She has come a long way. Her experience around gender sent her on a journalistic and diplomatic journey to South Africa where she settled until today. A life coach and author, Ms Scholastic Kimaryo, told her story to The Citizen on Sunday in Pretoria recently
Tell me about yourself
I was born in Kibosho, Moshi Rural, in 1949 in a family of three girls and three boys. In my community, I was the first girl to go beyond primary school.
My father did not want to waste his money from coffee by sending a girl child to school, it was only after the local parish priest intervened that I was allowed to continue with standard five.
I was lucky in secondary school in that the government shouldered the burden. Fortunately, I was very good in class and excelled at a missionary school.
I later joined Tabora Girls High School which was under Barbro Johansson. Madam Johansson helped us so much, she wanted the girl child to do well, and we did not disappoint.
Afterwards, I joined the then University of East Africa in Nairobi in 1969, where I did a degree in home economics. During my studies, I wrote articles for various publications and it was not surprising that I would soon land atUhuru, Mzalendo and Nationalist newspapers. I was later told to go and work for Daily News and Sunday News where I also ran a column on home economics issues. As a journalist, I rose to become secretary general of the Tanzania Journalists Association (Taja). In October 1977, the United Nations General Assembly declared that 1979 would be an international year of the child.
The aim was to remind and ask all governments to put structures that would improve the wellbeing of every child. Working for newspapers and also under the public service, I was sent to write about the year and, among other things, I interviewed the Unicef head, Mr Alex Tosh. That changed everything and the rest, as they say, is history.
So, that set off your next phase as a UN worker. How was the experience?
In 1977, I was appointed the first executive secretary of the Tanzanian Commission for children funded by Unicef.
Although I had written many articles prior to that appointment, this was the first organisation where my writing would make a difference. We proposed and implemented a number of child-related projects, found foreign donors; we translated a book-‘Mahali Pasipo na Daktari’-which was distributed all over the country. We were so successful that Mwalimu Nyerere declared that 1980 would be the national year of the child. I stayed on and progressed to be head of Unicef in the country and thereafter I was seconded to UN where I worked for various UN agencies, mainly in Southern Africa. After 23 years, I was promoted to be the UNDP Representative to SA, effectively responsible for the UN agencies in the country. I had wanted to join politics in the 1980’s but then UN policies did not allow us to participate.
So, I worked for Unicef for 23 years and UNDP for eight years in Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, where I was the first Unicef representative after the country attained its independence, Liberia during Charles Taylor’s reign, Kenya and New York.
But after all those years of service delivery, I realised that somehow there was a disconnection. All what we were doing was not sustainable because of policy issues. That is how I found my way back to school to study social policy, planning and participation in developing countries at the London School of Economics & Political Science. When I returned, I decided to work with UNDP for its core mandate is governance.
What were the highlights of your career?
There are several in every country that I worked. In Tanzania, Unicef helped to significantly reduce child mortality so much so that it was common to find children named ‘Unicef’. In Botswana, we highlighted the plight of the pastoral communities. In SA, our work focused on supporting the emerging democracy in incorporating the rights of children into the new Constitution. Also during my time as the Unicef representative here, our office managed to bring the Duchess of Kent for a tour which resulted in her raising five million dollars for the local cause. Similarly, in Liberia which happened to have been during its civil war, we facilitated a tour by ‘the Oprah of Japan’ Tetsuko Kuroyanagi who raised a million dollars to help our programmes.
What was the secret behind your success?
First of all, up-bringing is very important. Parents should nurture their children to work hard, to be independent while also ensure they grow with good manners. But secondly, we should know that hard work pays… I worked hard that is why I succeeded.
I also knew that I was educated using tax payers’ money so, I had to work hard for my country as a way of saying thank you. Thirdly, discipline; we have to be disciplined at home, at school, everywhere. If you are disciplined you will do well at work as well.
And what were the challenges that you faced?
I must admit that UN is a very difficult place to work. It is a club of different governments. What is accepted at the UN is moral minimum but the problem was with implementation; you work under a certain host government. Everywhere you go has its working environment and does and don’ts. You have to make sure that you convince the host government to help you reach the people you are supposed to serve. Because the target is the people, governments can sometimes send you to serve the areas which are not necessarily the UN’s priority. Another challenge is that of family.
I was always traveling and I could be moved from one country to the other. I had problems keeping tabs on my children. At the end we decided to send them to boarding schools. Yes, I got a very good income but it was sometimes painful living away from my family.
How did you finally end up staying in South Africa?
I retired from the UN after I reached the mandatory age of 60 years, but I was still energetic. So, I took my pension and went back to school, this time at the Chopra Centre University in California where I got an International Certification as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Coach and Primordial Sound Meditation Instructor.
South Africa is the only country where I served for two different periods. I really believe that God brought me here for a reason.
After independence, Mwalimu Nyerere said that the continent would not be free unless the other countries including SA were freed. Similarly, I think that in the success or failure of SA lies the hopes and aspirations of the African people. Here, I find vibrancy, a democratic space and a hunger for success. It is the last hope that we have to get our act together and provide a platform for a dynamic Africa.
I currently serve on the boards of many international organisations and about a decade ago I founded the Tanzanian Women in Gauteng (Twiga), which is essentially aimed at bringing together Tanzanian women living here. We support each other on different fronts
After witnessing the toll that stress in the workplace takes on individuals, I made a promise to God that when I retire I would learn to be a principle-centred leader who promotes balanced living for people to be healthy in mind, body and spirit.
I retired in 2009 and went to the Chopra Centre University in California to learn about spiritual health. I subsequently founded the Maadili Conscious Leadership & Healthy Lifestyles Coaching Institute. Using Ayurvedic techniques, I help individuals in the work place and elsewhere identify their natural mind body constitution and to understand their behaviour patterns when they are in and out of balance. On this basis, I share with them knowledge that enables them to access their potential towards the attainment of mind body balance through mindful awareness and conscious choice making. This helps tap into the healer within all of us and supports the fulfilment of our purpose in life.
For me, it is important to unlock the potential that is in most African people, individually and collectively.
What do you see as Tanzania’s development challenges?
Well, first, we have to work on our education system. I think the current curricula don’t prepare our people to get out of school and be competitive.
In the past we were taught to work hard, not only for ourselves but the country at large, may be because of the policy of socialism, but I now see everyone rushing to enrich themselves by any means. Selfishness won’t make us develop as a nation.
During our days you could hardly hear of corruption scandals, today it is normal. Moreover, our leaders need to be selfless and patriotic.
They need to put plans that will see the nation benefit from its natural resources. Our country has almost every natural resource but we are still poor. We have to put in place plans so that we prosper using our God-given heritage.