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Q&A with Rachel Wanyoike

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Rachel Wanyoike , Managing Director, Solidaridad Eastern, Central & Southern Africa

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

My career path from the legal sector towards sustainability is anchored on my passion to promote sustainable livelihoods across sub-Saharan Africa and enhance community-level well-being, in balance with nature. Working with diverse communities gives me a unique opportunity to interact with and co-design solutions to challenges facing our beneficiaries – whether its smallholder farmers, producers, workers, or miners. As an agent of change, I believe in investing in people and skills, and building strong organizational systems that facilitate exchange of knowledge and novelty. A critical predictor of success in my day-to-day work has been the ability to effectively respond to the deep-rooted systemic issues in agricultural, artisanal mining and manufacturing sectors that restrict stakeholders in Africa from benefiting from local or global supply chains. At the same time, nurturing relationships and partnerships that facilitate and foster inclusive participation is essential to me. This, I believe, is a strong way of putting our partners and stakeholders needs at the forefront when Solidaridad as an organisation is delivering transformative solutions, while ensuring the resilience of households/communities/sectors so that they can adapt and quickly recover from setbacks and shocks.

What is an example of a challenging experience and how has it changed your mindset?

It was challenging making the transition from practicing law to being a generalist development practitioner to focusing on agricultural supply chain development. These bold moves mid-career opened my eyes to a world of new possibilities and opportunities to re-skill and re-tool. It also reaffirmed my belief that it is possible to achieve meaningful impact regardless of the ‘space’ and ‘role’ we occupy. The experience also underscored the value of my networks, the need for an adaptive personality, and the benefit of positive mentorship for sector peers – and they continue to play a big role in my personal and professional growth as a leader who seeks to serve communities with diverse needs. Transitions, however challenging, give each one of us a chance to change the status quo, as well as learn, unlearn, and relearn. Depending on the magnitude of the shift or transition, one can use their experience to redefine their goals, ambitions, and purpose – so I would encourage everyone to be willing to adapt and embrace change. My motto now is “A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A REST!”

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

In my experience the ingredients for successful leadership include understanding that your role is to serve, ensuring you effectively delegate responsibility within your team, and giving your team the guidance and tools to meet your expectations, while holding them accountable for both their successes and failures. Nurturing an individual’s ability to lead themselves helps them achieve their professional and personal goals, while enabling the organisation to achieve its vision and mission. By encouraging open and inclusive communication channels, providing a guiding vision, and augmenting that with promoting integrity and empathy within your team, you set the baseline for building trust and cooperation between yourself and your team. It is my sincere belief that leaders should aim to inspire others to action and taking the various aspects into consideration in your leadership style allows you to know your people and also take steps to knowing yourself. Similarly, leaders must strive to uplift and challenge others to maximize their potential. Doing this is important as it allows those in positions of authority to create the competencies needed to run organisations/projects/businesses in a way that is impactful and sustainable. Leaders are everywhere, from the household level to the top-most offices of our lands. With this in mind, leaders should ensure that their efforts to develop other leaders should be engaging and inclusive.

How does Solidaridad advocate and promote female leadership in cross-cultural contexts?

Solidaridad prides itself on delivering transformative innovations that foster inclusive and sustainable supply chains, improve food and nutrition security, and uplift income outcomes for rural communities (for men, women, and youth). Our development programming integrates a multi-pronged approach that is geared towards promoting meaningful participation and fair benefits for all (including vulnerable and marginalized groups). We facilitate participation by promoting dialogue platforms and opportunities for thousands of rural women (farmers, miners, and workers) in sub-Saharan Africa to raise their VOICES. We rally stakeholders to address the systemic barriers in their cross-cultural context. Enhancing the leadership capacity of women is part of our strategic approach for fostering inclusive and sustainable supply chains, improving food and nutrition and income outcomes for rural communities. Cognizant of the contextual realities of our beneficiary communities, we strive to accelerate adoption of community-led and driven inclusivity solutions. Over the years, our innovations have strengthened the leadership capacities of thousands of women and youth, paved the way for joint decision making, ownership and control of resources (e.g. land and income) at the household, and community level. Solidaridad also champions for women’s participation in prominent leadership roles in the supply chains.

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