Europe Maalim and Caren Wakoli: Launching a Business and Working in Difficult Contexts

Sarah McKee

Project Associate
Europe Maalim addresses her peers at the Learning Collaborative Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, as Caren Wakoli advances the slides. (Photo: Sarah Lindsay)This blog is the fourth and final in a series featuring the stories of the mentors and mentees in the East Africa Women’s Mentoring Network. An online network, the East Africa Women's Mentoring Network provides emerging women leaders in East Africa with access to experienced mentors for active support in professional and personal development related to family planning and reproductive health. The Mentoring Network's results will be presented next month at the International Conference on Family Planning. Leading up to the conference, this blog series will share one mentor/mentee pair’s story each week. This week features mentor Europe Maalim of Somalia and her mentor Caren Wakoli of Kenya.  
 
Europe Maalim, a Technical Officer at a faith-based NGO called Trocaire in Somalia, joined the East African Women’s Mentoring Network to find support in building her career. “When I initially signed up for this mentoring network, my main aim was to find somebody to mentor me, to guide me, and give me good leadership skills for my daily life, my career, and my aspirations,” she reported. 
 
Europe was paired up with mentor Caren Wakoli, “I linked up with Caren and she has been really supportive. Caren has her own initiative, so she has given me the guidance, morale, and motivation to push on and to get my own [business] going. I appreciate the journey so far and I know I will become better and better as we continue with this journey.”
 
Caren started her own foundation in Kenya, the Emerging Leaders Foundation that works to grow the next generation of leaders through mentorship, leadership training and exchange programs. She is able to understand and share her own obstacles in creating her business which has been vital to helping Europe in starting her own.
 
Beyond starting a business, Europe’s goals included advocating for the increase of reproductive health services at her facility in Somalia. Working for an international organization is sometimes a challenging for Europe, but with Caren’s guidance, Europe has started to facilitate sessions at work for women interested in learning more about family planning.  
 
“My talks and sessions with women, pregnant women, lactating women, and young women are every Wednesday and Thursday. We interact and talk about reproductive health issues, safe motherhood, and natural ways of family planning because I cannot impact them in any [other] way on family planning because it is against my organization[‘s views]. I tell them the importance of child spacing and the importance of getting to know their rights of seeking reproductive health services from facilities,” Europe said. 
 
Caren calls their relationship not just a mentorship, but also a friendship. “For me, I have also really benefited from this relationship. It’s not one-way, it is actually two-way. I have had Europe talk to me and ask me questions about my life and experiences I have had.  She has also been like a pillar to me in my life, so I really appreciate it.”
 
Photo Caption: Europe Maalim (L) presents while her mentor, Caren Wakoli, looks on.
Photo Credit: Sarah Lindsay