Under the baobab tree

Do you recall those high school days when we would fight tooth and nail to be on the funkie list? ‘Funkie’ is slang for functions taking place at other schools, which are very common in Kenyan high schools. While others were on the verge of giving up their meager pocket money just to be on the ‘funkie’ list, some people were unbothered because either way, they would attend the functions in the name of the journalism club.

I was one of those people.

Years later, I am still those people: Not as a journalism club member but in the capacity of a communications officer.

When I heard the call for the Leadup program was out, I desired to be part of the chosen few who would get the front-row seat in this peculiar leadership program. I was not among the short-listed people, but I wish to make it to the A-list next time. I desire for my leadership giant to be awoken and grit sharpened. A Classic scenario of the proverb, “If wishes were horses, beggars could ride.”

When I was told I would be attending this workshop as a communications person, I was elated. Finally, I get to get a glimpse of what this year-long training is all about!

In photos: Leadup participants during the workshop in Diani, Kenya.

The Maliasili facilitated LeadUp East Africa leadership program workshop supported by Blue Ventures, The Nature Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Network was held in Diani, Kenya and tacked representatives from 15 conservation organizations in Kenya and Tanzania from both the marine and terrestrial spectrums. The LeadUp Program, in the words of Maliasili’s senior portfolio manager East Africa, Akshay Vishwanath, was started “with a vision to help create great leaders for great organizations which Maliasili is supporting to manage natural resources to achieve impact in conservation strategically.”

So far, 114 leaders from 49 civil society organizations across 12 countries in east and southern Africa have been supported through Maliasili’s leadership programs.

For the two days I was in this forum, I savored every second of every minute of every hour I was here. There was a bucket load of lessons to learn, and I felt grateful that I was here. The exceptional facilitation by Maliasili made the complex and deep content relatable and exciting. I particularly enjoyed the intimate yet witty conversation about ‘The river of power’ led by Richard Ndiga, Senior associate – Maliasili, which compelled me to be introspective, confront my inner ‘demons’ and reflect on how my childhood and past experiences have shaped how I interact with people in power, the kind of power I project and how I use power.

Additionally, I learnt:

  1. The people around us influence how we relate to and exercise power.
  2. Leaders, too, need to learn to be followers.
  3. Self-awareness gives you the ability to understand others.
  4. Trust is not statistics: I cannot trust someone 100% or 50%. I either trust them or not.

When Anna Davis, Director of leadership programs at Maliasili, took the stage, I was reminded of the value of listening while giving attention to the other person to encourage the generation of ideas in them over listening to answer/interject.

Richard Ndiga- Maliasili making his presentation about the river of power
Leadup participants display a form of power (power with)

As I left Diani, I was overwhelmed by bittersweet emotions: I would miss out on the rest of the training. At the same time, I was extremely happy for the 30 participants (13 women; 17 men) 2 of whom are COMRED staff, who are part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I am grateful for the fantastic networking opportunity this engagement presented to me: For a Communications person in marine conservation like me, nothing beats meeting peers who relate to your work.

A big shout–out to Randall Mabwa, Regional communications officer for East Africa, Blue Ventures, and Josh Muya – Photographer. Working alongside you and learning new photography skills, videography, and interviewing techniques was an absolute honor.

Thank you, COMRED and Maliasili, for allowing me to be in this space to learn and hone my skills.

Photo credits: Catherine Muyonga

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