Nathalie Ndongo-Seh: How I built my career in the United Nations (UNOAU)

Nathalie Ndongo-Seh is the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has been recently appointed as the Resident Coordinator in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

Ms. Ndongo-Seh is a former Attorney-at-Law, who started her career with the UN in 2000 in East Timor as a Legal Officer and who, over the past 18 years, has accumulated a wide-ranging United Nations peacekeeping and political experience in Afghanistan, Liberia, Israel, Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, and Ethiopia.  

She has worked in the fields of peace and security; justice and rule-of-law; governance; partnerships building; institution-building; resource mobilization; ethics, conduct and discipline; and management.

Very soon, Ms. Ndongo-Seh will assume new responsibilities on the continent as a UN Resident Coordinator while leading a United Nations Country Team and coordinating UN operational activities for development.

Ms. Ndongo-Seh began her international career in the private sector in France, Cameroon and Ivory Coast. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Commercial Law; a Master’s Degree in International Law; and a postgraduate Degree in International Economic Law, all obtained from Pantheon-La Sorbonne University in Paris, France.


 

 ‘Women are not only mothers, caretakers, bread-winners, fighters, and survivors in the most challenging security circumstances: they are also key players in conflict prevention, mediation & building peace. They drive change and transformation every day’.

What was your ambition growing up?

 

My parents told me that at a young age, I wanted to be a chef and afterward, a social worker taking care of street children. At the age of 11, I decided that I would become a lawyer – this never changed.

At the age of 15 or 16, I started shadowing friends and acquaintances of my parents working as lawyers, magistrates or judges.

I studied international law, graduated from La Sorbonne University in Paris and was admitted to the Bar in 1993 (first admission) and in 1995 (final admission after my apprenticeship).

Did you ever think you would end up in international affairs, or at the United Nations?

 

Yes, it had always been my goal to work at the international level.

I studied international economic law (along with international relations) and was trained to work as a lawyer in the corporate world or for international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or the African Development Bank (AfDB) on development projects, international contracts and agreements, litigation and so forth.

I also had a strong interest in the UN at that time and was thinking that I would apply for internships or short-term assignments with the UN.

Want to build a career in the United Nations? Read how Ms. Nathalie Ndongo-Seh became the (UNOAU) chief of staff. Click To Tweet

What was your path to working at the UN? What factors helped you along the way?

 

There was no path as such except for my interest in development, human rights, international justice, the rule-of-law and my determination to contribute to saving the world from ‘the scourge of war’.

I would say that it was a set of circumstances that facilitated my access to the United Nations. I was already working on continental issues when I started meeting and interacting with staff from the UN and other organizations that seemed to often have exciting careers and professional paths that coincided with my aspirations.

In 1999/2000, the UN opened new peacekeeping missions. I decided to apply for several vacancies while seeking advice and guidance from UN acquaintances on how best I could write my resume and prepare for the interviews.

Within a month, I was contacted by UN Headquarters for a brief interview and offered a Legal Officer position in East Timor with the UN Peacekeeping Department.

Recruitment procedures have since changed and, these days, the UN is drawing down missions more than it opens new ones. There are however several working opportunities throughout the UN system as a staff member, a consultant, a UN volunteer, or as an intern.

How does the UN compare with other organizations you have worked with?

 

I am privileged to have worked in various environments, including in a parastatal company, in the private sector and in a continental organization.

I have enjoyed and drawn life lessons from each experience. For now, the UN is the perfect fit for me as I have assumed a wide range of responsibilities at the senior leadership level in 8 countries.

 

Till date, I have attended several courses and received several pieces of training, which altogether have enhanced my knowledge, skills, and competencies. Also, I have been promoted and afforded opportunities to compete for positions, traveled the world, including to countries that I had almost never heard of prior to working for the UN.

During my time here, I have met individuals from different backgrounds and origins who have opened my eyes to social, political, economic, human rights, and community issues to which I may not have been sensitive to under other circumstances.

By working at the UN, I have encountered challenging situations that tested my resilience and at times my beliefs; and I have made friends who have become family.

 There are several working opportunities in the UN as a staff member, a consultant, a UN volunteer, or as an intern. Read more... Click To Tweet

Have you ever received a painful rejection in your career? How did you handle it?

 

Yes, rejection is a part of life and one that I have experienced several times in my career and that I may continue to experience in the future. Some are obviously more painful or frustrating than others.

Altogether, and when handled well, they make you a stronger, wiser, possibly more focused and more strategic person.

I have handled them at times with tears, silent disbeliefs, wisdom (sort of “well, that was meant for me; something better/bigger will come my way”), or while immediately putting the matter behind me, refocusing on my objectives, and counting my blessings.

But what is important to acknowledge in such situations is that we are human beings. One may cry, may decide to take half a day off from work, or burn steam and anger on the golf course or at the gym, may do some in-depth reflection or introspection if it helps and carry on in, hopefully, good spirits.

Rejection is not a death sentence: keep going; maintain your values, self-esteem, self-confidence and revisit your goals/objectives to set achievable ones. It helps to quote Nelson Mandela who said: “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Public Health Career anyone?: Buckle your seat belts

So a public health career is your choice, and you are you are ready to go? Here is a checklist that could facilitate the journey.

Pre-professional experience

Some say is the polite form of very polite form of getting your hands dirty. You may have heard this a gazillion times ‘Voila!’ A career in this field is not an exception to the rule. Get some practice of a profession before you embark on your studies.

‘Exposure before training, is this even possible?’ I hear you ask.

It is quite simple really, volunteer, take time to work as an intern, join a fellowship programme…put yourself out there

 There are plenty of organizations out there seeking volunteers and its unimaginable how the spirit of volunteerism not only creates a positive awareness about health but gets everyone involved. I did volunteer during my soul-searching period with a humanitarian organization, the Red Cross, and Red Crescent movement.

The range of health activities ranged from disaster management, health promotion, logistics in supplies delivery in areas with conflict, this sort of exposure enabled me to relate to the human needs during emergencies while giving me the chance to help others.

This was more than I could have asked for a soul-searching period but I digress. Getting back my point be willing to work in a team and the knowledge gained will be immense.

You could schedule this during the weekend, summer break or better yet take a couple days off during your holiday and take volunteer abroad placements… Volunteer Vacation!

Some internships may be paid while others unpaid. As a volunteer, the organization may cater to your needs such as meals, accommodation, laundry while others may not.

However, this should not deter you to remember the core of public health is service to humanity. You may be receiving way more in expertise than you are actually giving…. food for thought!

School vs Time

So exposure is off the bucket list and you need technical knowledge. You need to hit the books again. here are options to explore, most degree courses in public health contain compulsory units also known as core subjects, while non-degree certificate courses allow one to focus on what captures your interest like health promotion, emergency relief, outreach nutrition, climate change and health.

Here are some timelines undergraduate courses range from 3 to 4 years, graduate courses take 1 or 2 years and could lead ultimately to doctorate/ Ph.D., diploma and postgraduate certificate ideally will take 6 months to a year to study. And guess what! most institutions of higher learning are now offering various short courses which take up to 4 weeks ………so no excuses.

Time vs Location

So you have the time but you currently working…. wait… not so fast don’t hang in the boots just yet! There’s actually an answer to this dilemma. Get online!

Welcome to the era of digitization and take a moment to thank the worldwide web for this one.  You can study from the comfort of your home. What you get will be access to learning material, webinars with tutors from across the globe and my favorite discussions with other students from all over the globe just a click away.

Self -paced learning could not have come at a better time, be the holder of a verified certificate, earn your credits and pick a public health topic you wish to learn.

Location vs Fees

Start saving early if you wish to carry out your degree in Public Health, that said the amount of payment for education depends on the university you will be attending.

Some good news though most teaching institutions may have a scholarship database which is something you should explore. If you think online your organization could actually assist in your professional development.

Again take advantage of the free online courses. Some of the certificate in public health courses are free and offered by some of the top universities across the world.

Finally remember when in doubt, tap into your resources these include your mentor, a teacher in the field, an expert who has been out in the field get some coffee.

Hearing others experience could guide you in the Public field…ENJOY THE RIDE!


 If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.

Career Switch Up: From Corporate Attorney To English Teacher

From drafting contracts to drawing stars on the board. SLA contributor Alicia shares how she had a career switch. She went from being a Lawyer to moving to another continent to teach English.

The Lawyer Life

I had the privilege of doing my articles* at the largest law firm in Africa. This meant that I was tasked with substantive work from day 1. It was absolutely thrilling and I felt myself thriving on the stress and pressure of having impossible deadlines.

The days and nights were long but I was working with incredible people and the newness of the work kept me on my toes. I also found myself learning at a rapid rate given that my boss involved me completely.

It wasn’t exactly a scene out of “Suits” but it was a reality where I was surrounded by pencil skirts and cappuccinos and I loved it.

FYI: In South Africa in order to qualify as an attorney following completion of the degree, you are required to work for two years under an already qualified attorney and complete 4 exams.

SLA contributor Alicia @aly_alice_ shares how she switched careers from Lawyer to English teacher. Click To Tweet

Change Creeps Up On You

When I started off, I envisioned myself staying on at this law firm and going all the way to being a partner. I was eager and ambitious and ready for the required hard work. But something changed about halfway through my articles.

I went on holiday to South Korea to visit a friend who was teaching English there. I had always thought myself far too focused on climbing the corporate ladder to ever contemplate doing something like this but the idea of visiting and being able to glimpse her lifestyle seemed innocent enough.

The two weeks I spent in South Korea definitely flipped things on their head for me. The friend I had known in South Africa and who I had studied with somehow seemed completely transformed in this new environment.

I considered us to have similar personalities and found myself jealous of the changes I saw in her – she seemed to have no stress and seemed so much lighter and happier.

I found myself considering the impossible. What if I left this life as a corporate attorney to teach English overseas?

The moment the thought was planted, it began to bloom. I realized that doing something like this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. If I didn’t decide to do something this unconventional for me after articles then when would I ever be out of the box?

Of course, I was met with many concerned and confused looks when I announced my decision. Deciding to take a break from the law is not usual. But I knew it was the right thing for me to do because the idea simultaneously thrilled and petrified me.

What is the change from law to teaching English like?

If I consider my current day to day now as opposed to last year, it is absolutely chalk and cheese. Firstly my hours are delightful as they aren’t the typical 8 am to 5 pm.

I start work at 3 pm to 9 pm Wednesdays to Fridays and then I only work a full day on Saturdays and Sundays from 8.30am to 5.30pm. My “weekend” is now on Monday and Tuesday which works out perfectly since the city I decided to teach it is Shanghai.

Given its large population size, it is significantly easier to explore on a Monday or Tuesday rather than the weekend.

Prior to starting teaching, I never considered myself someone who would willingly surround themselves with children. So in a way, I think this was a good thing because I did not really have expectations of enjoying this when I came into it.

However, from the get-go, this job has been highly rewarding and fun and I have not regretted it for a moment. Being surrounded by children brings such a sense of fun to your day. They manage to find happiness in the smallest of things and that is just brilliant to be around.

I find myself smiling and laughing so much more! It is also incredibly rewarding when you feel like you have successfully gotten the material across during a class and see the sense of realization in their eyes.

Of course, there can and will continue to be moments of frustration. They are children after all and their attention spans are not necessarily equal to the length of the class.

But I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to make lessons more fun and interactive and capture their attention. Doing this benefits me in that it makes the lesson a lot more entertaining for me too!

Teaching English has also allowed me the flexibility to pursue my other interests such as learning another language (I am currently going for Chinese lessons) and writing. It is also incredible to live in another city that is so different from where I was brought up. This is its own “switch up” too!

A lot of change has occurred in a relatively short space of time in terms of my geography and occupation. I would not change a single aspect of it. I find myself waking up every day completely grateful for the life I have created for myself.

Teaching English has pushed me to be more patient and also be a more content and well-rounded person. I don’t know if this is a permanent career shift.

As I am challenging myself and I am happy, then Shanghai and teaching English is the right thing for me. 


 If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.

Choosing Home: Toluyemi Nathaniel shares her experiences Living in China, returning home and working with Softcom

As the perception continues to change on Africa’s one-dimensional portrayal as a struggling continent, the tide of brain drain from developing to developed nations is reducing as a growing number of highly skilled and educated Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians etc. flock back to their countries of birth after some time away.

They left, either as children with their immigrant parents or for study and early career opportunities. They return, in search of an identity, of bigger opportunities, to seek their roots, and determined to make a change. The countries they come back to are certainly the winners in this affair, as these are typically the very best and brightest.

Toluyemi Nathaniel remembers when she had the awakening moment of making the decision to return home to Nigeria. It was close to the end of her 2-year stay in China studying for a Master’s Degree in International Economics and Business.

In substantiating her refreshing sense of duty towards her country, Tolu reveals that she wasn’t forced to return because her program was over. This is a common occurrence in some cases and she had the chance to further her education there, but declined to.

Curious to understand how she found herself in China in the first place, Toluyemi talks about the reasoning behind the decision to leave for that particular country. She also talks about the period of her stay in China, her return back home, and her work as a Procurement Administrator at Softcom.


For me, I just had to come back. I love Nigeria and I can’t imagine being somewhere else for so long without itching to return - Toluyemi Nathaniel Click To Tweet

Was it your choice to go to China or was it out of your control?

 

“Deciding to go to China was 100% my choice. It was actually my first time out of the country, but I didn’t want something familiar, which is what the UK or America would’ve been for me. In fact, immediately after I got there, there was this episode at the airport where there was a mix up with me reclaiming my luggage.

Officials gathered trying to solve the problem, but they were all speaking Chinese, which I didn’t understand at the time. This didn’t frighten me, but instead did the opposite; I was, in fact, more interested to understand the language.

In its own way for me, it was about fulfilling a sense of adventure I’d long craved. I’m a thrill seeker at heart, so China was a place I really looked forward to living in”.

Tolu’s take on a seeming over-familiarization of foreigners with Western culture is valid in the growing sense that with its global connection, European culture has grown with an all-inclusive urge to adopt, adapt, and ultimately influence other cultural trends around the world.

In comparison to a country with a rich cultural history and background still waiting to be explored by most, it’s understandable why the Asian country will be a better pick to experience an original cultural adventure.

It’s all well and good, however, the intricacies of living as a minority in the most populated nation on earth remains a reality that can’t be written off. Last year, Quartz published a comprehensive report on a growing fear in some parts of China of a “black invasion bringing drugs and crime” due to the increasing number of African migrants.

What it’s like studying and living in China as a young black Nigerian woman?

 

“That can honestly be a bit tricky to navigate because the Chinese aren’t used to seeing black people. They are almost fascinated when they see one, and still do things like rubbing a black person’s skin, asking if it is ‘dirt’. I’ve had a few people do that to me.

Sometimes, they just stare at you because they’ve never seen someone like that before. In my case, I was fortunate because Tianjin (where I stayed) has one of the highest percentages when it comes to the number of different national ethnicities.

I met other Africans, and some of my classmates were black people. There are blatant cases like when cars don’t wait to pick you up, or when I was told to “sound American” at an interview trying to get a job as an English tutor on campus.

As an African woman living in China, there’s this contention of you constantly trying to decide if it’s racism or simply ignorance which I guess is the same for most black people there.”

Overt displays of racism from locals can be too much to handle for some living in the diaspora. For these people, the danger of being targeted by racial violence can be the deal breaker between settling and returning home.

Tolu, however, insists that she doesn’t regret her decision to move there, and says she’s gained a new perspective on some issues because of some of her encounters.

Majority of the population being dominated by people who’ve gained some know-how in important areas of technology Click To Tweet

“There’s a lot of how things are done over there that will be strange to us. There are things we can copy and a couple of things we shouldn’t copy. It’s a fascinating array of differences in culture and practice that if a balance can be found, a lot of problems will be solved. But the process of finding that balance comes with the firsthand participation in a challenging change to one’s conventions and ideas of the world.”

The case for diaspora-return driven development in Nigeria is compelling, and the advantages cannot be denied.

“All I kept thinking of was how much can I change over there? I just feel sometimes, it’s more difficult to change things you haven’t experienced. Everyone that has made a change in this country is people that lived through the Nigerian story and made up their mind to change things when given the opportunity. I decided to join that group.” she continues

Returnees come to represent a bridge of the ever-widening knowledge gap, finding solutions to knotty problems with more sophisticated approaches due to an experience of both worlds. With Nigeria’s labour force on a perpetual rise – National Bureau of Statistics says it increased from 83.9m in Q2, 2017 to 85.1m in Q3, 2017 – the majority of the population being dominated by people who’ve gained some know-how in important areas of technology and systems will be key in furthering economic progress in the country.

For her own part, Tolu works as an Admin and Procurement Associate at Softcom Ltd, a company which has the pungent line of “Engineering to enhance the way we live, learns and work in Africa” as part of its Solutions Portfolio.

While the parallels are present, the difference in her educational background in Economics and Business and her current job role is still conspicuous. I tried to find out about how she found herself in this line of work, what the role entails, and what a typical day at work is like for her.

What does working in Procurement/Operations mean in the tech world?

“I had the opportunity to start my Ph.D. even after getting back to Nigeria but I declined because I wanted to work. When job opportunities in Business weren’t forthcoming, I took on the challenge of working in Admin & Procurement, a role I wasn’t so familiar with prior to that point.

But it’s been amazing because I have learned so much on the job and now I’m just working towards being the best I can be at it. In Admin, the objective is to ensure there is a smooth operation of activities in the office.

Responsibilities can range from automating the monitoring of various activities and contracts to coordination and management of administrative issues like hygiene & welfare. Generally, admin is more concerned with making the work environment much more conducive to boost productivity levels.

As a Procurement Associate, I’m equally tasked with being responsible for all the purchases at Softcom. In a tech company, this includes project-specific materials which involve negotiating with external vendors to secure advantageous terms”.

My background in business has come in handy in executing some of my current job requirements - Toluyemi from @SoftcomNG Click To Tweet

While trying to understand the complicated landscape of Nigeria’s job market, a bit of background context is required. The country is included among the 10 fastest growing markets in the world, but still faces the problem of an overcrowded labor market that’s made gainful employment a premium in recent years.

Tech companies like Softcom meanwhile have taken advantage of the explosion of Nigeria’s digital economy, seeing the sector as an avenue to tap into a rapidly urbanizing population of about 80 million people, whilst providing solutions to issues and sustainable employment to citizens.

An important point of note is that Tolu talks about how the Nigerian job market remains a slippery slope to navigate for women, especially in tech.

Despite extolling Softcom’s value of commitment to diversity, she is under no illusions and is affirmatory when she answers “I honestly don’t think we are that much” to my question about how many women she thinks exists in tech spaces these days.

Gender disparity isn’t peculiar to the tech sector, but stats point to a decline in the percentage of women in computing-related occupations since 1991.

It’s a problem felt across the board, as women in tech still face significant barriers in the workplace; from a shortage of women role models to inequitable pay gap to persistent gender bias that nearly 90% of them say they have experienced. I got a few of Tolu’s thoughts on what she thinks the future holds for women in tech.

I’d love to see more little girls in computer classes - Toluyemi from @SoftcomNG Click To Tweet

Oh!! Those nerves: 6 ways to deal with nervousness at job interviews

“I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I am nervous, I know I am going to put on a good show” – Beyonce Knowles.

I have (like most people) experienced nervousness at one point or another. Especially when at a place or situation that needs you to create an impression to someone or group of people you are meeting for the first time.

The feeling encountered takes on many forms. It could be a rumbling stomach, sweaty palms, distorted speech, temporary memory loss, shaky feet, rambling, fear, unable to smile, dry mouth, heart beats too fast, breathing issues and some form of tiredness to some.

Nervousness can affect the most confident and prepared person. Dealing with it takes awareness of the likely symptoms and an understanding of how to mange them so that it does not get the better of you.

Try this 6 tips to overcome the nerves

1. Prepare

A lot of what we do centers on preparedness, and an interview process isn’t left out. Take the time to practice and organize your thoughts. You can role play with a friend/partner/expert, research on the role, company, job description, practice your answers to likely questions.

You should also note down key talking points as well. Think of it this way – if you study for an exam to pass it, why do you think studying to ace an interview isn’t necessary?

2. Pause

Interviews are what they are. Have the understanding that you are in a conversation to show your eligibility for that role. And when you find yourself forgetting what was asked or you have no idea what the answer may be, because the nerves have kicked in,  just pause.

Take a minute to think things through and collect your thoughts before launching in again to answer the questions.

3. Please, breath! 

I mean this literally. Shortness of breath can also be from trying to hold your breath in so that you can just rush out those words. This can make you get more agitated.

We need you alive after the interview so please breath in and out while taking the time to respond. If you are offered a glass of water, accept it. You may need it if you experience dry mouth.

4. Ask the question again

This is a statement you should get used to. Do not feel it is a crime to request that the interviewer repeats him or herself. It does not make you look or sound dumb.

For clarity purposes, ask for the question again especially if you know you did not understand it at first. It is better to do this than to assume and ramble on or talk off the mark.

5. Your arrival matters

Following on from point number 1, get yourself ready and check you have the exact location for the interview. Have the appropriate wardrobe and grooming you need to appear presentable.

You need to have details of the office phone number (in case you need to ring in for an emergency), the method of interview, time zones (where applicable), the job/role information on who you are to meet.

Aim to arrive 10-15 mins early so that you can relax, calm down, have a chit-chat with those you see at the building or simply collect your thoughts.

6. Take notes

Summarise and note down at least 5 things you need the interviewer to know about you. List any questions you may have that needs more clarity, jot down points as they answer your questions.

This points back to preparation.

Remember that interviews are an evaluation of your suitability for that role/job at that particular point in time.

Many factors inform the decision of the recruiter so never exit an interview feeling like a failure and always put in your best at all times.


 If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.

FACEBOOK LIVE WITH ANULI OLA-OLANYI: CAREER HACKS FOR MILLENIALS (JUNE 26)

Hello, millennials!

You’ve probably received advice on how you can “build a more successful career” from a handful of people. However, very few people give a break down of how you can advance yourself, or what to do when you face a challenge, like when your boss is not paying you what you’re worth – sounds familiar?

Designing a career you’re passionate about or deciding on a career path can be challenging, and the chances of getting a good class that can really teach you how to do that are slim.

Well, with a few career hacks, you can take small steps every day that will bring you success in the long run and that’s why you don’t want to miss this discussion!

Join us on Tuesday, June 26th, for a Facebook Live chat with Añuli Ola-Olaniyi, founder of HEIR Women Development, who will be giving advice on how to achieve the ultimate career for yourself.

Añuli believes women are strategizing to become empowered and rule the world alongside men. She has effectively delivered cutting edge training that has elevated people both in their professional and personal life.

Design the ultimate career with @anuliolaolaniyi, founder of @heirwoman on June 26th at 1PM WAT! Click here for more: bit.ly/AnuliOla Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • So you got the job, now what?
  • Career habits to avoid
  • How to maintain career capacity
  • How to handle job rejection

Facebook LIVE details:

Date: Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Time: 1PM Lagos // 2PM Joburg// 3PM Nairobi

Watch Facebook Live with Anuli:

She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Anuli Ola-Olaniyi, founder of @heirwoman, discussing career hack for millenials. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join!

Posted by She Leads Africa on Tuesday, June 26, 2018

About Anuli

Añuli Ola-Olaniyi is the founder of HEIR Women Development, an enterprise created to support young women in capacity and skills building in a career.

Prior to this, Anuli began her career at John Lewis Partnership UK and she is currently the Deputy Managing Director of HM Ltd, ED of DV Solutions NG and an Advisory Board Member of the Women in Leadership Institute (WLI).

With a wide range of experience across a number of different sectors and having completed tasks for high profile companies, Anuli graduated from the University of Ibadan with a BSc in Psychology and holds a Masters in Human Resource Management from Middlesex University UK.

A believer in continuous professional and personal development, Anuli is a CIPD certified Human Resource Professional as well as a qualified Prince2 Practitioner in Project Management. She also holds certifications for Gender studies from the UN Women Training Centre.

PMP trained, Anuli is currently working towards her certification from PMI Institute.

 

Meet Oxfams Humanitarian Superwomen Making Local Change

While humanitarian work is often portrayed as “Westerners” coming to provide aid, it’s often “local” people who do a big part of the important field work. This is because they understand the context better. 

Here are three young women who are inspiring us with their humanitarian work. While working with Oxfam, they sometimes spend weeks working in remote areas to ensure aid is provided to vulnerable communities and families. 

In this interview, we learn more about Oxfam’s humanitarian superwomen who are working hard on the field to bring impact to their societies. 


Tell us about your job

Umulkhair: I am currently a Food Security Officer working for Oxfam in Somaliland. I love my job because besides delivering food and creating livelihoods to people in need, I get to change the way communities view Muslim Somali women.

Gloria: My first ambition was to become a doctor but I instead became a water and sanitation engineer. As a WASH coordinator for the Burundi Refugee Response Program in Tanzania, my work includes conducting topographical surveys in villages.

I also design and supervise the construction of water supply systems to ensure that people don’t get sick from sanitary issues. Finally, I am a leading advocate for HIV/AIDS and women’s rights in my community.

Aimeline: I joined Oxfam in 2011 and have since been working as a Public Health Engineer assistant in South Kivu, DRC.  I was inspired to join the humanitarian field so that I could save lives and make a difference in people’s lives. For the last 5 years, I’ve made an impact on building springs and waste latrines for communities.

Gloria Kafuria

As a local NGO worker,what makes you special?

Umulkhair: Despite all the challenges the country is facing, my work at Oxfam provides me with a platform to give hope to people in need. We try to show people that both the local and international NGO world is aware of their suffering and are trying the best to provide relief.

Gloria: It feels different and great to show your own people that it’s possible to make a real difference. More than that, I feel that as a Tanzanian and Swahili speaker, I can relate better to the problems for the host communities.

Umulkhair Mohamed

Have you faced any challenges in the humanitarian field?

Umulkhair: One challenge I’ve faced is the pastoralists lack of support and confidence for young women. However, though they often believe women should lead men when they see our achievements, they apologize for their judgment.

Gloria: I also encountered difficulties leading men as a young female engineer. Many times, it felt as though I was trying to prove myself. Luckily, I had support from Oxfam which places gender equality at the center.

Aimeline: Working in sensitive areas has been difficult. One of these difficulties I faced is the fear of the unpredictable. Recently, in my current zone of intervention, the Tanganyika region, there were ethnic conflicts leading to the displacement of nearly 600,000 people. Safety is always a concern.

Aimeline Elukesu

What is it like spending significant time away from home?

Umulkhair: As a young, Somali woman, it was difficult to enter the humanitarian field because we often spend many days away from our families in remote areas. Though my father supported me, other family members were critical of this lifestyle.

Gloria: It has been tough to see all family members together and you are the only one away. But knowing that I need to support our communities with food insecurities and emergencies has helped me persevere.

Aimeline Elukesu

How has this job shaped and inspired you?

Umulkhair: This job built my self-confidence and made me have a positive impact on people’s lives. Dealing with communities who don’t have confidence in young women has also made me more mature.

I also get very inspired by the people I meet on the field. Recently, I met two divorced women who had children but no source of income. After participating in an Oxfam training and receiving a start-up kit, they started their own shop. This helped them send their children to school.

Aimeline: A few victories here and there have truly inspired me to keep going. One of my first victories was when I mastered the operation of the gravity water supply and motor adduction. I had also learned how to build latrines that improved the protection of people against waterborne diseases such as Cholera or Typhoid fever.

Gloria Kafuria

Any advice for young women wanting to work with NGO’s?

Gloria: Working with these organizations starts with getting good grades. However, it’s important to work hard and deliver the best. You should also try and find support or guidance from women in the NGO-sector. Because of the gender imbalance in many African societies, it’s important that we support each other as women.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

WEBINAR WITH ABOSEDE GEORGE-OGAN: THE RISE OF WOMEN IN POLITICS (MAY 30)

For as long as we’ve known, politics has been viewed as ‘a big boys thing’ and not for women. Well, guess what world? It’s time to take a step back because ladies wanna play too!

From leading political organisations to being at the centre of political movements across the continent, women are increasingly taking charge of the political platform.

Admirable examples of #MotherlandMoguls in politics include Bostwana’s 29- year old, Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, who was recently appointed as Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry and Nigeria’s Ms. Rinsola Abiola, President of the APC Young Women Forum (amongst other titles) – the list goes on!

But let’s be honest! Even though there has been a rise in the number of women in legislatures across the continent, more work still needs to be done to integrate women into ‘political governance’.

That being said, ladies get in formation…let’s talk about building a fulfilling political career!!

To learn more, join us on Wednesday, May 30th for a webinar with Abosede George – Ogan, who is the Chief Facilitator of Women In Politics NG, as well as the Director, Strategy, Partnerships and Stakeholder Management at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. Abosede will be sharing useful nuggets on what it takes to build a successful career in politics.

Kick start your career in politics with @abosedea on May 30th at 11 AM WAT! Click here for more: http://bit.ly/BoseOgan #WomenInPolitics Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Why you should be interested in politics
  • The building blocks to pursuing a career in politics
  • Types of jobs available in the field of politics
  • Advice on how to build a successful political career

Webinar Details:

  • Date: Wednesday, May 30th, 2018
  • Time: 11AM Lagos // 12PM Johannesburg // 1PM Nairobi
  • Location: Register below to get access to this opportunity

Watch here:

About Adebose

Abosede George-Ogan is a tri-sector leader with over 14 years’ experience working across the non-profit, private and public sector as a development professional.

She is the Chief Facilitator at Women In Politics NG, an online platform that seeks to engage, encourage, equip and empower women especially young women to get involved and participate in politics in Nigeria. In addition to this, Abosede is currently the Director, Strategy, Partnerships and Stakeholder Management at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund.

Abosede began her career in development over a decade ago with ActionAid International Nigeria. From here, she moved on to lead Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Citizenship for Keystone Bank, FirstBank and Samsung Electronics West Africa respectively.

Likewise, Ms. George-Ogan has a degree in Political Science/Public Administration from Igbinedion University and an MSc in Communication for Innovation and Development from the University of Reading.  

She is also the author of the recently launched book, “Building a Conscious Career: How to build a fulfilling and financially rewarding career”. For more information about the book, you can visit www.consciouscareer.com.ng.

 

How to deal with that job you don’t like

So you managed to get through school. You aced that interview! The excitement of finally being part of the workforce and getting that paycheck is giving you a rush.

But as you slide into your work routine you start to realize something awful,  you hate your job. As the initial excitement of winning the job search fades you may realize things aren’t what you expected or you are overwhelmed.

How do you survive such a situation? 


 

Breathe

Becoming an adult is quite a daunting task, with so many things to balance and learn. When you add a job to this mix, it can feel overwhelming.

The first thing you need to do it take a deep breath. Try to wrap your head around what’s happening it your life.

Focus on the positive

It’s easy to have a bad day when you’re only focused on the bad things. I hate to sound like your mother, but you need to begin counting your blessings one by one.

What are the perks of your job? What do you enjoy? When you look at it this way, you will discover that perhaps your job is not all bad.

Be Realistic

There’s a long list of reasons why you might hate your job. Some common reasons are the salary, the hours and superiors. But sometimes, you really have to be realistic about your job.

You can start by finding out what salaries are in your field. This will help you understand that you can’t expect to be earning top manager salary on your first day.

Secondly, you may also feel as though your boss is out there to get you. But ask yourself, is he really up to that? Is there something that you perhaps need to do better?

Consider other factors

If you’re staying up late every night to catch up on daytime soaps or not eating properly, you’ll probably be constantly exhausted. Make sure you’re taking care of your body, your mind, and emotions.

Feelings can heavily affect your system. If logistics is a problem try carpooling or taking alternative transport, or leaving home a bit earlier to avoid traffic.

Wait it out

They say time fixes all problems. Sometimes the best solution is to wait it out. Maybe you just need more time to adjust.

On the hand, sometimes it may be time to move on from that job. While waiting it out, you can begin searching for other opportunities or perhaps even start that business you’ve been thinking of.

Whatever you decide, you need to make concrete plans that will guide your next steps. This will ensure that you don’t end up in the same situation again.

Communicate

If something else is really bothering you, maybe it’s time to speak to whoever is in charge. Try explaining to them what the issues are without whining, be clear and concise. Be cautious about how much information you share though.

Learn from it

If you do decide to move on, make sure you take everything as a learning experience. Understand why things didn’t go so well. Know what you want from your next job. How would you negotiate your hours and pay?

Finally, don’t let your current situation weigh you down. In order to grow, we need to go through rough patches that will help us fully grow.

This article was written by Love AkinkunleLove is an African writer, content creator and victim of wanderlust. She works in PR, event management, and tour management when there’s writer’s block.


If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.

Alice Gathekia: Young People Need to Step Up and Take Their Rightful Place

On Paper, Alice Gathekia is the perfect match for any legal department in corporations. She has worked for the Law Society of Kenya and with COMESA Court of Justice.

However, despite her consistent efforts dropping her application in town, she remains unemployed. She founded Kenya Youth Professionals with fellow youths that were facing the same plight in an effort to fight for better employment for young people.

Why does the youth need to step up now?

“Our government had promised about 30% of employment slots to youths in their campaign manifesto. This includes formal employment or tender allocation. It is time we held them to their promises.” She says.

Alice is the deputy director of Kenya Youth Professionals (KYP) and has petitioned the members of National Assembly on the issues that plague the youth in general when seeking employment.

This includes a reduction in experience in the job descriptions put out to give the youth a chance. She is also keen on getting a youth-friendly Principle Secretary in the Youth Docket to deal with Youth Affairs, and reduce the amount of government certification is needed prior to an interview.

When asked the major issues that have inhibited youths from getting jobs, she says without hesitation that the absence of generational change is a major cause. It has impeded the youth from accessing opportunities ideally designed for them.

The advanced retirement age and the scarcity of jobs leave the incoming youth out of the employment slots given that there are genuinely no jobs to go for. The lack of mentorship has also led to the degradation of the employment scene.

This scarcity accelerates corruption as well, which, to be honest, is really a buzzkill in Africa’s economy.

It is time for the youth to step up and take their rightful place Click To Tweet

Alice’s faith in the Kenyan youth

Alice described the Kenyan youth as innovative, creative, and hard working. To her, it is really wrong that there is an unfair distribution of jobs despite the qualifications. She believes that it is time young people fight for their space in the political, economic and social world.

She believes that once given the chance, the youth is equal to the task of leadership.  After all, young people have more to lose in the future if they make wrong decisions.

This motivates Alice to spend her time petitioning the government institutions to fight against the odds that are stacked against the Kenyan Youth.

What are the challenges she encounters?

Some of the challenges she and her team face includes the politicising of the agenda. Some rival groups and ill-willed people often accuse the group of having a political ‘Big brother’.

This is a conditioning of the political mindset where people fail to realize that young people can fight as well as wage wars against systems set in place discriminate against the youth. This campaign aims at ensuring that the youth catch up from previous injustices visited upon them.

For her, this is a lifetime mission not only in Kenya but also in Africa in general. It is time for the youth to participate in making decisions that will benefit them in their future rather than a span of short time.

This does not need to be the grandest action and a simple start can go a long way.  It is time for the youth to step up and take their rightful place. KYP stands by their motto: “Nothing for us without us”.

A normal day for Alice

Alice wakes up about 6 am, and her morning routine often involves putting herself together (which includes makeup because…why not).

She travels to the city, and depending on the day, spends several hours in meetings discussing the issues that surround youth employment and how to resolve them.

Alice intends to globalize this movement, which, to her and the rest of us, is a few years late.

Alice Gathekia is the modern day Khaleesi of Youth Revolution Click To Tweet


Got an article you’d like to share with us? Share your story with us here.