Sunday 16th April, 2006


Female leadership

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Dr Musimbi Kanyoro

By Camille Bethel

Dr Musimbi Kanyoro’s passion to promote the leadership of young women, is driven by her vision for social change. The charismatic Kenyan wife and mother of two, holds many voluntary leadership roles in non-governmental organisations and is considered an expert in the area of volunteerism.

Kanyoro has been the world general-secretary for the Young Women’s Christian Association for the past seven years. She recently visited Trinidad and Tobago and took some time to share her views and experiences with WomanWise. She talked about, not just her role as a leader, but the role of women in making other women leaders.

“There are two strong points of women being in leadership. I see them as being more prepared to learn and as individuals who are already managers of families,” Kanyoro said, “When we become leaders, many of the issues we care for are those which affect the society on the ground. Issues of the well-being of children and of community are really issues of human dignity. And I think that whether we are political leaders or media leaders, these are issues that come with us; they don’t drop off when we become leaders.”

Kanyoro, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland with her family, is a recognised public speaker who has sought to empower women and girls to lead social and economic change around the world since her appointment at the World YWCA. Her life of volunteerism began as a child back in Kenya. The YWCA general-secretary, who comes from a family of seven children, said her parents treated each of them as individuals.

“As children, we were involved in many different clubs and camps, which is what I think helped us to be strong,” she said.

Kanyoro got involved in the YWCA in Kenya as a teen. There, she came to realise the importance of youth camps because they taught about leadership. She was one of those who was given duties and thus learnt at an early age the importance of being responsibile.

“We saw what was happening in politics in our country and the apartheid system in South Africa, which was far away and this gave us something global. But we were a colonised country, so it brought that consciousness to us of what was taking place, not just in Kenya. Those were the things that inspired me to think of the world beyond me,” said Kanyoro.

Her children are also involved in various clubs.

“I really believe that it is important for young people to have a social life that involves them in social action beyond academics,” she said.

When she left Kenya and went on to do her graduate studies in New York, she knew that one day, she would return home.

“It was important to me to get back home to work,” she said.

Back in Kenya, Kanyoro taught at the university, worked as a linguistic consultant for the UN, acquired her PhD in linguistics from the University of Texas in 1980 and a doctorate in ministry from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1999.

“I did nothing with the Y for a number of years and when I returned, it was on the invitation of this position,” she said.

Kanyoro, who is also the president of the World Association of Christian Communication and ISIS Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange, has made recognised contributions in the fight against HIV/Aids. She is the co-ordinator of the 400-member Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians and is also a member of the international Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

In addition to serving on the International Planning Group on HIV/Aids and other faith-based organisations, she is on an advisory panel for Alan Guttmacher Institute which focuses on protecting new generations from HIV infection.

Kanyoro has written more than 100 articles and nine books which have been published throughout her career.

Her accomplishments are examples of what women as leaders can accomplish and her commitment to creating women leaders is something she plans to continue doing as long as she is alive and well.

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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