The power of women in inclusive community

February 6, 2024 by Lovena Owuor

How the Women at PATH Group in Tanzania is inspiring progress and creating new opportunities for members.

Women at PATH Tanzania 2

Women at PATH Tanzania at their first quarterly meeting. Photo: PATH.

The Women at PATH People Resource Group (PRG) is an employee-led initiative and community that provides a safe space to connect, empower, and support the advancement of women and their allies.

In Tanzania, the formation of the group’s local chapter was seeded by a visit from Levis Nderitu, PATH’s Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Levis shared information about the communal support, skills development, and career growth opportunities that Women at PATH PRGs were realizing in other PATH offices. Inspired by the possibilities, a group of women staff decided to form their own chapter.

On March 8, 2023, Olgah Odek—PATH’s Gender Focal Point for Tanzania and an Advocacy Officer with the Unitaid-funded Tools for Integrated Management of Childhood Illness project—led the launch of Women at PATH Tanzania during a forum celebrating International Women’s Day. The forum brought together women colleagues from across PATH Tanzania’s many programs to create a sense of community and provide a safe space for sharing, recognizing, and celebrating each other’s talents and achievements.

“Envisioned as a catalyst for change, the Women at PATH People Resource Group stands as a testament to our commitment to equality,” says Olgah. “It has unleashed a wave of empowerment that has redefined success and galvanized a diverse and thriving workforce.”

A journey of transformation

The Women at PATH Tanzania PRG aims to nurture women into leadership positions where they can coach and develop other women colleagues through periodic mentorship programs.

Since the launch of the group, PATH Tanzania has seen the value of women leaders demonstrated and has incorporated one woman into its senior management team. The country program is also providing mentorship to women staff to position them for inclusion in other leadership roles and encouraging PRG members to undertake training and further education to enhance their careers.

Global PATH leaders have been supportive of the group as well. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team facilitated Olgah’s attendance at the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali, Rwanda (July 2023). Levis Nderitu and Rachel Ndirangu, Partnership Co-Lead for Advocacy and Public Policy, have provided mentorship to the PRG. And Lovena Owuor, Regional Technical Advisor for Gender Equity in Programming, and Elizabeth Rowley, PhD, Senior Global Advisor for Gender Programs and Research, have provided technical support.

Though many across PATH have lent their support to the group, Olgah acknowledges, “We know that opportunities will not always look for us. So, we will also position ourselves for upcoming opportunities and compete for them.”

To help group members prepare for future opportunities, Women at PATH Tanzania created some basic terms of engagement to guide their efforts. Top on the agenda was the development of individual vision boards and periodic activities to hold the team together. These included scheduling quarterly meetings and an annual retreat, as well as reviewing the implementation of vision boards.

One of the group’s members, Irene Kemilembe, a Senior Program Assistant with Digital Square, praised the group and its gatherings saying, “It has provided us a safe space to comfortably share some of our challenges and success without being judged.”

Women at PATH Tanzania work on vision boards together.

Women at PATH Tanzania creating individual vision boards during the December 2023 retreat. Photo: PATH/Olgah Odek.

A community grows together

Women at PATH Tanzania recently held their first annual retreat, with support and encouragement from Levis Nderitu.

“I am happy to see the progress and commitment of Women at PATH Tanzania in advancing women’s leadership and working to remove the barriers that have held women back in the workplace,” says Levis. “Women at PATH Tanzania has demonstrated the power of People Resource Groups in building community, allyship, and belonging. I’m thrilled to partner with all Women at PATH PRGs around the world to advance their goals and careers.”

The retreat provided an important opportunity to reflect on the chapter’s progress in its inaugural year and to begin planning for 2024. Members discussed a variety of topics, including networking, community building, professional development and skill enhancement, work-life balance and well-being, fostering a more inclusive and equitable work environment, positive criticism and constructive feedback, and how to navigate challenges faced by women staff at PATH.

The members also created new vision boards for 2024 that cover topics such as career and financial goals; physical, spiritual, and mental health; daily routines; and personal development. “The vision board is the best,” says Saumu Juma, Project Manager with the US Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Health Information Systems project. “It enables me to create my vision—personal, spiritual, and professional—write it all down and hold myself accountable to achieve it.”

The group is now on the lookout for short courses offered to PATH employees and will soon vote for a chairperson, secretary, and creative content developer to guide the group’s growth and ensure its sustainability.

Mary Bukombe gets her master's degree.

Mary Bukombe during her graduation with a master’s degree on December 14, 2023. Photo: PATH/Mary Bukombe.

Mary Bukombe, PATH Senior Program Assistant with the USAID-funded Infectious Disease Detection and Surveillance project, expressed gratitude for the group. “Women at PATH has been really supportive and motivated me during my studies. I just graduated with an MBA in Corporate Management,” says Mary. “We have encouraged each other so that most ladies enroll for further career advancement opportunities and utilize the available opportunities at PATH.”