- The high tea event was planned and hosted by Arise Circle KE, a leadership and organizational development center.
- It was a safe space for a candid conversation on health and wellness (especially breast cancer), personal/business branding, conflict resolution, and leadership development, among other emerging issues.
- It was a moment of learning, re-learning and unlearning.
Empowered minds, enlightened lives, and changed communities are the desire of every change agent.
On October 28, 2023, thought leaders converged for a Heels and Pink high tea event themed Honoring October 2023 Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The high tea event, held in Kisii, was planned and hosted by Arise Circle KE, a leadership and organizational development centre operating in Kenya, Africa & beyond, in collaboration with Gusii Women in Leadership Network, Scholar Media Africa, A Million Hugs, Ezesha Plus and Summer Winter, among others.
It was a safe space for a candid conversation on health and wellness (especially breast cancer), personal/business branding, conflict resolution, and leadership development, among other emerging issues.
The event convener and host, Edinah Kangwana MBS, MHC, a multi-award-winning transformational woman leader and Founder and CEO Arise Circle KE, appreciated the participants for carving out time to attend the event, learn and share.
“We believe that every person is a leader, but to bring it out, you have to be intentional,” she alluded to the event’s focus.
Kereri Girls High School Senior Principal Tabitha Mogonchi, a woman leader and educationist recently awarded as a Distinguished Leader in Educational Development, thanked the men for supporting women.
“It is important that we share information. Without it, we cannot gain much in life, but when we share, mentor and role model each other, we get sharpened,” she noted.
Acknowledging that breast cancer has been a ravage to many women, she challenged participants to leverage the lessons from the event, observing, “Often, we have the information but we don’t follow it.”
Ms. Mogonchi urged them to network, build one another and forge forward as a team.
Vincent Sagwe is a consultant farmer, immediate former Kisii County Minister, and current Secretary, Safe Line Farm, an agribusiness venture.
“If nothing is done to modernize agriculture, we’ll have a crisis,” says Sagwe.
To young people, he says leasing land can allow them to gain from agribusiness.
“Whatever we are doing today is sharpening one another,” Dennis Nyabuga, a pastor, said, urging the women to continue involving the men in such sessions.
Lucy Wachira, Managing Director (MD) Gusii Water and Sanitation Company (GWASCO), spoke about Leadership Challenges and How to Navigate to Triumph.
She noted that most of the challenges women struggle with are mindset-driven, hypothetical ceilings and not reality.
“Most leadership traits are usually thought as masculine. When we see the men strong, we think they are able to lead by default. When women are assertive, they are regarded as rude, but when the men are, they are seen as having effective leadership,” she posed.
She challenged women to defeat the gender barriers and stereotypes hindering them in life, forging ahead courageously.
“We must be determined to get through the social barriers,” she noted, encouraging the women to break free from the bedeviling shackles.
She encouraged them to be determined to build sisterhood, discouraging them from creating barriers and ceilings for themselves and others.
Ms. Wachira urged the participants to be confident, speak up, and trust their voices, an age-old challenge for most women. “To achieve our aspirations, we must be confident and trust our abilities,” she enlightened.
She also encouraged women to, while climbing life’s ladder, balance family roles and careers by creating flexibility and appreciating life’s commitments.
Of fighting imposter syndrome, “It is important for us to appreciate the positions God has given us and stand against feelings of insufficiency,” she challenged.
She says women’s leadership is recommended because women are better financial managers, keen on developing themselves and maintaining relationships, have integrity, inspire, motivate, and mentor others, and are more analytical and critical problem-solvers.
“Though you may face diverse challenges, do not be afraid to fail; failure is a great stepping stone to triumph,” she enthused.
Quoting Ruth Ginsburg, Ms. Wachira added that “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
Purity Kirera, Director Bomas of Kenya, talked about Personal Branding as a Strategic Tool for Leadership Development.
“Personal branding is your identity as a person; the values you offer as a person and a leader at your workplace, and what you stand for as a leader,” she said.
She noted that it’s essential to work on one’s brand, for people will quickly notice your work.
It helps you build reputation: She noted that people with excellent reputations are called upon when chances arise.
Positions you for career leadership opportunities: “People will identify you and want to help you grow in your career. You’ll be the one everyone wants to work with.”
It also helps you impact your community, help people around you, and stay unique.
“When you brand yourself, you become your own agent. You don’t need people to talk about or market you,” Ms. Kirera revealed.
Simultaneously, she urged leaders to stay resilient and intentionally grow with their teams.
To strengthen your brand:
- List what you’d want to achieve.
- Audit your online presence: Your social media presence is vital. “Choose what to share. Let people know you for who you are,” she said, urging the participants to marry what they share with who they are.
- Look at someone who has achieved what you desire: Learn from them and be mentored.
- Have an accountability partner to tell you point-blank.
- Get feedback.
- Create a catchy tagline speaking about you.
Ms. Kirera advised the participants to evaluate what they value, if their values reflect them in truth, what they’re known for, and if they’re putting effort into building their brands.
“Find your purpose, your values and what you know, and work on your weaknesses. Then tell the world who you are through your best words and let them know you,” Ms. Kangwana said.
“We need to be cautious with our bodies and normalize seeking professional health services whenever we notice abnormalities,” said Dr. Edna Orina, a consultant radiologist at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital (KTRH).
Dr. Fred Omari, a Consultant Oncologist at KTRH, demystified cancer and related facts and what to look out for.
Global cancer statistics show that in 2020, 19.3 m cancer cases were diagnosed globally, 1.1 m being in Africa.
Failure to diagnose and reluctance to report cancer cases is the idea behind Africa’s lyingly low numbers, which can be attested to by the high mortality rates from cancer in Africa.
“Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast start growing out of control, both in men and women,” he said.
Among cancers, breast cancer is the second killer disease, with almost 50% of the diagnosed people dying.
Dr. Omari clarified that cancer can only be caused by a combination of risk factors, and no exact cause has been identified.
Avoiding high proteins, exercising, having children at an earlier age, avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol, among others, are some of the ways to reduce the possibility of contracting cancer.
“As you age, the risk of having breast cancer increases,” he noted, listing personal and family history of cancer as other risk factors.
Dr. Omari identified some self-diagnosis methods, including checking for any discharge and using fingers to encircle the breast to feel any unusual thickness or lump.
Encouraging the members to consider regular and early screening and detection, which are vital, “If you find anything unusual, visit a health provider for professional services,” he urged.
Dr. Orina noted that KTRH has gynecologists and clinical oncologists attending to cancer patients, and the medical equipment and medication required to combat the disease.
A thriving survivor
Norah Inzofu is a cancer survivor and warrior. Before diagnosis, she experienced dizziness, headache and other body weaknesses for over two years.
After many tests, in March 2022, it was established that she had breast cancer.
She appreciates the counseling and information from the Aga Khan Cancer Department, which prepared her for the journey ahead.
“Don’t be scared of the treatment,” she encouraged, revealing that she was at Stage 2 (Grade 2), an aggressive stage.
With 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 20 daily radiotherapy sessions, targeted therapy, and several other treatment methods, she has by far improved and is almost finishing up with her major medication.
“Though expensive, there’s a lot of improvement in cancer treatment currently,” she says, encouraging those who may be undergoing treatment to take heart.
Ms. Inzofu thanks her family, friends and relatives for their support.
A warrior, she hopes to soon test negative after the final sessions and get entirely healed soon afterward. We wish her a speedy recuperation.
“If you’re already diagnosed, go for medication and keep a positive mind. Follow through the treatment, exercise, live and enjoy the moment, be happy, eat well, pray and believe in healing and restoration,” she encouraged.
Ms. Inzofu, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Manager, Molo branch, highlighted the power of early detection, calling upon all people to take advantage of the Cancer Awareness Month and go for screening.
She further underscored the need for a support system and urged people to be there to support cancer patients.
“Listen to your body and if it triggers you to, go and see the doctor,” Ms. Kangwana urged the participants, appreciating Ms. Insofu for sharing her story of resilience.
Conflict management and mediation
Shairoz Shamji, an internationally accredited and court-annexed mediator, tackled this topic.
Conflict is an inevitable situation, requiring everyone to master navigating.
“We need to learn to listen actively,” she said. This allows us know the situation from those around us.
Realizing our differences and diverse perspectives is healthy in conflict management.
“Normalize communicating clearly, and letting people know what and how you feel,” she said.
Ms. Shamji has also practiced mediation for nearly two decades. She says, “In mediation we provide a safe space without prejudice, is a confidential process, and no judgment is passed on. You make the decision, and it’s a win-win situation,” she reveals.
She underscored the power of apology as a pathway to conflict resolution.
According to her, mediation is the best approach to managing and resolving conflict and restoring relationships.
Leslie Lew, a best-selling author, Women’s Empowerment Coach and Founder of Reclaiming Your Courage™, plugging in virtually from the US, urged them to focus on what it means to be in leadership, moved by their “why?”.
To become a strong leader:
Speak up and speak out: “Your story and what you say matters. Speaking up creates a legacy of strength,” she noted.
Leave out the fluff: Even when scared, take a step forward. Find a mentor to guide you and be there for you. Be yourself and be bold.
Focus on the art of reciprocal relationships: “Be very intentional with who you relate with. Focus on people you can live with and serve unconditionally,” said Lew.
The panelists handled diverse matters of interest.
Amb. Obadiah, on opportunities in service leadership and balancing leadership and family, says, “…, you need to cultivate intentional communication, set goals and follow them.”
He says we should use the networks we have to touch lives and change our communities.
Perris Bosibori, an IT Lecturer at Kisii National Polytechnic (KNP), on the place on education in entrepreneurship: “Anyone with the passion can get into business. With the education and skills, it even becomes better,” she said, urging participants to keep pace with technology.
To anyone willing to start a business, she challenged the participants to start now, even with their fears, urging them to talk well of money, view it positively, and pursue it.
Linet Moruri, a Communications and PR Strategist, revealed that to become a leader, “You need to be organized, set your goals, be disciplined and lead yourself first.”
She highlighted the need for end-to-end communication strategies, with the message being tailored for the audience.
Listening, staying authentic, trusting each other, having a common goal, especially in organizational leadership, and collaboration is key.
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The high tea event was a moment of learning, re-learning and unlearning.