Today our Pearls And Heels lady is Naijeria Toweett. Naijeria Toweett recently took up the position of Coordinator for Love Matters Africa Project but before that she was the Social Media Manager for Love Matters Africa. Love Matters Africa is an online platform created to bridge the gap in sexual reproductive health information between young people, sexual health experts, educators and services.
Describe your typical day.
On weekdays I wake up at 6.15 am and get my two youngest children ready for school. I help them get dressed and get them breakfast and then my husband walks them to school. I then catch up on some reading or workout. I start work at 10 am.
It takes me less than 3 minutes to get to work. I am grateful for the privilege of being a remote worker for now. We do not have an office in Kenya so we all work virtually. The bulk of my work is looking at the conversations on our social media channels and looking at how the audience is engaging with our content. In my new role, I have to ensure that the Love Matters Africa team is meeting its targets as far as the project is concerned.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I loved watching films, I still do – films with a good story and hook. So naturally, I wanted to be a filmmaker and storyteller.
I am a performing artist by profession, a graduate of Drama from Newcastle College in the UK. After graduating when I came back to Kenya and together with 5 friends we founded Women in Participatory Education Theatre – WEPET, an all-women theatre company that used the arts and participatory performance to highlight issues of women’s sexual health and reproductive rights.
Starting a family on an artist’s income was challenging so I had to fall back on other skills I had. I have worked as an admin assistant for an arts organization and as a festival secretary for Kenya’s first International Puppetry Festival. I ended up in the sexual reproductive health and rights by design with a small detour into the world of technology and startups at the Nailab.
All those positions I feel prepared me for Love Matters Africa.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Reflecting on the journey… I would only seize the moments and opportunities a lot quicker than I did the first time around. I am happy with where I am and how I got here.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Being a good listener – To be able to provide relevant and targeted information you have to know what is it your audience is looking for. You listen to the conversations, the questions asked and the responses given. You are able to know if there are gaps in knowledge which you can address. Part of listening is also knowing where to find your audience.
Being open-minded – One cannot provide an open space for conversation and engagement if you are not open-minded. To be able to relate better to anyone and be in a position to support a young person’s journey to being functional and sexually healthy being you leave your personal notions and perceptions out of the situation.
Willing to learn – No one knows everything about everything. In particular in the digital sphere where there are changes occurring almost on a daily basis, new tools, new platforms, and new and more effective ways of engagement one needs to be able to be in the know and keep up.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I must say I am blessed and while it lasts we work virtually and remotely. I do not have to contend with traffic to get to and from work. Nairobi provides me with all that I need and when that fails, I am agitated. I believe Kenya Power and Zuku know my Twitter handle all too well. I have had Kenya Power call me or show up at my door to find out if I have power because I am all over Twitter when I have no power. Reliable and consistent electricity and internet access are key to my work, could be better but I cannot complain. I spent a week in Lagos and the issues with the internet and electricity there, it made me feel like I am truly blessed when in Nairobi.
What motivates you?
Being part of a project that provides an open, non-judgmental space to talk about sex and sexual health. Where it is ok to say, I don’t know and not feel like it is alien. I am motivated by the fact that I can impact one young person at a time.
How do you define success?
Ticking off the boxes on many levels. It may be a small task I set out to do or a big career or family goal. I believe the journey to success, challenges and all is the sweetness of success.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My parents. My father was known for his love for the pursuit of knowledge. I grew up with books around me and he always told us learning never ends. My mother is a hard-working woman, from her I knew that you can do anything you set your mind to 99% perspiration. Put in the work and get the results.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
I love information and have a passion for finding and sharing information. With Love Matters we provide young people with information, so when a young person reaches out to us to get the information they are looking for that is fulfilling for me.
What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Being proactive for one. Always be willing to do more that is required of you. It is not about what is in your job description. It is all about proving your existence and making yourself relevant. Being able to say I don’t know and I need help and asking for that help.
What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Be willing and open to learning and always give 110% over and above what is expected of you. I started off doing unpaid internships it was tough because I wasn’t making money but I used the internships to put into practice what I had taught myself. The internet is a great university if you know where to look for information.
What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
Personally, it was getting @lovemafrica to be the most influential Twitter handle at the 2013 International Conference on HIV/Aids and STI’s in Africa ICASA conference in South Africa, tweeting from my flat in Umoja. As an organization winning the 2015 AfriComNet Award for Excellence in Health Communication Best Digital Social Platform.
What makes you happy?
Seeing my kids happy and content and able to explore who they are and be the best they can be in all they do.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love to paint and listen to audiobooks. I find cooking fun as well as baking and grilling. I also binge on crime series CSI, NCIS etc.
Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
Living somewhere with unlimited internet, reading and making mean chapatis for anyone who comes to visit. Making a living from painting.