Why I believe in women: Gender activist James Ngomeli : Evewoman - The Standard
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Why I believe in women: Gender activist James Ngomeli

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Why do you say your work is in gender and energy?

I worked for Kenya Power Company from 1998 to 2014. In my last assignment, I was in charge of restructuring at the company as Change Manager.

That explains energy: how did you become interested in gender issues?

When we were restructuring the organisation, one of the issues I discovered was the lack of women in the energy sector. Women were absent - whether as employees or businesswomen. The shocking thing was that when we tried to encourage women to apply for positions, many still kept off. Many believed the energy sector was for men. Today, I am a consultant in the energy industry. One of the things I felt we did not achieve during the restructuring was to bring more women into the energy space.

What value do you believe women would bring the energy sector?

The thought: the woman’s thinking. When a project needs to be undertaken on a piece of land owned by a family, the woman suffers the most. When a woman is part of decision-making, these are issues that they will foresee and hence mitigate. This is only one example. But generally, a woman has a unique way (that no man has) of looking at energy modelling and distribution. And we need that.

Any significant achievements to your name regarding gender?

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I am the brains behind an award programme called Women in Energy Awards. It is now on its third year. The aim is to award the women who have made an effort into claiming their space in the energy sector.

Do you have a family?

I am married and I have three sons.

As a gender activist I would have expected at least a daughter or two?

I don’t have daughters but I have a wife. Here is the bottom line though - and I witnessed this when I was the chair of the Marketing Society of Kenya - there are many women who still feel unworthy to occupy certain spaces. I live for a day I will see more and more women shed off their fears and take up management positions.

Professionally, who are you?

I studied marketing at university.

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How did you veer from marketing to gender?

As a marketer, I see in women a fundamental block. They are an economic block that we can sell to. They are an economic block that can produce when equipped with skills. My work mostly involves advising women on how to position themselves in their places of work in order to grow.

How have you empowered your wife - before other women?

I convinced her to switch jobs from the private sector to the public sector where there are more opportunities and her scope of making change would be larger. She had initially resisted the idea.

How old are you now?

47

Did you grow up with traditional beliefs that have kept women on the fringes?

I did. There was a very strong feeling among many of us that women could never hold certain positions. The woman’s biggest job was to make a man happy. As boys, we were made to believe that wooing and winning a woman signaled a man’s success. Women would be home caring for the children and the man would bring home the bacon. A lot has changed since then.

What do you think about the notion that some jobs can only be done by men?

It is merely a perception. The thing is, these ideas have been taken up by the society at large. But women can do what men can do. This is no longer a theory; women are actually taking up positions previously held by men. Even the so-called slay queens can do things like farming successfully.

How so?

What motivates people is money. When a ‘slay queen’ is shown how they stand to profit from a venture, she will roll up her sleeves and work.

Do you think women are now empowered?

Yes and no. We have many women today who determine their destiny. They have the jobs they wanted. They earn a lot of money - just like successful men do. They drive big cars. These women are successful in their own right. But there are women who are still shackled by traditions.

What do you always tell your sons on the subject of gender?

They must respect women. It has been my intention that they grow to believe that women are their friends and not their enemies. The reason there is a hue and cry about the boy-child today is the boy child was first made to aspire to be ‘better’ than the girl-child.

Have women ever doubted your commitment to gender issues because you are a man?

I think many have appreciated my voice. Many have appreciated conversations I have had with them regarding gender.

In your opinion, how have women contributed in enabling the gender gap?

Just like men, many women are clouded by perceptions. A woman has ever told me that she won’t apply for a job because ‘only men were allowed to apply’. These ideas that women have created in their minds have to be discarded.

What do you tell the men who feel threatened by an empowered woman?

Majority of men who feel threatened by an empowered woman have what we call fear of the unknown. When you talk to these men you will hear them say an empowered woman cannot be faithful to their husband - or the men in their lives. But that is not true: an empowered woman is able to prop up a man who is down and needs to get back up.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke

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