Caroline regularly contributes to ECOFORUM and Environmental Africa in addition to penning inspirational short stories. She is currently working on a novel and pursuing a Master’s degree in Global Health Delivery at the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali.
You are both a global health practitioner and a writer. How do you juggle your main hustle and your side hustle? Is there overlap in these seemingly disparate worlds?
My professional life in the global health domain matters a lot to me to feel fulfilled as a human being as this is my contribution to build a more just world. I enjoy sleeping at night knowing that I spent a day achieving a good goal. If I was ever asked to pick one job, it would be a hard decision because I am passionate about my work as well as my writing. I always feel lucky to live in a world that allows me to practice both.
When I believe in a cause or a profession, it becomes so easy to handle it because I understand why I invest every drop of energy and I ensure that I find time to juggle and work on my passions. The reason why I (agronomist and writer) smoothly fit in global health is because it is not and has never been an isolated technical field. Communication, writing, and public speaking are some of the key tools that allow me to be an effective advocate for global health issues. There’s still a huge need to write about these issues that are affecting humanity.
Agriculture, nutrition, and the environment are often overlooked aspects of health and wellbeing. Why are you passionate about these issues?
The simplest answer would be that I have an educational background in agriculture, rural development, and global health delivery. But the true answer is more complex.
Sometimes when we talk about good health, we think about the absence of diseases and when it comes to wellbeing, we picture cash in our minds! In Rwanda, communities of farmers are the first victims of climate change effects and of malnutrition. In the early days of my career, one of the startling realities I faced in the field was that farmer communities suffer from malnutrition while they produce all the beautiful and healthy food that we consume and consequently they face poor health outcomes. In my eyes, it was an obvious facet of social injustice that I had to dedicate my efforts to.
You work with Global Health Corps fellows in Rwanda, many of whom are new to the health sphere and even to living and working on the African continent. What’s been your most challenging experience in this role so far?
The biggest challenge of my work is to work with smart, energetic and result-driven young people who want to observe the impact of their fellowship right away. It requires a form of art to help them understand that once you sow a tree seed it takes days, weeks, and most of the time years to yield flowers and then fruits.
And your most rewarding?
The most rewarding part is to see fellows graduating from the fellowship as empowered, more resilient leaders who are ready to continuously change the face of poverty and inequity wherever they are heading. It is a true transformation!Caroline Numuhire says 'Don’t fear that there are so many human rights advocates already – they are not YOU' Click To Tweet
Professional women are often stereotyped and coerced into looking, acting and being a certain way. How do you stay true to yourself in the face of societal pressure to conform?
Oh, that’s a poisonous disease! Yes, we live in a society with predetermined norms. Yes, we want to experience the feeling of belonging. Yes, we have so many excuses, right?
In the last 20+ years of my life, I have played the card of likability. You know what? I lost, miserably. Just because I failed to please the only person who matters to me: myself. It’s so easy to be a submissive, scared, shy, soft, incompetent, slow, lazy woman (beauty being tolerated!) and be accepted, included and appreciated. But if your inner voice tells you that you are something else, then be exactly that person. For yourself. Don’t fear making men feel insecure because of their own weaknesses. It’s not your role. If you want to look sexy, smart and happy, be sexy, smart and happy. The formula is simple.
I intimately know that I’m an energetic, hard-working, empathic and imperfect girl and I totally, shamelessly and unapologetically embrace myself. What other people think of me is their own right but not a business I manage. A woman has to value herself and if you don’t know how you can start reading or watching Louise Hay’s meditation videos as well as learning about other women who understand the secret of true self-love.
What advice would you share with other young leaders who want to use their gifts to make a difference in the world?
First of all, work hard on your gift. The world will respect you if you respect your gift. We are all talented. God created us with tremendous reserves of amazing aptitudes and gifts. Just find your own, refine it and it will blossom to heaven.
Epictetus said, “If you want to be a writer, write”, so if you want to be a human rights advocate and you believe that this is your call, your life purpose, just do it. Just do it and dare to believe that only the sky can be a limit. We are all wonderful, we just have to see the wonder in us. Don’t fear that there are so many human rights advocates already –they are not YOU. They don’t hold your values. You are another highly valuable advocate among them. Our biggest enemy is that inner voice that criticizes us, or when we chose to trust other people’s negative criticisms. You have to intentionally shut their volume down, work on your gifts, and then the universe will grant you wisdom to shine.
From one Beyhive member to another, what’s your favorite Beyoncé song? What do you find empowering about her music?
Oh wow. I love all of Beyoncé’s music and certain songs become my favorite depending on my life weather. Currently, I am in love with “Grown Woman”. Because I also “remember being young, tough, brave, I knew what I needed, and… I can do whatever I want.”
I love Beyoncé because she is not only a performer, she is an empowered lady who empowers other women around the world. I play her music on YouTube, and think what a great beat for relaxation! When I am singing and dancing to her songs, I have the feeling that she understands me as a woman and she gets the personal and professional struggles I go through. Then, I smile because I know we could be friends and talk about women’s rights until 3 AM. I also watch her interviews. She empowers me and taught me the importance of beauty in a woman’s life. But most of all, I respect her because she works hard, gets up when she’s down, keeps progressing, is creative and competitive with herself, and she is so gracious!
What is one leadership mantra that you live by?
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” – Zig Ziglar
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