Mary Kiio is a Trainer of Trainers on Technology Based Violence against Women Online in Cyber Crime, journalism mentor and trainer specializing in Conflict Sensitive journalism, citizen journalism, humanitarian reporting and how to form discussion groups specific to program needs for evaluation. The trainings she conducts often include a mix of media and civil society participants. Mary is also a freelance journalist who is committed to telling stories on democracy a as well as a children's book author.
Qualities that define her personality as an African woman of strength
Persistence- When I believe in something I keep on despite the odds against it. I remember I once was working in a team of trainers for media where I was the only female for a few years. Whenever I said anything with regards to women rights, women voices been heard or empowerment in the team, I was initially treated with skepticism and was branded a "feminist". But with time I was able to introduce a training module into a preexisting training program on conflict sensitive journalism. The conflict and women module was aimed at increasing the voices of women in media especially the actors involved in conflict issues and capturing the unique experiences that women go through during a time of conflict. I was also involved in developing a strategy on how we could increase the number of women journalists to the trainings we conducted.
Mary's AWLI experience
My AWLI experience was mind blowing. From learning about women's rights, to leadership and how to conduct myself as a leader, among many other topics helped me understand so many things I had not known in the past. In my personal life I have been able to assert myself whenever challenged on issues on women and her right to be heard and in my career development I have consistently been involved in various forums where I have been able to learn a lot on what is going on in women's movement and in most cases been able to translate it to the trainings I conduct and also in telling stories of women especially on their health and safety.
Unique aspects of the AWLI training and lessons you got from AWLI that have proved particularly effective on improving her work with women
One of the unique aspects that was also one of my major lessons was on the practicality of the sessions. One session I will never forget is the one on how to be confident when you present yourself in any for a. I was initially a very shy person and could barely speak out my opinions leave alone even walking to the front of a room. When I heard about how I could improve on my confidence I made a conscious decision to try it. It wasn't something that I got immediately; it took many years for me to build that confidence. The fact that I am now a trainer and make presentations in front of many participants is something I don't think I would have ever achieved if the seeds of how to be confident had not been instilled in me during the AWLI training.
The AWLI as a MUST for any young woman! Would you recommend any young woman to this training?
Oh yes I would. The young woman, if she is anything like me, will go to the training expecting to be like any other training where many people will come and talk to us and then leave but the fact that we were able to spend so many days at the workshop, meant that every trainer had adequate time to share information and took in many questions from the participants. If you are not as confident as I was then, the trainers who stayed at least for a few days with us and were open in their approach gave us the opportunity to have tea, lunch and ask the questions one has. As one of the organizing officials told me, the change for various participants happen differently. There are those who when they leave the training have their lives changed dramatically but there are some (like me) whose change will come later on but the main thing is that all of us would be able to associate that change with the training we went through.
"Fuelling" the women's movement through the years!
The women's resilience in light of the opposition they face. Also I think the positive stories of women who have gone against all odds and made a difference that is attributed to the women's movement has gone a long way in giving examples that others can emulate and galvanised the movement. Every stride made in the women's movement is celebrated and lessons learned and adapted to suite the various situations that other women work at emulating.
New challenges and new opportunities facing African women's organising today
The internet /new media/social media is the way to go in terms of providing new opportunities that women can tap in to in terms of information. I have been involved in mentoring women leaders to utilize citizen journalism tools in telling the stories that the women's movement is facing. However the main challenge that this poses is that women actors are exposed to is online insecurity as they are cyber bullied , have their date hacked and face various internet offences. But not all is lost as there are now tools that can help women protect themselves online.
A message for any young women interested in political leadership in your Country
"Go for it. But please, please don't give room to people to say that they regret having allowed a woman to take up the position and not making any change as some women have done in politics as they relax in the throes of leadership. You need to do your best to impact the change that will keep reminding people why they need more women as political leaders."
One thing you should not forget about Mary's leadership journey;
"That I was able to make a positive contribution towards a person thinking differently on a certain aspect of their life and utilizing it. What would be even greater is if this thought/change would go a step further in impacting their society positively"