Sarah serem:I am doing what Jesus would do
By -SYLVIA WAKHISI | June 1st 2013
By SYLVIA WAKHISI
Sarah serem, chair Salaries and Remuneration Commission has ruffled MP’s feathers in a wrong way. But behind that tough no-nonsense administrator, is a warm people-person, writes, SYLVIA WAKHISI
After days of scouting around, I finally meet Sarah Chepkemboi Serem at her office perched on the sixth floor of Williamson House on 4th Ngong’ Avenue.
She has taken some time off from her busy schedule for this interview.
As opposed to the serious demeanour many people would associate with her, she comes off as one approachable and down-to-earth woman.
In the recent past, Sarah, 55, who chairs the Salaries and Remuneration Commission has been on the spot regarding the salaries for legislators, a situation that has seen her receiving positive and negative criticism for her brave fight. However, this has not dampened her spirits. She has managed to stand tall maintaining her sheer sense of confidence.
“Except for our legislators, who mistook me and got me at the wrong point, I am an open-minded person. I am like an open book,” says Sarah.
Born in Nandi District into a Christian family, she describes her upbringing as one that was grounded on strict Christian morals; something that shaped her life.
“I was born into a Christian family. My parents converted into Adventist faith ever since I was young. Adventist is a community. It is almost a lifestyle since at every age ,there are lessons to learn,” she says.
Fuelled by this, Sarah became an active youth member in her church, both in teenage and young adulthood. Though they later relocated from Nandi to Bayete, near Burnt Forest where her father bought land, that did not change how she lived her life.
“I continued attending church as it was something I loved to do,” she says.
Upon completing her high school education; she joined the University of Nairobi where she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science.
For Sarah, this proved to be a major turning point for her life.
“I was the first one from my village to join university. They even organised a party in my honour and showered me with gifts. Despite that achievement, my status did not change. I still valued the people around me,” she says.
Upon graduating, Sarah was fortunate to secure a job at the then Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation where she worked as a personnel officer for eight years. She was then transferred to Kenya Post Office Savings Bank where she worked in the human resource department as the deputy human resource officer before rising through the ranks to become the human resource director.
At Postbank, she was instrumental in spearheading professionalism and capacity building, which contributed to the bank’s growth.
“I must say that in the course of my directorship, a number of senior individuals in the country went through the development phase of Postbank, something that I am very proud of,” she recalls.
She later left the organisation through an early retirement and together with a friend, established Young Biz, a multinational trading company that sharpens entrepreneurship skills in young people.
In 2011, she joined the Salaries and Remuneration Commission leaving her friend to manage the outfit.
So, how has it been at the commission?
“It has been overwhelming. It is a path coupled with both smooth and rocky moments. I must say that unlike now, I did not probably appreciate my role at that time. Given that it is a Constitution mandate and everybody is entitled to follow the requirements of the commission, I did not know I was getting into murky waters,” she says. “I must say the SRC is not a Serem issue. It is a Kenyan issue and all I want is to do what is right. I do it knowing that I am accountable not just to the Kenyan people, but also to our Lord Jesus.”
I VALUE PEOPLE
She feels that people mistake her for who she really is. They feel that she is a hard person, yet she makes friends easily and loves interacting with others.
“I value people. I am a people person. I like to see people succeed and will go out of my way to help.”
She feels that the leadership skills she acquired when she was young and in school, have helped shape her into the person she is now.
She adds: “I resolved conflicts at family level and my participation in church activities saw me leading the Adventist team even in high school where I was a prefect. Despite this, I was a little shocked to get to where I am now.”
Driven by her love for people and the desire to assist those in need, Sarah through the help of the women ministry in her church, started a home for the Maasai girl-child in 2000. The home serves as a rescue and rehabilitation centre for girls who have been married off at an early age. From an initial 13 girls, the home has grown to accommodate 200 girls, a number of whom are in high school and college.
She has been instrumental in the running of the home and even took over its chairmanship till last year when she delegated the role to someone else due to her busy schedule.
“My joy and pride is seeing that girl whom I have accorded the opportunity to live a life, which they could not have experienced due to cultural backgrounds. It gives me great satisfaction,” she says.
She terms the loss of her husband as the greatest challenge she has had to put up with.
“In his absence, it meant that I had to re-organise not only my life, but also my thoughts. When you lose a loved one, you have two options; either to sit and languish over the pain, or to accept and move on. I chose to accept and move on, knowing that I was not living for myself, but for my children.”
She says she has learnt to respect authority when it comes to her career and values strong teamwork.
“I draw my authority from God who created us equally. My obligation is to every human being that was created by God and to manage the country’s resources, a role that I have been given. We should not differentiate and make a country where some people have more than others. It should be an obligation to every leader to try and create equal opportunities for everyone. And it starts from me,” says she.
As an active member of New Life SDA Church, she strives to remember the needy by supporting a number of needy families and churches and church activities. With the love she has for the church, she has established one in her own farm.
Sarah is a board member of Africa Adventist Development Relief Agencies, a humanitarian agency that responds to the needs of the local community. She is also a trustee of Adventist University of Africa.
In future, she plans to carry out more of church activities and service and serve her community by empowering women and the youth to enable them realise their dreams.
“It is time for women to stand up to what is right for them. Let us take our space and do what will change humanity even if it one soul at a time,” she says.
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