Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Chebet Chikumbu, I am a Pan African woman of Kenyan origin and South African cultivation. I currently serve as the Regional Director of Southern and East Africa at Global Citizen.
What was the path that led you to this role at Global Citizen?
I was working under the extraordinary leadership of Mama Graça Machel in her capacity as Chairperson of Mandela Institute for Development Studies. During this stint, I was exposed to the power of information dissemination for social change and finding solutions for
development challenges on our continent. I was in awe of her humanitarian efforts
through various interventions and channelled her lessons into my own line of service. I
was responsible for shaping the nature of the development programmes in African
Heritage and Economic Development which planted seeds in the role that Africans can
play in actively seeking our own interventions through collaboration and coordination.
Prior to that, I served at Praekelt Foundation – an organisation dedicated to using mobile
technology to improve the lives of people living in poverty. This was my introduction to
advancing our development agenda using digital platforms to tackle social issues.
Can you tell us a little about your duties as the Africa Director at Global Citizen?
I am responsible for leading our Joburg-based team in the execution of our regional strategy.
I oversee the delivery of our key advocacy campaigns, communications, programmes
and strategic partnerships in the Southern and East Africa region.
Did you always know that working in the Humanitarian was what you wanted to do?
Yes, working in the humanitarian field was always what I wanted to do as a conscious
citizen fueled by serving others and using my inner agency to uplift vulnerable people.
As a first born child, I was taught to work hard and treat everyone with kindness while
remembering my roots. As a grown African woman, I am determined to lead with
compassion and live with purpose to tackle the systemic causes of extreme poverty.
What motivates you on a daily basis in the humanitarian field?
I am motivated by those who have gone before us and fought for our economic freedom such as Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Mama Wangari Maathai as well as living legends devoted to leaving a legacy for a better world for our next generation, driven by their individual stories for social justice and I emulate their ideologies through my own existence.
And what are the main challenges?
Given the nature of finite resources in our world, we will continue to experience inequalities and scarcity to some extent. Thus the opportunities for us remain to address shortages, to source supplies and mobilise those who are fortunate enough to meet the growing demand of basic needs in our communities.
What was it about your mentality that changed when you started working at Global Citizen?
I have gained a greater appreciation for diversity. Working for an advocacy
organisation that spans across five continents has affirmed that our thinking and actions
are truly shaped by our cultural awareness, lived experiences and varied background.
Our cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural
diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity. As a member of
the human race, our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the
socio-economic solutions we develop and pass them on to the next generation.
You’ve had so many career highs. What’s been your proudest moment?
Being part of a team that delivered the Mandela 100 campaign culminating in a festival which
galvanized 16 governments, eight international institutions and foundations, and 12
corporations to make financial and political commitments. This campaign saw engaged
citizens take over 5.65 million actions globally, which resulted in 60 commitments and
announcements worth USD $7.2 billion (ZAR 104 billion), set to affect the lives of 121
million people around the world.
How do we achieve having more women chairing government or business Affairs in
We need to lean into our own inherent capacities and capabilities to chair all
types of affairs on the continent. It starts with self belief to apply our innate strengths,
followed by making decisions using facts and figures with good sensibilities and
sensitivities when needed. Additionally, I am learning how to make a difference and
move the needle through teachings from some of our formidable African elders such as
Amina Mohammed, Maki Mandela, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Winnie Byanyima.
Which topics or Areas are most interesting to you?
Early childhood development, gender equality, women’s empowerment and partnerships for development.
What’s your advice for women trying to discover or build upon their passion?
Go for it wholeheartedly, grind hard and have a willingness to try again if at first you do not
succeed. Life is a series of learnings and wins, there can be no failures if we build upon
each lesson. Condition your mind with positive success stories and fill up on courage to
step outside of your comfort zone. As the great late poet Maya Angelou said “you
develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a
100-pound weight without preparing yourself.” The inches we need are everywhere.
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What are the main characteristics you believe every successful leader should possess?
Empathy, humility and integrity.
What Woman inspires you and why?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; for her outlook on identity, feminism and fashion as well as her excellent command for storytelling and positively shifting narratives through her craft.
Why is it important for people to care about the crisis and disasters that are happening
around the world?
We have a shared universal obligation as members of the human race to care for each other as well as our planet as our home. The negative externalities we face are often within our control to course correct as we have the agency and abilities to take action to make our world a better place. We need to generate more consciousness about the collective power of active citizenry that lifts societies for our greater good.