Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg recently took up her new post as AWARD Director, delivering an inspiring speech to 2014 AWARD Fellowship laureates, their mentors, and special guests during a welcome event on March 27 in Nairobi.
Dr. Idah Sithole-Niang, AWARD Steering Committee Chair, welcomed Kamau-Rutenberg to her new role. “As a program, AWARD is a game-changer, and that word also captures Wanjiru’s dynamic spirit. She is a remarkable leader with a personal passion and vision to nurture and advance fellow women leaders,” said Sithole-Niang. “Wanjiru makes things happen. In 2005, as a 26-year-old graduate student, she founded Akili Dada, an international organization that provides secondary-school scholarships and career mentoring for young Kenyan women. To date, Akili Dada has enabled 61 academically gifted young women from underprivileged families to attend top high schools. A woman of action, Wanjiru is now bringing her drive and determination to AWARD.”
In her inaugural address, Kamau-Rutenberg reiterated her enthusiasm in joining such an innovative program and how much she is looking forward to having even greater impact among African women.
“We must snatch our future from our past. Yes, we have history the history that defines us, we have the journey that we have walked, but there’s also a lot more ahead of us. When I reflect upon the AWARD Fellows, the AWARD Mentors and the message of AWARD; the message that we are women and we have a lot to contribute to this continent. We have a lot of work ahead of us and in order to do that…we must lean in, be the ones to reach out and snatch that future!”
Dr. RoseEmma Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, the Deputy-Director General, CSIR, Ghana and AWARD Steering Committee Member, delivered the keynote address entitled, “Moving from Work/Life Balance to Work/Life Passion: The Successful Woman Scientist’s New Paradigm.” She discussed what it takes take for ambitious women scientists to “smash through the glass ceiling at work, so to speak, without sustaining ‘injuries’ on the home front.”
“My second rude awakening was when I finished my PhD. I did a sandwich PhD with the University of Ghana and the University of Hull in the U.K. I did my PhD part-time while working. It was supposed to take five years, but I finished in four. After my defense, I noticed that some of my male colleagues were acting very coldly towards me. I was puzzled, until a male colleague and friend explained. “You have broken the myth that married women cannot do a PhD,” he said. “You did yours in four years with three small children, while some of these men are in the fifth year of their PhD. That is what you have done wrong,” said Mamaa.
During the event, AWARD alumnus Dr. Happiness Oselebe, an associate professor of plant breeding and genetics at Ebonyi State University, also spoke about the impact of AWARD’s training and mentoring on her personal growth and career development. She has since formed two successful agribusinesses.
“As a career woman, within the AWARD program, I learned to be confident and assertive, to raise my head up among my colleagues and be an achiever in a male-dominated environment,” explained Oselebe, who now believes she has an obligation to pass on her knowledge and skills to younger women scientists. She is volunteering as an AWARD Mentor for one year to AWARD Fellow Catherine Ngozi Oketa, an MSc student at Ebonyi State University, who is studying drought-tolerant rice varieties.http://Watch video
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