10 Tips for Women Who Seek to Serve in Public Leadership

“Politics is essentially about solving the problem of the whole … Leadership is gender neutral” ~ Dr. Oby Ezekwesili

At a time when the world has been driven into introspection, as our civilisation adapts to the realities of the fourth industrial revolution, we find ourselves at the ideal point to revise woman participation in global reformation. To evaluate the reasoning behind our systems that limit the potential of women, and participate in the creation of new ways of thinking and living. Leadership, of any kind, is a focal point for social change. It is necessary, then, for us to maximise the number of women interested and involved in it. 

On the 2nd of February 2021, The AL for Governance Network hosted its second forum in the Women In Public Leadership series. This campaign was launched to highlight the amazing work of various African women in Public Service, as well as equip our young female leaders with practical lessons on the journey to public leadership. The moderator of this session was the impressive Abii-Tah Bih ‘14, current Student Body President at Michigan State University.

Abii-Tah Chungong Bih ‘14 is a senior in James Madison College with a double major in international relations and comparative cultures and politics. Bih is from Cameroon and serves as the 2020-2021 undergraduate student body president. Image Credit: MSU Today.

The extraordinary panel consisted of:

Director Thapelo Phuthego: The Director of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs of Botswana and Former Deputy Manager within the Presidential Office.

Mrs. Jacqueline Mogeni: The CEO of the Kenyan Council of Governors, Founding member of the Coalition on Violence Against Women and Recepient of the Presidential Award Moran Order of the Burning Spear (2013).

Deputy Minister Emma Theofelus: The Deputy Minister of ICT of Namibia recognised as one of Africa’s Youngest Cabinet Ministers and One of 100 Most Influential African Women (2020).

Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili: Former Minister of the Education of Nigeria, Former Presidential Candidate, Former Vice President of the World Bank Africa Division,  and current founder of The School of Politics, Policy & Governance Nigeria.

Below are 10 tips shared by our panel for women interested or involved in public leadership:

  1. Lead Yourself
    Live by personal values that you would like to see implemented communally. One of the best ways you can implement change is by practicing it in your own life, and leading by example.
  1. Affirm Your Passion
    Public service is not a simple path to follow. While a great opportunity for social reformation, it will come with its share of hardships. It is therefore important that you affirm your interest in public service beforehand. 
  1. Dare to Dream, and Dream Big
    If you know you have the passion, dare to have a vision. What is your vision for your country? What do you hope to work towards while you are in office? Regardless of the current state of your community, do not be disheartened. Change can only be made by those who are not afraid to imagine it.
  1. Understand the Problem
    Imagination alone will not be enough. It is crucial for you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current system, the work done by former leaders; their successes and their shortcomings, as well as the steps being taken by others in your field. This knowledge will act as evidence to validate your path and your vision. 
  1. Find and Implement What Works for You
    While there are various strategies you may adopt to tackle the challenge you have identified, pick and choose what works for you and your vision. Simply following a mould may not get you as far as being critical about what is necessary for societal betterment, and what is not. 
  1. Build a Coalition
    Create a network of people who share your dream. They are out there! By having a group of people that share your values and support your mission,  you may find a comradery that affirms the importance of your work.
  1. Find Your Tribe
    On top of having a community of people that share your mission, it can be important for you to have individuals that support you unconditionally. As women working in a male-dominated sector, the experience can be alienating. Having social support from loved ones, such as family and friends, can make your journey in public service easier. 
  1. Know Your Truth, Remember Your Worth 
    In spite of the number of supporters you may have, always know your truth and remember your worth! The socialisation of our world promotes the malleability of women and discourages boldness. You need to remember to remain confident in your abilities as a leader, and the vision that has brought you here.
  1. Power In Sisterhood
    Do not turn women into your competitors. For us to truly change the system, we need all the support we can get. For maximum impact, the work done by women in the public sector needs to be complemented by the work done by the women in the private sector. We all have a role to play in reformation.
  1. Start Where You Are
    You do not need to be in the office to begin working towards your vision. Look for opportunities in your immediate surrounding to begin the necessary work. This may be in your school, or village, at work or even at home. Any deliberate step is a step in the right direction. 

 A Bonus Tip:
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair” 
~ Shirley Chisholm


Anuarite Gikonyo

This article was written by By Anuarite Gikonyo ’18.

Anu is a multi-disciplinary artist, activist, and educationist from Nairobi, Kenya. She is inspired by the role that creative, critical thinking plays in the reformation of systems, reclamation of identities and liberation of minds. She has been featured on Paragon Fellows South Africa, Ariana Diaries Sierra Leone, and Creative Connect Botswana, where she shared her thoughts on the power of storytelling, especially on the African continent. A short story of hers, A Letter To Akoth, is published on The Kalahari Review.