Feb 23, 2016
AWARD Fellow Thecla Mutia, a Kenyan environmental scientist, is studying geothermal development at the University of Iceland, and hopes to eventually work with the UN. A leader in her field, she is one of the many AWARD Fellows who are making an impact in Africa and around the world.

I am writing from the University of Iceland, where I am in the second year of my doctoral studies, focusing on ecotoxicology and geothermal power plant emissions. I’m on a study leave from the Geothermal Development Company in Kenya, where I work as an environmental scientist.

I remember the day back in 2009 when I drew my purpose road map, plotting out my career goals as a new AWARD Fellow. It seemed like a big dream to me—one of those things you just ambitiously write. But today I am actually living and walking my road map.

I dreamed of getting to the top and some day working with the United Nations. Landing an internship at the United Nations Development Programme marked the beginning. Then I got a scholarship with the United Nations University (UNU) for a six-month post-graduate training in Iceland on environment and geothermal development. Later on, after graduation, I was offered a job with the Geothermal Development Company Kenya, and finally got an invitation to go to Iceland to pursue my doctoral studies at the University of Iceland under the UNU geothermal training program.

It’s a small world here in Iceland. Turns out that Chikondi Pasani Manyungwa, an AWARD Fellow from Malawi, whom I had not seen since 2009, is studying here, too. I got her contact information and we shouted on the phone with a lot of joy. Thanks to AWARD, the world is now a global village. I feel like an international citizen who can belong anywhere. With my expanded networks, I can meet professional friends from all over. What a lovely reunion it was with Chikondi here, where we are both so far from home.

But back to my purpose road map. I was still dreaming of one day getting a top UN appointment, when I was asked to deliver a speech to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who was visiting Iceland. I caught his attention for a good five minutes, as he nodded excitedly while listening to my story. This was such an honour.

AWARD has contributed to making me who I am, and I’m proud to be an AWARD Fellow. My mantra is getting to the top—the top of my life purpose. I’m grateful to my AWARD Mentor, Dr. Wilkister Moturi, who was my MSc supervisor and my co-author on an international publication. She has seen me grow from a girl on campus to who I am today.

I want to actively make a change, give back to society, and mentor young scientists myself. Dreams do come true, and you can be what you aspire to be, if you believe and focus. Long live AWARD!



African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). Hosted by World Agroforestry Centre, United Nations Avenue, Gigiri. P.O Box 30677-00100 Nairobi, Kenya.

Email: awardqueries@cifor-icraf.org | Tel: +254 (0) 20 722 4242