Today on Pearls And Heels we feature Josephine Marura Mwatibo. Josephine Marura Mwatibo is a Human Rights Education Project Officer at Amnesty International Kenya (AIK). She is currently working on the Human Rights Friendly Schools Project in Kenya. The project empowers young people and promotes the active participation of all members of the school community to integrate human rights values and principles into all areas of school life. In Kenya, the project is active in 22 schools in three counties: Nairobi, Kisii and Homabay. Last week AIK in partnership with the schools kicked off the Human Rights Festivals (HRE) in the three regions on the theme “Peaceful Elections: The Role of the School Community in promoting peaceful elections”. The main objective of these festivals is to bring together young people to preach peace through performance arts based on the theme such as skits, songs, dances and choral verses.
- Describe your typical day.
I wake up at 6 am say my prayers and get out of bed. I make breakfast and prepare for work. I should be at work by 9 am. My day involves a lot of interaction with my colleagues, Human Rights Club Patrons in Secondary schools across Kenya, students and University students.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a Diplomat. From an early age, I worked with young people, women and girls on gender and human rights issues and now this is what I do on a daily basis.
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Not much really. I started working on gender and human rights issues when I was 16 years old when I started a Club in my high school, Girls Education Movement with the help of UNICEF and my mentor Changu Mannathoko. It was from there that I learnt so much and went on to University to pursue my degree then my Masters. I would probably have networked more and saved all the contacts of all those people I met in all those international forums I attended. This would have helped me create a platform for sharing new ideas, and experiences and learning from each other with all the young people I met then and whom I lost contact with.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
People skills as it involves a lot of interaction with people of different ages and positions i.e. school administrators, Ministry of Education officials, students, teachers/patrons, parents, community members etc. It is important to know how to relate to them individually and explain the project in a way that they will relate to it and understand.
Public Speaking skills as most of the time I always find myself having to talk in front of a crowd of people i.e. students at a human rights club meeting or festival, training school administrators or teachers/patrons or students on human rights education. Therefore, confidence while addressing crowds is key and doing it with a smile.
Time Management is very crucial as working with schools involves working within a certain time frame as they have set timetables. If an activity has been scheduled to happen between 4:30 pm and 5:15 pm during clubs’ time we must strictly adhere to this time so that we do not interfere with the normal school routine. This has really helped me with my time management skills and I love it!
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Working in Nairobi is great! I love the fact that my work is based in three counties so I get to travel a lot. The traffic in Nairobi can be a bit crazy so getting out of town and going to Homabay and Kisii is usually a great break from the hustle of the city.
Working in Nairobi is great despite the traffic situation which gets crazy at times! As a professional, at first, human rights is not a subject that most people are receptive to. This is because once you mention it most people think about demonstrations with activists holding placards and making noise in the streets. This is a flawed perception. Human rights are about respect and dignity. Knowing that rights come with responsibilities and we have to protect, promote and fulfil our human rights and those of others. There are great opportunities for public participation in human rights issues, especially with the legal instruments in our country such as the Kenyan Constitution, Children’s Act, and Basic Education Act 2013 – which promotes cohesion within the school community through dialogue etc. I have realized that this negative perception of human rights issues can be changed by just defining human rights first in every forum I attend and not assuming that everyone understands.
- What motivates you?
Knowing that I am working daily on things I value, enjoy and love i.e. on gender and human rights issues is making a difference in somebody else’s life.
- How do you define success?
Success is celebrating small victories along the path to achieving your greatness.
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My Dad, Emmanuel Mwatibo Kisombe, has been and still is my greatest inspiration! He is a man of great integrity, an awesome public speaker, my mentor and my friend! He has raised my three sisters and me ever since mum went to be with the Lord in 2002. He has taught me that I don’t have to be a cut-throat competitor in this world but to always do my best and leave the rest to God. What is meant to be mine will always come to me according to God’s will. I should never worry about anyone taking my crown, it’s custom-made by God and can’t fit anyone else. That is something he taught me and I live by it!
- What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Interacting with young people! I love listening to their ideas, and thoughts and learning from them. They have really great and sharp minds that make the projects really fun to implement because we do them together. Like for this year’s essay competition we had a discussion on the issues affecting young people in the education sector and they decided on the theme “Exam Cheating” for the 2017 Essay Writing Competition.
- What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Put God first, work hard, be self-motivated and learn something new every day.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Be ready for an adventure! Be ready for a lot of reading on the current news so as to know where we have come from and where we are headed. The changing trends in gender and human rights work are very dynamic therefore it is very important to always be informed. Thank God for social media information is in real time nowadays!
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
Making a difference in people’s lives! For example, having completed a project since inception I was implementing in Samburu with Community Activists after three years and they went ahead to form a Community Based Organization after the project to continue with the work we were doing on ending Gender Based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Early marriage working with law enforcement agents and community groups and members. This shows empowerment and ownership by the community members after seeing the impact of community mobilization and action in speaking with one voice in defending their human rights.
- What makes you happy?
My family! Shoes! Lovehearts (Yes, the shape and anything that comes in the shape… I have two love heart tattoos).
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Dancing, cooking and travelling! In my non-work time, I spend time with my fiancé, Samuel Kioko, family, and friends and watch series like Survivor, Hawaii 5-0 and Scandal.
- Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I see myself as being part of a great global team that will have helped the world achieve the targets set for Sustainable Development goals especially Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality and Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals. I see myself excelling to achieve my professional goals. I also see myself as a wife and mother God willing.
If you would like to interact with Josephine Marura you can find her on Twitter at @Tibz7 and Facebook at Jozzie Marura. You can also follow Amnesty International Kenya on Facebook, Twitter And Instagram.
Pearls and Heels – Maliha Sheikh