Ugandan AWARD Fellow Sarah Mayanja shares her career journey
By Sarah Mayanja
When I won a fellowship from African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) two years ago, little did I know that my life and career were going to change tremendously. I had just turned 47; I did not have an MSc and had limited hope of ever pursuing one, or ever getting a job with a prestigious organization.
That was then. Now I am a value-chains development/marketing specialist with the International Potato Center (CIP), a regional job that enables me to interface with sweet potato farmers, processors, and traders in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. But let me tell you about my journey.
At AWARD’s mentoring orientation workshop and subsequent leadership course, we women scientists learned to project ourselves positively, be assertive, and always look for opportunities to improve ourselves so as to further our careers and help farmers. At first, I thought that this advice was geared to the younger women, but through mentoring and coaching, I realized that it was not yet over for me—I still had it in me to rise higher in my career.
I applied for my current job, and although I did not have an MSc as indicated in the advert, I was very excited when I was short listed and got the job.
AWARD supports its fellows to present a paper at a scientific conference, and Dr. Josephine Songa, AWARD’s Science Cornerstone Officer, has helped me to do just that. At CIP, I also have a very good support system, and I have greatly improved my writing skills and networks. I will present a paper titled ‘Value Chain Development in Uganda –Experiences with the Participatory Market Chain Approach’ at an agribusiness conference in the Philippines in July. My AWARD Mentor and I co-authored this paper, which is a first for me. I will also be commencing my MSc in August.
Since I joined AWARD, I have been very keen on applying a gender lens to value-chain work. I joined a gender-in-value-chains coaching trajectory supported by Agri Pro Focus and the Royal Tropical Institute, and CIP is supporting my supervisor and me in this program. I was also enlisted on the CGIAR CRP gender consortium. Because of my keen interest in gender issues in our work, I was nominated to attend the upcoming gender networking meeting at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, which will be a crucial learning opportunity for me.
Thank you, AWARD! I am truly becoming an outstanding African woman scientist.
Sarah Mayanja is one of several AWARD Fellows who attended the Second Scientific Conference of the Global Cassava Partnership in Kampala, Uganda in June, 2012.