Iryna works as head of Climate Change Development National Ecological Center of Ukraine, an NGO which focuses on climate change related issues. She has worked there for almost ten years. She is a mother, and a full time working woman. She shared her thoughts on what it means to be a working woman, and following her passion.
Choosing a career
“I always wanted to focus on environmental issues, and I also realised that without having a proper education it is difficult to work in the field I chose, as well as reach a higher level in my profession,” she said.
Iryna was previously studying computer science, and she decided to change her sector.
“I set a goal for myself that I will study abroad on how environmental issues should be dealt with in the European Union. I succeeded, and got a scholarship to a Swedish university in Lund to study environmental management and policy. After coming back to Ukraine, I focused on finding myself a job in the environmental sector.”
Working in an NGO
Iryna feels that working in an NGO on environment allows her the freedom of expression, and stating out loud what needs to be done.
“Other entities are tied to what they have to say, but as NGOs we can speak openly. Proposing policies and criticising is openly done,” she adds.
She lives in Ukraine, and her country has been a focus of the global attention due to many reasons in the recent past, among which lies the political crisis it lives with Russia.
“The conflict with Russia, it’s horrible,” she added.
People die and a war is happening. We are living a crisis. But on the other hand, people are also united, and stronger as a nation. We are a nation trying to change the country, and not individualistic,” she continued.
A working woman in Ukraine
Iryna believes that being a woman does not hinder achieving career goals in Ukraine. She explained that many strong women hold important positions in different work positions in her country.
But she does feel that being a mother does impact one’s career.
“I think women do not get promoted because there is the possibility that they will ask for maternity leave. Promoting a woman creates issues if she is not going to be in the office, and is on maternal leave,” she explained.
A wife, a mother
When asked about how she feels about being a mother, and being a working mother she says that it is a wonderful experience.
“It is wonderful. It’s like a life has become whole, and complete. You feel that you can be a good mother, invest time, love and care for the family and at the same time do what you want to do in the professional life,” she told.
She is a committed mother who enjoys her time with her child. She added that she really enjoyed the time she spent with her child for one year away from work.
“I restarted working when she was one. I was very lucky to have an organisation which provides me flexibility,” she added.
Iryna believes that her work travel has helped her husband form a close relationship with their daughter.
“When I started travelling, and he started taking care of Anna alone their relationship has become closer, and very much stronger. He used to have certain views about the role of the woman, and the role of the woman in the family. But these experiences have made him very understanding towards work, women, and family life. Now he is very supportive of my professional life,” explained Iryna.
Alphaxard Gitau is passionate about youth empowerment, community transformation, environmental conservation, and contributing to agricultural development. He lives in Kenya, and strives to be a voice for young people working on environmental issues. He spoke on his experiences as an advocate for action on agriculture in Africa, and at the global level.
Alphaxard was brought up in a family of farmers. And focusing on agriculture was something natural for him.
“Growing up I always wanted to practise agriculture better than my dad did. As a young kid I used to plant my own vegetables. Whenever my dad would sell his vegetables, he would also sell the ones I grew as well. And then I would get the money which I saved or used for my needs,” explained Alphaxard.
He was motived by a young man whom he met while on an exchange program in Norway with the Norwegian Peace Corps.
“I had the chance to meet a young man while I was in Norway who was doing dairy farming in a very modern way, and in a very scaled up level. He motivated me to start my own agricultural activity when I returned to Kenya,” added Alphaxard.
Alphaxard lists access to finance as one of the key challenges faced when trying to establish himself as a youth farmer.
“Agribusiness is a costly investment. It is very hard for young people who lack money to form their own initiatives,” he added.
Another challenge he lists is the mentality of parents who want their children to be working as white collar professionals. He also highlighted issues related to agribusiness such as the middle-man syndrome from which the sector suffers to be key for youth facing difficulty when trying to access the field as professionals.
“Access to information is also an issue for youth who wish to engage in agriculture. There is lack of technical information on seeds, pesticides and other agricultural related information. And youth have issues because they are not equipped to practice agriculture efficiently,” he added.
Alphaxard envisions to build his business to be among the leading agro-products companies both for local and export market.
“I hope that my farm can be used as an example to young people locally, regionally and even globally as one of the success stories on agriculture by young people. I would like to contribute to the shift in agricultural development in our continent Africa through agricultural exchange programs for young people that will help them learn agricultural practices as well as policy implementation.”