Thursday, 1 September 2016

My Experience Volunteering with OXFAM for the African Women Leadership Symposium (AWLS)

The past 1o days have been an eye opening experience for me. I spent a week in the OXFAM Nairobi Offices volunteering with a team of great young people to make the African Women Leadership Symposium (AWLS) which was held in Safari Park on the 24th and 25th August a success.
If you follow what happens in the women’s movement closely, then you probably know that this was a huge symposium that brought together powerful women leaders from all over Africa to Nairobi including our very own Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Amina Mohammed and Cabinet Secretary for Defense, Raychelle Omamo.
Preparing for such an event has its ups and downs/pros and cons. The pros include the experience and the exposure you get of course dealing and meeting with high profile women leaders across Africa, the less empowering moments and experiences, well, read ahead!
The week at the Oxfam offices was intense, among other tasks included, putting up a list of all the women who would be attending and their details, including their flight details, organizing for their airport transfers, et al. We had a team from Oxfam who we worked directly with led by Saida Ali who was the project manager for the AWLS, who did a difficult job really well and set the standards for us.
One of the Cons according to my experience was the fact that we spent too much time working on the list that some of the other critical issues as the AWLS drew nearer fell through the cracks. For example, the final list was to have been sent to the printers for name tags printing sooner than it actually happened. At the beginning, part of the tasks the volunteers were given was to provide logistical support which included picking guests from the airport. This didn’t go as planned and due to some miscommunication, some guests arrived without having people to meet them at the airport, there was a case of a guest who arrived and found that she had no transport waiting for her at the airport, which resorted to her making her own arrangements to get to the hotel. At the same time, human is to error, but as a great mentor always tells me, some errors are expensive. If you ask me, this was an expensive error!
I met and networked with different women leaders, Ministers, former ministers, executive directors, etc. I have to say however, leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example. In my leadership training, I have learnt to be very keen and observant in my environs and surroundings, and honestly, I did not see the actions and the examples in some women I interacted with. I think I gave my total commitment and dedication during the symposium, I worked extremely hard, including late nights and early mornings to ensure that I delivered and that I did not disappoint the team I was working with
Over the years, I have learnt to always pursue excellence in everything that I do and getting reaffirmed goes a long way to ensure that excellence is pursued. Collectively, we got reaffirmed a lot by the Oxfam team we worked with during preparations of the AWLS.
I don’t know about the other individual volunteers but during the symposium, I met different women leaders who appreciated the support we were giving them to settle in, find their way, among others. They were polite and thanked us. But there were others who felt enough was not done for them and perhaps because of their status or professional positions, would feel offended if asked for their names or even denied a second conference bag. Which begs the question, isn’t leadership making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that the impact you make lasts even in your absence? Just as some Sisters were pleasant, others were dismissive and arrogant and made some of us volunteers feel very inadequate.
All in all, the Symposium was a huge success and I got very inspired by the stories told by younger sisters and older sisters. I took advantage of the space to network with powerful women in various sectors and learn from stories told and shared by different individuals. For this, I sincerely thank Saida Ali and the Oxfam team for such an opportunity for exposure, learning and experiencing African women’s leadership in action!

The Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of any agency.

Article by
Ivy Nyawira
RCWG Staff and Alumni 

Thursday, 11 August 2016








Wednesday, 25 May 2016


Back in 1998, Jane’s biological mother gave birth to her in a local hospital in Kitui. In the same hospital, a certain lady called Pendo a Swahili name which means Love had also given birth to a baby boy. Being a mother of six boys she was not happy after getting another male child, the baby made her feel unlucky. This issue forced Pendo to bribe some nurses in the hospital in order to get a female child through their help. The nurses approached Jane’s mother who agreed to sell her baby to a stranger. Her reasons for selling her child were best known by her since she did not care about her actions.

Six years later Jane grew up to be a beautiful, hardworking and brilliant girl. Her ‘family’ being the best gift God had ever given her. For Jane living with them felt like having a small heaven here on earth which she would never exchange even for sacks of gold .One day, Pendo narrated the whole story on how she got Joy to her best friend simply believing that she would not tell anyone especially her husband. This piece of information annoyed her husband after knowing the truth from Pendo's best friend. He heartlessly beat Pendo together with Jane who had no idea of what was happening at that time. The man chased them away threatening to kill them if he ever found them on his compound without his biological son.

The only option Pendo had was to live at her father’s house in Kitui. Jane always did all domestic chores in the morning then sell mangoes later in the evening at the market. She hardly had time to rest, play with her age-mates or study. Despite all that, she still maintained her first position in class. Each teacher loved her and admired how she worked hard in her studies hence nicknaming her SMART GIRL. In spite of that, Pendo’s father still detested Jane. The old man always blamed her for his daughter’s misfortunes.

One day, Jane was busy playing with her friends when her grandfather called her inside the house claiming that he wanted to send her to the shop. When she entered the house he slapped the poor girl, locked the door and pushed her on the floor. Jane cried for help hoping that someone would come to her rescue. Fortunately, the children she was playing with had not left the compound. When they heard her crying and screaming for help, they sneaked at the back of the house and crept up the window to see what was happening to their friend. They saw how Jane was struggling with the old man who was trying to remove her clothes while lying on top of her. Pendo’s father wanted to sexually assault the poor girl just because he despised her very much. The children ran for help which came on time before the old man had raped her. Jane is always grateful to each person who ensured that justice was served. The old man was sentenced to life imprisonment after beating Jane and attempting to rape her. Pendo disowned and chased her away. Since then, Jane moves from one house to another trying to get people who can love, appreciate her for whom she is and become part of a family.

Jane is in her final year in secondary school after getting a sponsorship of four years. Her main goal is to become an advocate one day and protect defenseless girls just like her, love and mentor them. Through this story I was able to know that there are some challenges girls and women face in their lives. Although, Jane feels that life has been very unkind to her she is still hoping and praying that there is a light beyond every tunnel in her life. Jane is a strong girl who is growing up to become a great woman in her Society and Country. Her story is like a synonym of why it is difficult to be a woman.

Edith Nene.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016



Today, the world woke up to your day. But does the world know how far you have travelled. Does the world know the favour she owes you? Does the world even recognize how beautiful you have made it to be? The world knows. The world wants to celebrate this day with you. That’s why, as a representative of the world, I invoke all divine happiness so that you enjoy this day to its fullest.

For many years now, you have been the rock of my life. I remember when I could not move, when all seemed lost, you comforted me with some words of wisdom, and you even wiped my tears when I was crying. Without you, life would have been meaningless. But now, because of your warm love and affection, I am on my feet again.

When you came into my life, everything changed for the better. I do not know which divine magic you used but what I know is that when you came into my life, everything changed for the better. I join you in celebrating this day with warm love.
The birds will sing today, and I dedicate all their tunes to you. The sun will shine, but its entire warm rays are yours. For you are part of this great nature.
I salute your power! I bow to your focus and courage. You said NO to all comforts and leisure to be there for me. Am proud of you my sisters and I wish you a Happy International women’s day!!!!

Article by Esther Mbete
RCWG Staff/Alumni