Joyce Muraya – Kenya Country Director, Amani Ya Juu; Nairobi, Kenya
Words of Wisdom: “African women are often at the bottom. Often considered the weakest of the weak. To survive in that space you have to deploy every single strength and gift you have. Within yourself you have the capacity for greatness and great leadership.” – Joyce Muraya
Interview with Joyce Muraya – Kenya Country Director, Amani Ya Juu, Nairobi, Kenya
Joyce Muraya – Kenya Country Director, Amani Ya Juu, Nairobi, Kenya
Joyce Muraya was previously a pastor and always wanted to work with women. Amani Ya Juu marries her background in micro finance, her faith and the ability to work with women in an inspirational setting.
Amani Ya Juu started from an American Missionary, who found herself forced to leave Liberia, and started a place for other refugees to call home. Amani ya Juu (meaning “higher peace” in Swahili) is a sewing-marketing-training project for marginalized women in Africa. The main center is located in Nairobi, Kenya with sister centers in Rwanda and Burundi.
The women involved in the project are learning to work together through faith in God who provides a higher peace that transcends ethnic differences. Amani itself portrays a unique picture of diversity with women coming from Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia as well as other African countries.
The Purpose: The project serves a two-fold purpose. First, Amani gives African women the opportunity to improve their sewing and marketing skills. The women gain experience in purchasing, bookkeeping, skill training, quality control, management and design. Second, Amani aims to sow seeds of peace in the hearts of the women as they grow in community and in their faith together. As part of the daily activities at the center, the Amani women participate in singing, praying, Bible study and visiting one another in their homes. Relationships, built upon God’s peace, transform even the most troubled lives.
Joyce Muraya YouTube promo video (approx. 2 min.)
Suzanne’s Episode Perspective Blog: Leadership from the Animal Kingdom
Amani Ya Juu website: www.amaniafrica.org
Joyce Muraya – Kenya Country Director, Amani Ya Juu, Nairobi, Kenya
Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version above. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your wisdom
[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Most rewarding element of career:
[ Joyce Muraya ]: Seeing a women walk in broken and confused, and not knowing where her next meal will come from. Within a few months she is able to feed her family, feel accepted and find dignity.
[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Women’s circumstances that take advantage of Amani:
[ Joyce Muraya ]:
- Kenyan women who have fallen through the cracks of the system
- Widows who are struggling because of inheritance issues
- 45% Kenyan women
[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Hardest part of your job?
[ Joyce Muraya ]:
- Is hearing the stories of the situations these women come from, that is the ministry side
- Business perspective, the biggest challenge is selling our products – this is women’s livelihood i.e. Slump in the world economy effected our sales even though 55% sold through the shop in Nairobi, and 45% to United States.
[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Vision for Amani?
[ Joyce Muraya ]: We want to reach the world with a message of peace
[ Suzanne ]: Fair Trade practices that help with business sustainability?
[ Joyce ]:
- Give the women a just wage, higher then minimum wage
- We allow women to bring their children to work, or work from home so they can attend to their families
What helps women feel like they are contributing?
- Every product that is made bears the women’s name that crafted it. Each product has it’s own story.
- Everyone has something to contribute
- Leadership development is a priority – we start with little tasks that draw Amani team into leadership
- Ask newer individuals to lead initiatives. They take ownership
- They see their worth as they contribute to Amani
- We have women leaders in different department that have grown into leadership
- We partner with organizations that want us to train a group of children, or women. This provide leaderships opportunities
- As a leader, it is not about me; therefore I don’t have to be at the forefront. My role is to help other women walk strong.
- Amani needs a leader that walks with women.
Most significant decisions you made in career
- I work in places that allow me to be available for my family.
- This has limited career options, as I don’t travel much but it is the choice I was comfortable with.
Microfinance project insights
Micro-finance project – if an institution is recognized as a compassionate and giving institution they should not go into money lending. People become confused and may take advantage of your kindness. There needs to be a line drawn. You should create a separate initiative.
A good career includes:
- Opportunity to grow as a leader
- Improve skills as a leader
- Allow to share your gifts that you have in yourself
- When you are able to utilize every aspect of yourself, personal, spiritual, professional
- My purpose In this season is what I am doing now
- To find your purpose, focus on just a next step. We don’t see our purpose lit in neon. Just take the next step that is in front of you. Take opportunities.
- Personally, my obstacles are having knowledge gaps i.e. accounting
- So I assistance, ask questions, read a lot
- Sometimes it stops me from doing things because if I don’t have all the information it does become a roadblock. My type of personality needs to have all the information.
- I use my team who has different skills as much as possible. I also accepting that I don’t know everything and asking for help.
- As a leader you are called to influence, and the reality is that not everyone want to be influenced by you.
- Because of the knowledge gap, sometimes I have to take risks. I am not a risk taker. I like to know five steps ahead of anything I am doing.
- At the beginning of any process I feel uncomfortable. Although I have to continue implementing new initiative because I like to succeed.
Challenges with growing as a business
- Systems needed to change as we grew.
- We also needed to change the way we managed ourselves is. We decided to go from a broad leadership group to a more focus group. This was where my comfort is, and where more can get accomplished.
How to deal with challenging situations
- Keep confirming “this is what we need to do”
- Looking back at the reasons of why I decided to take this approach in the first place.
- Speak to peer mentors to either confirm or redirect your approach.
- Stay open and vulnerable to who you ask for assistance
- This is informal network of diverse people
What does success mean to you?
- Being fulfilled, content, and brightness in what I am doing. What I am doing, I am doing well.
How do you define Leadership?
- Getting people and the organization to the place they need to go. Using the gifts and talents that are available to you within yourself and around you to achieve specific objectives.
Leadership Lessons by Joyce Muraya
- Women need to lead as women not men. Which means you need to seek mentors.
- Surround yourself with people who complement you. Be clear about your own limitations, but don’t allow them to limit your leadership. Build the team that complements your capabilities.
- Learn to take risks.
How do you ensure you are true to yourself?
- I have to keep a mirror available – such as my faith and the people I surround myself with.
- Made choices where the family comes first, career works around my commitment to family.
What would you do differently in career?
- I would be more courageous as a leader. I started out too hesitant. Not being bold enough.
Reflective Realizations from Joyce Muraya
Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old Daughter?
- Enjoy every stage of your life, don’t rush anything
- She was made for greatness
Q What do you wish you learned at 10yrs?
- Women can lead and lead well.
Words of Wisdom by Joyce Muraya
African women are often at the bottom. Often consider the weakest of the weak. To survive in that space you have to deploy every single strength and gift you have. Within yourself you have the capacity for greatness and great leadership. You are already are a survivor and stretched and from that place you can just go up.
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