Ms Teresa Omondi, executive director of Fida Kenya. She talks to the Sunday Nation about her work and aspirations.
Tell us about yourself
I am an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a gender specialist. I have over 12 years’ experience working on human rights and good governance, with a bias for women and children rights. I am a wife, mother and a lover of female empowerment.
What does your job entail?
Despite the fact that the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) Kenya is a non-governmental organisation, it’s a household name. It’s a name synonymous with “Serikali”. Anything bad happens to a woman or girl in Kenya, and a citizen somewhere will ask, “Where is Fida?” “Why isn’t Fida taking up the matter?” “Fida needs to do something”.
My job entails answering these questions to strategically guide the organisation to respond to, and where possible meet, the expectations of Kenyans. I have to wear my thinking cap every day, I must serve women.
What is your ideal day like?
I see off my daughter to school and my husband to work and agree on the day’s plan with my house manager. My office activities comprise a combination of meetings with like-minded partners and development partners (donors) to enrich the resources needed to run Fida Kenya and meeting my team members to respond to their needs. On a good day, I get home by 6pm, most days I am home by 1opm.
How long have you been the CEO of Fida?
Two years, two months.
How did you land the job?
My first degree is in Law while my MA is in International Human Rights, Gender, and Development. I hope to accomplish a PhD someday soon.
I have grown through the ranks in programme work. I was an intern at Fida Kenya, which became my first employer. I left the organisation, tried different career paths, but in 2013 I returned to Fida Kenya as the deputy executive director and head of programmes. In 2017, I took over the mantle of Fida.
How do you handle the workload, stress and the family?
There is nothing as powerful as social support for any fast growing career woman. I have a very supportive family, especially my husband and house manager. I do not know what I would do without them. They make my comfort a priority.
I also have great friends with whom I laugh off my stress and encourage each other.
As concerns workload, I am not yet a success, but I hope to get there. I try to plan my day, create a to-do list, prioritise issues, and delegate as much as possible.
What are your weaknesses and strengths?
My strength lies in my dream. I eat, drink, breathe women empowerment. I cherish challenging women to get out of any situation of insubordination and mobilise resources to achieve this goal.
I enjoy building and improving younger women to be better champions of their rights. I am a teacher, I give back to society by teaching young men and women.
Engrossed in my determination to promote women rights, I often fall short of emotional balance. Several times I have lost the point I want to make, if not losing the opportunity to make the point. It all shows on my face and body language. I am working on this, though.
Describe some of your accomplishments.
Let me share one work-related achievement. Being confident that the organisation can meet its personnel costs, at least one year beyond the annual plan, is joyous. I have achieved this in the past two years.
Who is your role model?
I have different role models for different things in my life. My mother and father make a great model for my family life and the concept of hard work. My husband has optimism from another world and it gets to my nerves sometimes. Nothing seems impossible for him; so does my current boss (Fida chairperson). My best friend challenges my spiritual life. She reminds me that prayer is the answer.
What do you do during your free time?
Watch a movie and sometimes just take deep breaths and stare into the air. I need rest most of the time.
What has been your biggest challenge at Fida?
Meeting the ever-growing expectations of Kenyans. I realised that explaining that Fida Kenya is not a government institution doesn’t get me anywhere. Kenyans demand action from Fida. I, therefore, take the challenge in my stride and, together with the Fida team, do our best.
What drives you?
The smiles, sometimes the tears of joy, from women who have received justice. The most recent smile was by Ms Lencer Achieng Sege, Baby Pendo’s mother, when the ruling was made that police were liable for the death of her baby. Fida Kenya supported this family through the inquest process. Such makes me look forward to the next day.
What’s your favourite meal?
Ugali and traditional vegetables, made with milk
What do you spend most of your money on?
I invest in the education of my extended family, those I can afford. The only way out of a tough life, is through education. Once a year, I invest in a girl’s education, one not related to me.
What are your future plans?
Professionally, after 45 years, I hope to land a job as a family court judge. At a personal level, take a holiday in Quebec.