Gender equality is not only a human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, just, and sustainable world as envisioned by the UN 2030 Agenda. The Gender Alliance is an initiative that pushes for a feminist agenda to foster gender equity in line with Sustainable Development Goal #5. Elizabeth S. Maloba is one of its members.
Who are you?
Elizabeth S. Maloba: I live in Nairobi, Kenya, and I am the co-founder of Nahari – a collective of changemakers applying creative approaches to provide safe spaces for joint decision-making, communal knowledge exchange, and collaborative learning. In addition, I am a speaker, moderator, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in addressing complex challenges. My passion is to foster the development of lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that contribute to global sustainable development.
The Gender Alliance is a network-driven initiative to bring feminists together to accelerate gender equality. Its members come from the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network, the Global Diplomacy Lab, and the Robert Bosch Foundation. Together, they strive to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals on gender equity and equality within their respective organizations, communities, and spheres of influence. This series is an effort to amplify amazing women who are pushing boundaries and breaking glass ceilings every day.
Why did you join the Gender Alliance, and what is most important for you?
Elizabeth S. Maloba: Women and minority representation has been an ongoing conversation with many Responsible Leaders, yet there was a gap. No space seems to have been provided in the Responsible Leaders community for this dialogue. When the Gender Alliance was formed at the 6th BMW Foundation World Responsible Leaders Forum in Mérida, Mexico, in 2019, I joined it because I consider it both a community where I gain valuable contacts and ideas and a space in which I can discuss gender issues, equality, and inclusion without judgment.
What work do you do to promote gender equality?
Elizabeth S. Maloba: I admit to being gender blind in my early life – I had the privilege of growing up in an environment where no one was marginalized because of their gender. Therefore I lacked awareness of the experiences of other girls and women whose circumstances were different. Despite that weak beginning, I have made amends in my working career. As early as 2000 I was working in Somalia – then already a failed state – with organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to build the capacity of female entrepreneurs in Mogadishu and Merka to improve livelihoods at household level within a difficult socio-economic context. Since then I have worked at various scales – in small groups with micro-entrepreneurs to improve the performance of their businesses and therefore their family livelihoods; in the agripreneur field across Africa working with UN Women to build business models for about 125 female producers, processors, and traders within the agriculture value chains; in the tech-world to increase the participation of women in tech at both builder level and governance level; and in policy making to ensure that emerging policies in Kenya, the East African Community (EAC), and the Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD) are not gender-blind.
What is your desired outcome of the Gender Alliance?
Elizabeth S. Maloba: I see the gender alliance as a real opportunity for us to come together and address issues surrounding gender, to increase awareness of the different treatment men and women receive in different industries and different cultures around the world, and to share strategies and best practices that enable us to contribute to narrowing the gap. I also see it as a source of peer support – a place where we can come together and support one another in a meaningful way.
SDG #5 Gender Equality
Through Sustainable Development Goal 5 of the UN 2030 Agenda, the international community aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls who represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. However, gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates social progress. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
What does an equal world look like?
Elizabeth s. Maloba: There will be more girls and women in school, jobs, and leadership. The effects of pervasive stereotypes – e.g., the belief that men make better, more assertive leaders – will have been eliminated resulting in workplaces where employees are credited for their achievements alone. There will be more models and styles of leadership in place – not just the command and control style which is most often offered as the way to lead. Workplaces will become truly family-oriented – parents who work part time will not face challenges in their career progression, and women will not be forced into roles by social norms and unequal concessions.
Any advice to your 15-year-old self?
Elizabeth S. Maloba: I would like to borrow some powerful words from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In other words, when it comes to gender inclusion, focus on making people feel included, accepted, enabled to contribute, and safe.