call for application. The program that reminded me of my power and reinforced my journey. As I write this, I feel like words are not enough to explain the impact that was brought about by ELF.

This was journey of service, a journey of self-discovery, a journey with direction. I am grateful to God for giving me a chance to see life with a different perspective. My life’s journey has had multiple challenges, but my stint at ELF has given me a different view of life. You will fall, fail, trip, but you can always leap forward.

The lessons given were interesting. Personal branding fascinated me (who even thinks about that). The speakers were well chosen, people who are passionate about their fields, ready to teach and mentor others in life’s journey.

If each of the fellow were to be asked to talk about their experience, the stories would be different, so is mine. I have a story, and I plan to share it as time goes by, with no fear or shame.   

I was reminded of why I chose a career in medicine. I learnt how to maximize on my knowledge and skills and make change in my community. I learnt what it takes to be an accountable leader and how to keep my leaders accountable.

We have so much power which we ignore or forget. We all have a voice, in one way or the other, we have a contribution to make. We all have a voice.

Whatever happens, remember you are WORTHY and VALUED. You have power within you, to change and cause change.

My Sisters’ Keeper gave me a new home, a new beginning, and a new responsibility.

By: Esther Njeri, MSK 2020.

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

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/