|Photograph by Kusekhaya|
There was one day when I was moved to tears by Nurshaim's honesty in describing difficulties she was facing at the time, at a different work place. Reading her narrative of that conversation now, I remember interviews I have carried out as part of a recent study on gender policies and practice in four German organisations. A couple of persons told me about a leader in their organisation shedding tears in public - which they described as a display of emotional intelligence and an empathetic form of leadership. Interesting! Meanwhile, as I have accumulated more experience in mentoring and coaching, I have learned to empathise differently - but I still get visibly moved when a mentee tells me about her success!
And here are Nurshaim's answers to my questions:
1) What is the main issue that you are currently working on?
As a National Professional Officer at WHO, I am responsible for supporting the Government in improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in the country. One of the main issues I currently work on is in relation to reducing maternal mortality in my country, which is still one of the highest in the WHO European region. Maternal mortality is not only a concern of the health sector, many associated factors play a role. Those are social, economical, systemic and gender inequality ones. My work focus addresses this issue from the policy angle. Thus, evidence-based best practices and systemic approaches to inform policy development and implementation are the key directions of my work.
2) What makes you an excellent person to work on these issues?
Above all, I feel strongly about this issue and want to make a change. I believe no women in the 21st century should die while being pregnant or during childbirth. However, we still face issues of health inequalities in many parts of the world, including in my country. Other than that, I was fortunate to acquire skills and knowledge in my field from many distinguished opportunities in my life, including those from short courses, degree programs, fellowships, exchange programs from different parts of the world. Such experience not only enriches oneself, but also strengthens your capacity and motivates to work further to finally reach your goal. And finally, I was fortunate to have great mentors who inspired me, believed in me and supported me in my endeavours.
3) How do you deal with obstacles and setbacks?
Setbacks and obstacles are perhaps essential ingredients for success. They teach us lessons, make us stronger and make us rise with a new motivation to succeed. Giving up is the worst strategy one can adapt. I try to embrace obstacles and setbacks and learn from them. This really challenges me to try even harder until I reach my goal. Never being afraid to fail and keep trying is important. Furthermore, not being too strict to oneself and self-care could be the best strategies to overcome setbacks.
4) What is your advice to younger women who want to drive change?
Believing in oneself is the key, but also not being afraid to ask for support, provide support when you can to others is equally important. There are many more well-wishers and supporters than we tend to think. Being open to opportunities, new experiences and challenging oneself helps to grow and develop. Avoid being in a comfort zone for too long and embrace all the adventures coming along stimulates more than anything. Self-care should never be ignored.
5) What is your advice to people who are in mentorships in your experience, what makes a mentorship useful?
Setting a scene and articulating expectations is important. Mentorship is a two-way process, and never a one-sided action. Mentors learn from mentees too. Furthermore, being in a mentorship process is a responsibility from both sides, never underestimate that responsibility. During the process itself, it is important to monitor the progress in order not to have an abstract conversations. However, meeting just for a cup of coffee or tea just to say how "great" or how "bad" was your recent project is also important. If possible, spending some leisure time together can make a magic. Having a great mentor is a treasure for the rest of your life, so value it!
6) What it was like to have you as my mentor?
One of the most important things to mention is the feeling of being heard. Michaela is an exceptional active listener, but beyond that, she was one great empathetic mentor I ever had in my life. I remember one time, I was sharing my recent setback at work, when all seemed ruining around, and at one point I realised, that I made her cry. I will never forget that. Michaela was so dissolved in my story, that was feeling my pain and disappointment and started crying. I was so touched, but at the same time I felt so strongly how empathetic she was and that was all I needed at that time. We might not be in constant contact, we have never met in person, but Michaela has a very special place in my heart as one of the best mentors I ever had. Thank you, Michaela, I might not have said it always, but I can't stop appreciating you and your care I felt during our mentorship process and even now.