Maureen Oduori is an international development specialist currently serving as the Country Representative, Kenya for Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) – the UK public body dedicated to supporting democracy around the world. She speaks with SheThePeople.TV on why she advocates democracy and governance so passionately, her non-partisan approach nd her strategy to achieve work-life balance.

How would you describe yourself?

An agent of change committed to delivering a positive impact to my community by exploring resources within my reach including knowledge, skills, people, time and networks.

You are a development professional passionate about democracy and governance. How did you pick your career path?

The promulgation of the constitution of Kenya in 2010, accorded citizens opportunities to elevate their voices and take up an active role in decision making. This rendered it necessary for me to equally make my contribution to the democracy and governance space. Having looked at the opportunities directly within my purview, the most viable option was to utilize my international development experience to shape development programmes on democracy and governance in Kenya. I guess it’s my way of being an active citizen by utilizing the vast international development exposure and experience I possess to bring positive change back home.

The dream of a democratic nation that’s responsive to its citizens’ needs gives me the zeal to soldier on.

You are “fearless” in your current position. Help us walk in your shoes and understand where you get the strength from.

Working with various factors including Civil Society, Parliaments and Parliamentarians calls for understanding the delicate balance of power relations and how to navigate the complexities of highly political environments whilst maintaining a non-partisan standpoint. The dream of a democratic nation that’s responsive to its citizens’ needs gives me the zeal to soldier on, more so as the time and energy I invest in democracy assistance today will go a long way in ensuring democratic posterity for generations to come.

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What excites you when you wake up every morning?

The thought that each day gives me a fresh opportunity to give and be the very best of me.

Share some examples where you have made a difference in your country and community.

Mobilizing, mentoring and inspiring Persons with Disability in Western Kenya to take up active citizenship, thus explore the constitutional provisions that provide them with an avenue to elevate their voices and contribute to key policy discourse thus ensuring their needs and priorities are well represented in legislative agenda and key policy discussions.

What are some of the challenges you face? How do you overcome them?

Navigating my political affiliation and the need to maintain a non-partisan approach within the space I engage in, as my personal views may be misconstrued to be those of the body I work for. I’ve learnt to package and churn out information to external audiences objectively, thus enable them to make their own independent assessments of the political environment, without necessarily being influenced by my personal views. It hasn’t been easy but I’m slowly getting there, as I think of the bigger picture which is creating institutional change that will outlive personal perceptions and attitudes.

How do you manage self care? Do you believe in work-life balance or integration? What are some of the strategies you adopt?

I’ve made it a habit to take some me-time to breathe, unwind, rejuvenate and refocus. I totally believe in work-life balance, as it is necessary that one finds some equilibrium between their individual needs, time allocated for work and other aspects of life e.g family, social and leisure activities. To achieve this, I’ve adopted some strategies including:

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Tracking my Time– I’m a stickler for schedules and will always schedule work, family time and my me-time.

Determining my Priorities– This has been a hard one but has proven to be very useful as with time, I’m learning to focus on what’s really necessary.

Establishing Boundaries– I’ve learnt to appreciate that its okay to say “No” and that I can’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Taking Care of my Health– Listening to my body more and knowing when it is time to take a break has totally been helpful as I know when to stop and take a breath before I get burned out.

Nurturing my Family/Relationships– I’ve learnt to make deliberate efforts to cultivate positive relationships with my immediate family and friends.

I totally believe in work-life balance, as it is necessary that one finds some equilibrium between their individual needs, time allocated for work and other aspects of life e.g family, social and leisure activities.

Do you consider yourself a “Global Girl”? Why?

Yes, most certainly – as I have been exposed to the global world view through school and my day to day professional life, whereby some instances have called for adoption of global practices to inspire local situations in various spheres of socio-economic development, politics, democracy and governance i.e. thinking global but acting local.

What is the advice you would give your 16-yea-old self?

The world is interconnected – every person you meet and every place that you visit are all part of the bigger plan of life. So take advantage of these and make the most because there’s something special about each interaction.

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What are the three values you think are most important for a global leader?

  1. A higher purpose — I think a global leader should have the ability to make people feel emotionally engaged and inspire them to walk the extra mile. The spheres one operates in should mean something to them rather than just being a daily place of work i.e. have a greater calling.
  2. Expanded horizons – Ability to see one’s sphere of influence in a broad context that goes far beyond the local perspective and includes all the partners/networks as critical elements necessary for the attainment of success.
  3. Building Alliances and Partnerships – Build trusting and strategic relationships is crucial for global leaders and networks are an essential resource.

What’s next for Maureen?

I still feel I have a contribution to make to the democracy and governance sector in Kenya, the East African region and potentially Sub Saharan Africa. I’m therefore looking forward to a deepened engagement in the democracy and governance space.

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