Guest post by Naomie Kayitesi, 2022 Emerging Leader of Rwanda
Editor’s note: Naomie Kayitesi’s guest post is part of our series, Emerging Leader Voices, which invites TechWomen Emerging Leaders to share their voice, perspective and experiences with the TechWomen community.
The environment in which we live exerts a powerful influence on our decisions. What we hear, especially at an early age, greatly influences our thoughts and decisions in life.
What inspired me in my studies and journey in science
When I was only one and half years old, my country, Rwanda, experienced the darkest chapter in its history, the Genocide against the Tutsi. This was a result of long history. My parents had not attended higher studies, not that they were incapable, but because they weren’t allowed to. After the Genocide against the Tutsi, the situation changed, though life was not the same without family members we had lost. I must say that I was blessed to grow up in the time where education was accessible to everyone as a right and not a privilege. My dad used to frequently tell me, “You have the opportunity, make us proud. I will do everything to support you in achieving your dream.”
My journey was inspired by people who motivated and believed in me including my family. My high school teacher told me constantly “Tu iras loin ma fille” or, “You will go far my daughter.” I am also grateful to colleagues at work; without their everyday moral support and exposure, I wouldn’t have made it so far.
In September of 2021, I started my PhD at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. It is something I aspired to achieve in my life. My research focuses on river hydrology and how they are affected by changes in land use and climate. The results of my research will inform sustainable land and water management in the face of socioeconomic and climate-induced changes. Before joining the PhD program, I worked for different local and international organizations in the field of water resources management, environment, land use modeling and climate change.
Land degradation and climate change affects women and men differently. Women are more affected than men by these environmental challenges, especially in developing countries, where women are responsible for farming, fetching water, and gathering fuelwood. Therefore, I am looking forward to meeting other women in STEM to brainstorm these topics. It is important to look beyond our boxes and discuss these global challenges, thus contributing to the global agenda.
The TechWomen program
In 2021, I saw the call for the TechWomen application via a Rwandan platform of women in STEM. I applied, and in September 2021 (just prior to my departure to pursue my PhD), I received the good news that I have been selected to be one of the TechWomen Emerging Leaders in 2022. TechWomen is a supporting program, not only motivating women but also giving them the opportunity to dream bigger. Additionally, it exposes them and expands their horizons.
Last month, when TechWomen posted me on social media for the #ELoftheDay campaign, I received many congratulating messages. One of them was “The whole village is proud of u.” It humbled me to realize my role in contributing to a transformed society in my country and beyond. I am looking forward to taking part in the 2022 program. It will help me harness my leadership skills, strengthen my design thinking and innovation and broaden my network.
What inspires me
As an Emerging Leader, I strongly believe that good leadership is a key pillar of transformation and sustainable positive change. My country Rwanda is a good example of this.
There is a saying that educating today’s generation is empowering the future. My take-home message is to remember that our words and actions can positively and negatively affect others. Therefore, using them to motivate and inspiring young people is important — for the young generation, particularly women: You are capable! Either in STEM or any other course, you can make it! Believe in yourself and work hard.