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Picturing Leadership through the Eyes of a Young Woman: Meet Bernadette Muyomi

Hon.Bernadette at the lounge as we prepare to get to her office for an interview

“My earliest leadership steps trail back to my days in primary school and secondary school where I was a school prefect and an official of the clubs that I joined for extra-curriculum activities,” says Bernadette Muyomi as we get started with this interview. At 30 years Bernadette is the Minister of Public Service, ICT & Communication and Inter-governmental relations in Busia County in Kenya. Bernadette a first child in a family of four was born in Eldoret where she attended Testimony Primary School and Moi Girls Eldoret. Thereafter, Bernadette joined the University of Eastern Africa Baraton to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. One year into the course she realized that she was more of an art person than science. Therefore, she registered a parallel course in Counseling Psychology.
“I was the first student to pursue two parallel courses at the same time; this was by default and not by intent,” she says. Bernadette continued to state that “This did not go well with my lecturers, friction arose and I was discontinued from the nursing course”. She felt it was unfair and went ahead and sought legal redress on this issue. She fought for her right until justice prevailed as Bernadette was reinstated. This was one of her turning points in life. During this one long year of battling for her right, she graduated in Counseling Psychology, published a book on Counseling, and pursued a Post Graduate Diploma in Disaster Management. Thereafter, she registered for Masters in Development Studies. Bernadette went through a political leadership fellowship and was also involved in civic education on what is now the constitution of Kenya. Bernadette's role with the development of the new constitution was to provide women's voices to be heard. This is the time she realized that she had to step out of her comfort zone and set the pace to promote the women.
This is evident in her career life even way before she went through the fellowship. Bernadette’s work began with a volunteer job when she was 18 years, immediately after high school. She was working in a youth center promoting reproductive health rights of young people. She did this alongside her studies. In 2008, Bernadette volunteered with an emergency response, United Friends of Mount Elgon (UFOME) after the post-election violence that was experienced in the country. “Women carried the greatest burden of war: they were raped, gave birth to children whose fathers they did not know; they were also infected with diseases”. Bernadette noted, adding that “One of the worst abuses on women is sexual abuse as it robs a woman of her dignity, lowers her self-esteem and kills her psychologically thus hindering her from utilizing her potential positively”. Through her work in this organization, Bernadette pushed for women friendly programs to help them to accept what had happened, as well as adopt to feminine ways of dealing with these challenges in order to restore their lives.
Later on, Bernadette became the director in Pamoja Child Foundation, a position she held for only a year as she had to serve as a technical advisor on child protection to the director of children’s services in Malindi; a coastal town. This was a pilot project that nurtured the child protection guidelines of Kenya. With this project, Bernadette noted parents to be the perpetrators of injustices to their children and especially the girl-child. Parents voluntarily gave away or married off their children for sex in exchange for money to both locals and tourists. Child prostitution and child trafficking are high in this region and have led to high numbers of school drop-out. They addressed these issues by enhancing multi-sector child protection referral mechanisms that emphasized on an integrated approach involving teachers, health workers and children’s officers. They also created child friendly initiatives by nurturing confidence in the children to understand that they have a voice and a right to defend themselves.
After completing the one year assignment, Bernadette joined Actionaid International Kenya as Project Manager in charge of projects on Women and Land. By working with women at the grassroots, she played an instrumental role in pushing for women land rights to be anchored in the land laws that were enacted in Kenya in 2012. This was through hosting grassroots dialogue forums by which women could understand land as a factor of production, their contribution to households’ incomes through the use of land. Women were dark sided and sidelined as stakeholders in land ownership and control. Among the issues that the land laws pronounce is co-ownership, which will help to protect women against exploitation by spouses or other family members or in the case of polygamous settings.
Additionally, before accepting her appointment as a minister, Bernadette worked at World Renew as a Regional Project Manager of East and Southern Africa and led programs in Zambia, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania. Her projects consisted of pushing for women to be at the core of project both at leadership, beneficiary and execution levels. From June 2013, Bernadette was appointed as the Minister for Public Service, ICT and Inter-governmental Relations. The position made her one of the youngest women in the country to be appointed to this office. “Most County positions are dominated by men, in most cases women are assigned to head portfolios that are deemed feminine such as education, social services and gender...Through heading the public service, I hope to push for affirmative action that will see pro-women budgeting, recruitment and considerations,” Bernadette stated.
Apart from her mainstream work, Bernadette is also running a mentorship program for women and girls. “Through this, I assist women and girls that I interact with directly to build confidence to explore their potentials and to move progressively towards forming women to women net-works to push for common agenda affecting women and girls,” Bernadette stated. Her good work and positions enlist her as a role model for future generations of women to become leaders in women’s rights.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Bernadette crossing the river to reach women on other side for empowerment on land issues, last picture women leaving as squatters
Bernadette empowering Children on their rights
Bernadette empowering womenon land issues. The last two photos she was doing a presentation

Comments

pelamutunzi's picture

a true leader

bernadette is a role model for many women and i applaud her for her achievements and the office she currently holds. she is an inspiration to many women and to me personally. ayunnie thank you for bringing out her story. this has shown women can and will excel in leadership positions. her fight to make women confident will have far reaching effects.

the point that parents are perpetrators of injustice against their children is true. yes as parents we look out for our own interests and not our children. i hope this article will make us rethink our values.
we should stand together with our sisters in kenya who have said due to political violence and continue to suffer. and as zimbabwe faces another general election we pray for peace, as well as free and fair elections. we also pray that women who suffer during such times are supported , and get a voice.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Ayunnie's picture

Inspiration to many women

Hi Pela,
Thank you for your response. I actually agree with you; Bernadette is an inspiration to many women and girls globally. I am so motivated by her go-getter spirit and the willingness to bring transformation in the lives of women and girl-child.

For Zimbambwe during this forth coming election I wish you people a peaceful election and change of guard if the Zim people will be for it. You represent the voices of the women and girl-child in your country, we will rally behind you with all the support..even if it goes to the extent of starting a blog for it. Good luck

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

thank you for the encouragement and support. will remember and yes i want to start a blog. hopefully soon.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Ayunnie's picture

The Blog

That is a good idea Pela.The blog will help amplify the voices of many and issues to be addressed. I know this should be as soon as possible as your elections are just around the corner on 31st July 2013. I think World Pulse can assist in connecting u to their platform in order to start a blog. Get more info from Zoe. We are together in this! Good luck.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Klaudia Mexico's picture

As I was reading this piece,

As I was reading this piece, I was picturing Bernadette. It´s amazing how you have captured her spirit. Thanks for sharing this great story.

Klaudia González

Ayunnie's picture

Reading the piece

Hi Klaudia,
Thank you for the encouraging remarks.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Mukut's picture

Amazing piece

Well done Ayunnie ! Bernadette is a powerful and inspiring lady and you have captured her story, achievements and struggles well.

Fantastic ! Keep it up.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Ayunnie's picture

Amazing Piece

Hi Mukut
Thank u for getting time to read my article. I totally agree that Bernadette is a powerful and inspiring young leader.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Phionah Musumba's picture

A True Liberator

Hey, Ayunnie,
Allow me to echo the sentiments here. I can't seem to get Bernadette out of my mind. I would really love to meet her. You have captured her essence in an all rounded manner, the reader actually connects with your subject.
Keep up the good work.
All the best,

Phionah Musumba
Founder/Executive Director
Malkia Foundation &
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
P.O Box 9461 - 00300,
Nairobi, Kenya
Facebook: Phionah Musumba
Twitter: @KenyaGals
LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba
Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba

Ayunnie's picture

Echoing the sentiments

Hi Phy,
Thank you for reading my article about Bernadette. I have told her about you and she is so glad to connect with u, her email address is:muyomibright@yahoo.com.

Receive by congratulations for the good work u are doing with the disadvantaged girls in Kenya. I hope to link up with u physically soon. I am based in Nairobi. Kindly sent to me your email address for our further communication.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Aminah's picture

wow a Minister at such young age :)

And as I kept reading along, it was no surprise that she reached that post.
With all the leadership roles she had undertaken she rightly deserves to be where she is.
She sounds energetic, proactive and a result oriented person.

We need more people like her to show the world that women are as good as any man when it comes to top-level jobs. The glass ceiling phenomena has been reduced in the modern day, but still it continues to persist at varying degrees.

Hats off to Bernadette for her courage to fight for her rights even from the start.
You have done a wonderful job bringing her to us. Thank you Ayunnie

Salaam
Aminah

Dear Aminah,
Thank you for the complements on Bernadette. I totally agree that she is a young, energetic and result oriented leader who has broken the glass ceiling. She is meant for greater things and i know she is on the right path.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Greengirl's picture

An achiever and unique role model

Bernadette's Profile is loaded! It is amazing that she has achieved so much and attained a high profile position at such a young age. She is an inspirational achiever and very unique role model. Who wouldn't want to meet her.

Thank you for spreading the word about her in such a commendable manner.

Nice One,
Greengirl

Hi Green girl,
Thank you for the wonderful comments on Bernadette. Indeed she is an achiever and a unique role model.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Iryna's picture

Energy inside of a woman

This woman, Bernadette, made already so many good things and she is full of energy to continue!
Thank you, Ayunnie, to share this beautiful story, it inspires!
Greetings from Ukraine,
Iryna

Ayunnie's picture

It inspires

Hi Iryna,
Thank you for getting on board to be inspired by Bernadette, I am in absolute agreement that she has the energy. Bernadette is so zealous about transforming our society for the betterment of our future generation of women and the girl-child. I was thrilled to have a one on one interview with her.

I am also happy to receive greetings from Ukraine, you too receive regards from Kenya.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

valerie.bagley's picture

Hooray!

I LOVE the way you have captured the life and spirit of Bernadette. You, my sister, are a true journalist. I can't wait to read Module 2!

Ayunnie's picture

Life and Spirit of Berna

Dear Val,
Thank you so much for the encouraging comments on Berna, indeed her life and spirit is so inspiring.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Ayunnie, thank you for sharing the very inspiring story of Bernadette and of her amazing accomplishments. I am always blown away when I see young women holding offices because this is what we need to bring change that affects women positively around the world.
You did a splendid job at including a lot of her accomplishments and there were many! This can sometime be a difficult task because you do not want your article to be a list or look like the person's resume! You managed to include a lot while keeping your writing entertaining.
I am very curious about Bernadette as a person though. What does she like? What does she do for fun? Where does she come from? I know you spoke about the very important turning point in her life, but I would like to know more about her as a person! (only if you have time)
Great work!

Delphine Criscenzo

Dear Delphine,
Thank you for taking your time to read and give feedback about Bernadette's profile. I have copied to Bernadette your comments. She is so happy about your complement and she will be giving me more information soon via email. Well I can remember vividly when i introduced myself to her during the interview and telling her about world pulse..she instantly asked me how she can join and be part of WP. In my limited way of the operations of WP I told her to wait till when I will be doing Module 4 and introducing new members. she insisted to get materials so I gave her all the modules in PDF form as I had downloaded them.

To sum all this long story..I will be availing the answers to your questions once I receive them from Bernadette. Above all my question is ...can she join WP before Module 4 when we will be introducing new members?

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Ayunnie's picture

Feedback from Bernadette

Hi Delphine
This is the feedback I received from Bernadette on the questions you posed:

Hi Ayunnie,

I hope you have a good weekend. Mine was very restful. I am glad. I have tried to put down a few answers to the questions Delphine asked.

What does she like?
This was a little hard to respond to because I did not know from what perspective she asked this.

What does she do for fun?
Some of the things I do for fun are writing, swimming, site seeing, cooking, listening to music and playing the guitar.

Where does she come from?
I come from Busia Kenya. This is my home county (ancestral home in Kenya). I have grown up in Eldoret for the better part of my life. A fairly small town known for producing world athletes...(unfortunately I cannot run)

Feel free to link me up directly, I am sure there is so much we can get to discover about each other and keep this fire of women's struggles going.

Kind regards, and all the best as you carry on with the noble work you are doing.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

libudsuroy's picture

Hi, Ayunnie, You have

Hi, Ayunnie,
You have profiled an extraordinary and accomplished woman! It is reassuring to see how a woman, and a young one at that, can break the glass ceiling and hold a responsible post in a male-dominated government bureaucracy.
Keep on writing! Congratulations!

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Ayunnie's picture

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Dear Libudsuroy,
Thank you for your comments. Bernadette's story is an inspiration to women that 'we can!' Given the opportunity to lead women can bring massive development in the society.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Christine.Dahl's picture

Lovely piece

Thank you for presenting Ms. Muyomi. You've presented a full picture of her accomplishments and leadership. What qualities do you think make her so effective? Do you think she likes being in the government or prefers working in the private arena? I liked the photos a lot too.

Chris

Ayunnie's picture

Thank You

Hi Chris,
I am grateful for your feedback on Bernadette's Profile. I have posted to her the questions and i know she will be getting to us soon with her take.

Well, for the little I know about her...Bernadette is a go getter and passionate about what she does. When I met her for the first time at an international forum (People's Health Movement) some years back she struck me as a very brilliant young lady, very eloquent and one who has the mastery of what she does!

On whether she likes working for the government, my opinion from her facebook and tweets is she is struggling with a slow pace operations of the government but determine to be who she is and ready to bring transformational change for a better Kenya. some of her facebook posts and tweets are:
Bernadette Muyomi
6 hours ago
I will strive to be what I want others to be to me. I will forgive because I want to be forgiven when I am not what I ought to be.

Bernadette Muyomi
It is unfortunate that I no longer look forward to Mondays like I have done for the last so many years. None the less, this awfulness has forced me to internalize the serenity prayer and remember that eagles soar...soar...soar... Soon Mondays will be the ones I have always known and even better.
Like · · Share · 17 hours ago ·

6 people like this.
Bernadette Muyomi
Sunday via mobile
Seeing no evil, hearing on evil does not mean that you are oblivious of what evil is.

Bernadette Muyomi
Sunday via mobile
Sexual offences policies in the work place may not do much to protect employees. Individuals must stand up for themselves creatively and politely yet fearlessly; first by defining their dignity and then by refusing to take anything less than that.
Like · · Share

Tweets

Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 1h

We can speak all we want, but if our actions do not translate to the power in our words, then we are better off silent!
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 1h

Daily, I interact with people and realize that what they speak is not necessarily what they practice in terms of values. I will uphold mine
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 20 Jul

Woken up feeling sick of the filth I see in the public service. I am tired!
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 15 Jul

I get angry when people in leadership refuse to act timely to make things happen; all in the name of fear. Commitment must come with courage
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 15 Jul

Transforming the public service in the county. I cant deny, work ahead is tough. I remain confident that there will be a break through
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 23 Jun

Servant leaders are more concerned with public service delivery than lavish lifestyles that cannot be afforded by the majority.
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 21 Jun

The future looks scary. I could stop moving if I stare too much.
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 21 Jun

The journey of transforming the public Service at the county level will not be easy because of embedded attitudes, still, it can be done
Expand
Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 20 Jun

Is it possible for counties to spell out that they are not ready for free maternal health now that health is a devolved function?
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 20 Jun

Juggling between handing over my current roles and roles in the county. I need to keep moving.
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 10 May

MARGINALIZED MARGINALS: YOUNG WOMEN IN THE POLITICAL COUNTY ARENA http://wp.me/p37lSh-1E via @wordpressdotcom
View summary
Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 4 May

Waiting for the white smoke...
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Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 31 Mar

CREATIVITY AND NOT OPPORTUNITY MAY BE THE ANSWER TO YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT IN KENYA AND BEYOND http://wp.me/p37lSh-1t via @wordpressdotcom
View summary
Bernadette Muyomi ‏@BernadetteMuyom 14 Mar

The mutilation of the initial political parties act indicates that the status quo nurses the self interests that politicians thrive on

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Ayunnie's picture

REPLY FROM BERNADETTE

Hi Chris,
Find below feedback from Bernadette on the questions you raised. Thank you.

Hallo Eunice,

I will repeat that I have realized that you have a special ability of bringing people together through different communication forums. I am happy that I can answer all the questions that people ask directly. How may times have I read an inspirational story about someone, and come up with so many questions, wished I could meet the person and get some answers, but there was no Eunice in the picture?
Bravo!!!! Do not get tired.

Tell Christine that I appreciate her compliments. Feel free to share my contacts with her so we can keep our conversations going without handing your his additional task of sharing the communications :-)
going

What qualities make me effective?
A bad question to ask someone who writes, because I can write and write...but I will try to keep it brief.
Persistence: I can push and push for something gradually until I get it
Scenarios analysis in my work: I am ever working on scenarios and exploring possible outcomes, this helps me to foresee challenges ahead and to work through them ahead of time
Working from behind the scenes: Transformative issues can at times not be taken up with ease. Here I try to influence as many people as possible in the back ground so that by the time I bring it on the table, majority of the people can already see it through my eyes and they feel the have had their input in my idea....
Working with people: I read two books by John Maxwel, Becoming a person of influence and how to develop the leaders around you. They empowered me with fantastic tips on how to appreciate the potential of people and how to utilize it to make things work for me

Preference of working in government or private sector:
I will be vague in my answer but I will share some insights on working in both areas:
I am new in working in government. I find that systems are slow. there is a high tendency of wanting to do things traditionally based on how it has always been done. I loved the flexibility and innovativeness that existed in the private sector. I loved the insights and experiences that I got from there.

The interesting thing about sitting at executive level in the government in that I am at the core of policy formulation. This is the most interesting part. Although I find the system slow, I am optimistic that it is part of the transformative change that I am going to bring.
Above all, I am convinced that there could be no better time for me to work in the government in Kenya like now because this is the first time the devolved system of governance is being implemented. it is a historic time for me.

Bernadette

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Maura Bogue's picture

Good Work!

Really great work on this profile! You gave a very thorough description of Bernadette and her accomplishments. She sounds like a very inspiring woman.

However, I would love to know Bernadette's thoughts and ideas. I know a lot what she has done after reading your profile, but I would like to know more about what kind of person she is.

Overall, good job!

Best,
Maura

Ayunnie's picture

Bernadette's Thoughts and Ideas

Hi Maura,
Thank you for the feedback about Benadette's profile. Briefly on what kind of person Berna is...

Some of the things she does for fun are writing, swimming, site seeing, cooking, listening to music and playing the guitar.

Well I have also posted to her your feedback...I know she will be able to give us more info on what kind of a person she is.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Ayunnie's picture

Bernadette

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Participants: Ayunnie and JOYOUS
JOYOUS's picture
JOYOUS
Jul 31 2013 - 3:51pm

I was incredibly inspired by your Module 1 writing on Bernadette. You brought her to life and made me feel as though not only would I learn from meeting her but I also want to provide the kind of impact on the world that she has. Her dedication even in her early years were grounded in service and as she grew she mainained that path and further defined her love for serving others. What a blessing to have the opportunity to cross paths with someone like Bernadette and how astute of you to recognize her gifts and talents. Thank you for sharing yourself and her great story.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Ayunnie's picture

Incredibly Inspired

Hi Joyous,
Thank you for the complements on Bernadette. Yes I do agree that she is an inspiration to many. through her I have learnt the importance of being selfless, giving service and working to to bring transformational changes in the society.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Ayunnie's picture

Incredibly Inspired

Hi Joyous,
Thank you for the complements on Bernadette. Yes I do agree that she is an inspiration to many. through her I have learnt the importance of being selfless, giving service and working to to bring transformational changes in the society.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

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