Friday
Mar 13
2015
March 13, 2015

Ceiling Breaker for Safe and Respectful Workplaces

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Nkirote Koome, 27, is a program officer with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), based in Nairobi, Kenya, and supports landscape restoration programs in Kenya and Ethiopia. Nkirote’s passion for environmental conservation, which began at a young age with her interest in gardening, has led her to pursue a Masters in environmental governance. Her family has always been supportive of her career choices and she was fortunate not to experience gender discrimination in school. 

However growing up in Nairobi, Nkirote became aware of the discrimination women in Kenya faced every day. Fortunately, Nkirote had several strong female role models in her life. Her mother, a Judge in the Court of Appeal, served as women’s rights lawyer championing the rights of women by advocating for affirmative action and gender parity. Her mother’s close friend, a former cabinet minister and presidential candidate, is an advocate for women’s equitable representation in parliament. And Nkirote’s aunt, a pioneer in the microfinance industry, successfully spearheaded one of the most successful women-only microfinance institutions in Kenya at a time when women’s economic empowerment did not feature prominently in political and policy dialogues. It’s no surprise that Nkirote believes in standing up for women’s rights, and knows that change can begin with her own actions.

 

Before joining the Clinton Foundation, Nkirote worked in microfinance and investment banking. While travelling on business around Kenya, Nkirote experienced sexual harassment from her mostly male colleagues. Despite her fear on how she might be viewed, Nkirote courageously filed a complaint with the Human Resources department about her experience. Reporting sexual harassment claims was not the norm in her workplace and she was repeatedly asked if she "was sure" about filing the complaint. After standing up for what she knew was right, many women at her workplace thanked Nkirote for her courage and commended her for standing up for herself and all women in the office. Nkirote found that sharing her story and taking a step towards ending sexual harassment in the workplace was one of the most liberating experiences for herself as a woman today.

Nkirote’s vision for women and girls is that: “Young girls will grow up in a society that supports and protects their choices. I want them to be confident in making their academic choices; they should do what they want, not what’s expected. The same can be said for their social lives; too many women have children too early because it is expected or because they have no control over their reproductive health-that needs to change.”

Through this experience, not only did Nkirote gain the respect of other women in her office, she has also gained a sense of freedom and self-expression. She overcame her fears and social pressures to advocate for her right, and others' right, to a safe and respectful work environment. Nkirote is an inspiration to other women who face challenges in their workplace.

Learn more about the Clinton Climate Initiative and the Clinton Foundation’s work on women and girls.


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