My leader Kenya was well represented by Judith Mwaniki, Deputy Programme Coordinator for Health at the event that took place Kenya Comfort Hotel Suites Milimani, Nairobi. Below is the description of the event.
1.1 Background and Objectives
Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL), was established in 2007 as a women rights nonprofit, nonpartisan and non- governmental organization. Partnering with My Leader Kenya and Emerging Leaders Foundation, WEL deemed it necessary to bring women leaders together for a mentorship workshop. The main aim of the workshop was to promote transformative leadership among women aspiring for political leadership positions, in the coming 2022 general elections. Moreover, the workshop was a platform to engage women who have ran for office before to share their experiences with women who are new entrants in the political scene. The mentorship workshop was also aimed at beginning a series of mentorship programs for walking with the women throughout their journey of leadership as they aspire for political positions in the next general election.
1.2 Synopsis and Discussions in the Workshop
The workshop begun with a brief introduction on what Women’s Empowerment Link does, which focuses on three strategic thematic areas, that are; Transformative leadership, Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls and Sustainable Livelihoods. With regard to the mentorship workshop, there were key implementation strategies that the facilitator took the participants through. These assist the organization in helping women leaders through their leadership journey. They included research, community education, capacity building, advocacy, male involvement, use of IEC material, collaboration and partnership building, movement building, mentorship and coaching. Each of these strategies were further elaborated with a few personalized examples to ensure that each leader can use them accordingly to meet their overall goals as they pursue leadership positions.
Mentorship/hand holding as part of the leadership journey was highlighted as a very important area for all aspirants. This is because mentors’ guidance and advice is invaluable to the growth of any leader. In addition, it was emphasized that a leader can have mentors at any stage and leaders should learn to talk with their mentors often as well as be good listeners.
Following this was a discussion on defining our roles as leaders. On this there was emphasis on how leaders can individually do things differently to create a larger impact in their societies and how each leader can use their skills and experience to lead and achieve their goals. On this, leaders were challenged to be purpose driven leaders and to identify their drives and purposes to continue having motivation to keep going. This closed with a quote from Madeleine Albright that, “Women in power can be counted on to raise issues that others overlook, to support ideas that others oppose, and to seek an end to abuses that others accept”
The participants were taken through other qualities of being transformational leader that included; being resilient because public office opens a leeway for public criticism and how a leader can handle this and bounce back after setbacks and adversities; having likeability qualities especially on how a leader connects with others; using prior life experiences to help one lead; being a leader who encourages cooperation and consensus by getting others on board with your vision to achieve a lot more and not being afraid to make difficult decisions which are sometimes inevitable in leadership.
The next topic was on profiling and visibility of women aspirants, which is dependent on geographical region, age, experiences of each individual woman leader. In this each woman leader was tasked to create their candidate profile, identify and be in a political party if need be, and develop a manifesto and a campaign plan and strategy. WEL suggested that each candidate develop each of the mentioned document and as an organization, they would assist in refining them to achieve their leadership goal.
Ultimately, advocacy in political leadership is crucial and formed part of the day’s deliberations. According to Charles de Gaulle, a French Statesman, “Politics are too serious a matter to be left to politicians.” Therefore, leaders were urged to invest in effective advocacy strategies which entail using media to shape public opinion, educating the public, lobbying decision makers, organizing constituency groups, conducting research , raising political awareness, and building coalitions among other activities.
This was concluded by a list of five free advocacy sources that would help the leaders have effective influence in their areas of leadership and these were:
The power of the people or citizens
The power of direct grassroots experience or linkages
The power of information and knowledge
The power of constitutional guarantees
The power or moral convictions
1.3 Experience Sharing by Mentors
The mentorship workshop also provided a forum that entailed sharing of experiences by mentor women who have vied for political seats previously as well as those currently in political spaces and other leadership positions. Each mentor provided words of encouragement to the aspiring leaders and there were many take-home pointers for them to be successful leaders in their future ventures.
Among the things said included, strategically positioning oneself for leadership by making a conscious decision to ASK, that is Asking, Seeking and Knocking. This entails leaders being proactive in seeking information and leadership forums to be able to grow in their leadership journey. Moreover, aspiring leaders should always strive to engage their communities at the grassroots and be visible through positive actions within their communities. The participating leaders were also challenged that they should always be catalysts for positive change, because adding value to something or people is not defined by age, status or gender. Aspirants were also encouraged to take care of their physical and mental health during their leadership journey as well as not to underestimate the power of family, friends, networks and collaborations.
1.4 Conclusions and Way Forward
The workshop concluded with a short plenary session led by a facilitator from Women’s Empowerment Link. The concluding remarks and way forward were that this was just the beginning of a series of workshops that would be conducted regularly to mentor women leaders.
This will also include walking hand in hand with the aspirants and help them in profiling their candidature and coming up with viable campaign strategies and plans to be better positioned for their leadership goals. Participants also requested if WEL could sometimes go with them to their communities to talk to the various youth and women groups or community based organizations, so that they can as well increase the visibility of the aspirants at the ground.
As a way forward, women leaders from My Leader Kenya also suggested that such empowerment forums should be shared regularly and they highly appreciated the opportunity of taking part in the educative sessions. In addition, it was proposed that MLK should have a banner at the workshop, as partners involved in organizing such a forum.