Dedication: Elizabeth Lule
The year was 1997 and I had worked for Pathfinder International for 6 years in Program Administration and I loved my job. At the beginning of that year, my husband got a Post-Doctoral Fellowship opportunity in Glasgow, Scotland that would last 3 years. Our baby son was 7 months old. We talked about it and decided that we would all move to Scotland for the next 3 years. I prepared myself for life as a stay at home mum for the next 3 years, maybe with another child by end of it.
A month before my departure, I submitted my resignation and went to have a word with the then Regional Director. She looked at me as a mother would a little girl and asked, “Is this what you really want to do?” I replied in the affirmative and she said she was happy for me. She then proceeded to give me advice that helped to open my eyes to a different way of doing the same thing. She advised me not to resign but to request for unpaid leave for 1 year, which was the maximum I was allowed at the time. She asked me to spend that year identifying a suitable Masters’ program while also getting a feel of what the life in the UK had in store for me. If by the end of the year, I wanted to come back home, my job would still be waiting for me but if I decided I could pursue my Masters’ degree program then I could resign with her blessings and request for my an early pension to go towards part of the fees for my studies.
Those words not only opened my eyes to an opportunity to advance my studies and by extension, my career, but they gave me a feeling of being appreciated and loved. I felt that my work over the past years had been given a stamp of approval and I was worthy of further consideration. An older, successful and experienced woman saw what I could not see ahead and decided to encourage me to think beyond my immediate world. In a sense she was saying, “I believe in you; you can do it.” She did not stand to gain in any way from whatever I decided to do but she saw something in me and reached out and committed to helping me.
I did go to Scotland and I did enrol for a Masters’ in Business Administration, majoring in Strategic Management…and yes I did graduate in November 1999 with an MBA. When I returned to Kenya 3 years later, I got a job as a Program Manager. I have worked in similar positions since and I know I would not have made that leap without the gentle and encouraging words I received.
Over the years, I have sought to be a voice of encouragement to young girls and women wherever I meet them. I have committed to be a mentor to as many as will be brought my way so that in a small way through my words and life they can find hope, believe in themselves and shoot for the best they can be.
“Elizabeth Lule, I appreciate and salute you!”