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Emotional competence key to success

By Ruth Lubembe | March 4th 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

NAIROBI: 'Make It Happen' is the theme for this year's International Women's Day to be marked on Sunday. There are many women who have made it happen in different spheres of the Kenyan society and made a positive impact.

A few examples include Supreme Court judge Njoki Ndung'u, who was the architect and mover of the Sexual Offences Bill 2006, which later became the Sexual Offences Act 2006.

Athlete and world marathon champion Tegla Loroupe has gone on to use her great influence to promote peace among different communities, and the efforts of celebrated entrepreneur Tabitha Karanja, the CEO of Keroche Breweries, broke East African Breweries Ltd's monopoly of the brewing industry in Kenya.

All these women very likely faced stiff opposition as the rest of the world tried to convince them they could never win. Had they been lesser individuals, unsure of themselves and their potential, they probably would have listened and lost. Instead, today we are reaping the benefits of their sheer determination and confidence because they made it happen.

However, my worry is that there may be no women in coming generations to pass the baton to. A recent lunchtime conversation with a colleague revolved around the Government's latest attempt to deal with sex among children. The idea of distributing free condoms to schools has caused a lot of discomfort and debate.

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While giving out condoms is the practical solution to prevent unplanned pregnancies and the spread of HIV and Aids, there is a glaring gap between a child's early years and the moment he or she decides to engage in sex. That gap is caused by a lack of emotional competence.

Emotional competence is defined as "the ability to enhance our personal, relational and professional performance". It is what ultimately helps us attain an overall increase in the quality of our lives. However, this competence does not just happen; it must be taught deliberately and actively to both girls and boys who need it in equal measure if they are to play their different but complementary roles successfully when they grow up.

According to experts, emotional competence is grounded in emotional intelligence, which apparently influences our potential for learning practical emotional competencies, and developing the emotional literacy necessary for quality of life, satisfaction and overall happiness.

These skills are said to include the development of self-awareness, social awareness and relational awareness as well as self, social and relational management. When we fail to teach children that they are unique individuals capable of achieving anything they set their minds on while keeping their dignity and integrity intact, then we curtail their potential and force them to fit into the one-size-fits-all box.

When we fail to teach them young that love does not equal sex, or that good academic grades do not necessarily guarantee personal fulfilment, then they grow up with distorted world views that impact negatively on their future, and the future of their children.

My conclusion to the condoms-for-schools debate is that the best gift we can give to future generations, especially women, is emotional competence. This conclusion was firmed up when I read a story last week that implied the winners of a beauty pageant may have traded "sexual favours" for their crowns.

When you allow yourself to believe you are desperate, there is no low you will not stoop to. A boy lacking in emotional competence may think nothing of buying answers to an exam before he sits for it. Likewise, an emotionally incompetent girl is very likely to believe the only way to make friends, or pass an exam (or win a beauty pageant) is through sex.

Emotional competence allows people to gain a sense of self-worth and recognise that they are valuable members of society. If only more people would appreciate the importance of self-awareness – then the education system would be made more relevant and the likes of Njoki, Tegla and Tabitha would be joined by legions of Kenyan women making it happen every day.

International Women's Day Sexual Offences Act
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