By: Christine Sayo, Kenya
Translated by Paul Nganga Mutua
Very few people recognize the role that women play in environment conservation. Research shows that women are more heavily impacted by climate change and natural disasters. Yet, the media seems more keen to portray women as vulnerable victims of environmental disasters and rarely highlights the many innovative solutions that women - especially young women - are using to combat climate change.
In 2016, I attended the Africa Summit for Women and Girls in Tech Conference in Accra, Ghana. I was amazed by how many women and girls were leading various projects in technology. I was in awe as so many incredible speakers took to the podium to share their initiatives on making technology more friendly for women and girls. I too wanted to do something to make a difference in society through tech. My interest was sparked.
It was around that time that the Lets Do It (LDI) Foundation was looking for someone to lead their operations in Kenya. The position required someone with knowledge and skills in environment and technology to lead a project on data collection and mapping of trash points in order to inform clean up activities across the country. I did not hesitate to take up the position when they offered.
It's been over a year now and I can confidently say this is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. My first task as the country coordinator for LDI Kenya was to test out the app. It was a really exciting to feel part of a crew that was working to change the world! Being able to contribute ideas and feedback for the app and eventually see the final product - the World Clean Up app - was an incredible experience.
Being a young woman in leadership has not been smooth sailing, though. There is pressure to always deliver the very best. Society tends to put women in leadership positions on much higher pedestals than their male counterparts so that one misstep makes people quick to generalize and argue that women should not be in charge. My best defense on such occasions is to ensure that my work speaks for itself.
Since taking on this new role, I have grown more confident and can now walk into meetings and address potential donors and partners without fear. I have come to greatly appreciate the women leaders I meet, as I now understand what it means to be a woman in leadership. I have met other women leading equally innovative projects and learned from their successes and challenges.
The greatest lesson I have learned so far is that, as a woman, if you are offered a platform to lead, it is important to use it as an opportunity to open doors for more young women to join you. I always encourage the young women on my team to attend meetings and speak out because I know how young women can be intimidated, silenced, and critiqued. As young women, we need not compete with each other, but work together to break the glass ceiling - not just for ourselves, but for the generations that will follow.
Ni watu wachache sana wanaotambua mchango wa wanawake katika uhifadhi wa mazingira. Utafiti unaonyesha kuwa wanawake huathirika pakubwa na mabadiliko ya hali ya anga na majanga ya kimaumbile. Hata hivyo, vyombo vya habari mara nyingi huelekea kuwasawiri wanawake kama waathiriwa wa majanga yanayohusishwa na mazingira, bila kuangazia juhudi mbalimbali za wanawake, na hasa wasichana, katika kupambana na mabadiliko ya hali ya anga.
Mnamo mwaka wa 2016, nilihudhuria Kongamano la Wanawake na Wasichana Wapenda Teknolojia lililofanyika mjini Accra, Ghana. Nilishangazwa na idadi kubwa ya wanawake na wasichana wanaoongoza miradi mbalimbali ya kiteknolojia. Nilivutiwa sana na wengi waliotoa hotuba za kusisimua kuhusu jinsi ya kuifanya teknolojia kitu cha kuchangamkiwa na wanawake na wasichana. Niliingiwa na hamu kubwa ya kuchangia katika maendeleo ya kijamii kupitia teknolojia. Ilhamu yangu ikawa imepata mwamko wa ajabu.
Wakati huo ndipo Wakfu wa Let’s Do It ulipokuwa unamtafuta mtu ambaye angeongoza shughuli zake nchini Kenya. Nafasi yenyewe ilihitaji mtu mwenye ujuzi na uelewa wa mazingira na matumizi ya teknolojia ambaye angesaidia katika ukusanyaji wa data na kubainisha zilikokuwa sehemu za takataka kama njia ya kurahisisha uondoaji wa takataka hizo nchini kote. Sikuweza kukubali nafasi kama hiyo inipite.
Ni zaidi ya mwaka sasa na ninaweza kusema kwa hakika kuwa hiki ndicho kitu cha kuridhisha zaidi nilichowahi kufanya. Jukumu langu la kwanza kama kiongozi wa Wakfu wa Let’s Do It Kenya lilikuwa kufanyia majaribio kitumizi cha kiteknolojia cha shughuli za wakfu huo. Niliona fahari kuu kuwa miongoni mwa kundi lililofanya kila juhudi ili kuleta mabadiliko makubwa ulimwenguni. Kuweza kuchangia maoni na kutoa ripoti kuhusu mafanikio ya kitumizi hicho, jambo lililofanikisha kubuniwa kwa Kitumizi cha Kimataifa cha Usafishaji Mazingira, kulinipa furaha isiyomithilika.
Kuwa kiongozi wa kike wa umri mdogo hakujakuwa jambo rahisi. Unalazimika kuhakikisha kuwa kazi yako haina dosari. Jamii ina matarajio makubwa zaidi juu ya wanawake wanaoshikilia nafasi za uongozi kuliko katika wanaume. Pana mwelekeo wa kukashifu wanawake wanapofeli katika uongozi, jambo linalosababisha imani ya jumla kwamba wanawake hawawezi kuwa viongozi wazuri. Hivyo, nimejitahidi kufanya bidii ili kazi yangu iwe bora na kuniletea sifa nzuri.
Tangu nianze kutekeleza majukumu yangu katika Wakfu wa Na Tulitende, nimejiamini zaidi na sasa ninaweza kuhudhuria mikutano na kuwazungumzia wafadhili na washirika bila woga. Nimetokea kuwaheshimu sana wanawake wanashikilia nyadhifa za uongozi ninaokutana nao kwa sababu ninafahamu changamoto wanazokabiliana nazo wanawake katika uongozi. Nimeweza kuingiliana na wanawake wengine wanaoendeleza miradi mbalimbali na kujifunza mengi kutokana na ufanisi wao, na changamoto wanazokumbana nazo.
Kitu muhimu ambacho nimejifunza ni kuwa, kama mwanamke, ni vyema kutumia nafasi zetu za uongozi kuwafungulia njia wanawake wachanga ili nao waweze kujiendeleza. Napenda kuwatia moyo wanawake ninaofanya kazi nao kuhudhuria mikutano na kujieleza bila woga kwa sababu ninajua namna wanawake wachanga wanavyoweza kudhalilishwa, kunyamazishwa na kukashifiwa. Kama wanawake wachanga, hatuhitaji kushindana wenyewe
kwa wenyewe, bali kufanya kazi kwa pamoja ili kufikia kilele cha maendeleo, sio kwa ajili yetu tu bali pia kwa manufaa ya vizazi vijavyo.
#YoungWomenSay is a partnership with Say It Forward in support of International Youth Day 2018 and culminating on International Day of the Girl. The campaign features blogs from incredible young women from around the world, and is designed to harness the power of storytelling and social media to drive attention to their lived experiences, dreams, and aspirations.