By Christine Sayo and translated by Paul Nganga Mutua
Very few people recognize the role that women play in environment conservation. Research shows that women are more heavily impacted by climate change and natural disasters. Yet, the media seems more keen to portray women as vulnerable victims of environmental disasters and rarely highlights the many innovative solutions that women – especially young women – are using to combat climate change.
In 2016, I attended the Africa Summit for Women and Girls in Tech Conference in Accra, Ghana. I was amazed by how many women and girls were leading various projects in technology. I was in awe as so many incredible speakers took to the podium to share their initiatives on making technology more friendly for women and girls. I too wanted to do something to make a difference in society through tech. My interest was sparked.
It was around that time that the Lets Do It (LDI) Foundation was looking for someone to lead their operations in Kenya. The position required someone with knowledge and skills in environment and technology to lead a project on data collection and mapping of trash points in order to inform clean up activities across the country. I did not hesitate to take up the position when they offered.
It’s been over a year now and I can confidently say this is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. My first task as the country coordinator for LDI Kenya was to test out the app. It was a really exciting to feel part of a crew that was working to change the world! Being able to contribute ideas and feedback for the app and eventually see the final product – the World Clean Up app – was an incredible experience.
Being a young woman in leadership has not been smooth sailing, though. There is pressure to always deliver the very best. Society tends to put women in leadership positions on much higher pedestals than their male counterparts so that one misstep makes people quick to generalize and argue that women should not be in charge. My best defense on such occasions is to ensure that my work speaks for itself.
Since taking on this new role, I have grown more confident and can now walk into meetings and address potential donors and partners without fear. I have come to greatly appreciate the women leaders I meet, as I now understand what it means to be a woman in leadership. I have met other women leading equally innovative projects and learned from their successes and challenges.
The greatest lesson I have learned so far is that, as a woman, if you are offered a platform to lead, it is important to use it as an opportunity to open doors for more young women to join you. I always encourage the young women on my team to attend meetings and speak out because I know how young women can be intimidated, silenced, and critiqued. As young women, we need not compete with each other, but work together to break the glass ceiling – not just for ourselves, but for the generations that will follow.
#YoungWomenSay is a collaboration between SayItForward.org and The Torchlight Collective in support of International Youth Day 2018 and culminating on International Day of the Girl. This campaign features blogs from incredible young women from around the world, and is designed to harness the power of storytelling and social media to drive attention to the lived experiences, dreams, and aspirations of young women around the world