For International Women’s Day, we would like to highlight two participants from the RWSN Mentoring programme for young professionals and women, Fadzai T. Munodawafa-Bhurabhura (from Zimbabwe) and Dr Kerstin Danert (from Switzerland). You can find out more about their experience of mentoring through RWSN below. RWSN plans on launching a new edition of the mentoring programme soon, and encourages women of all ages in the water sector to sign up. To find out more, sign up to become a RWSN member today.
Mentorship is a reciprocal learning relationship in which a mentor and mentee work collaboratively toward the achievement of mutually-defined goals that will develop a mentee’s skills, abilities, knowledge, and/or thinking.
I am Fadzai T. Munodawafa, a WASH professional with an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Zimbabwe. I support teams who implement WASH in the rural communities in Zimbabwe. In addition, I am responsible for managing the drilling unit of the organisation. With such responsibilities as a young professional, I sought to increase my understanding of rural and urban water supply and sanitation as well as groundwater monitoring, which both have a significant bearing on improving access to water for under-privileged communities.
A message of invitation for young professionals in the water sector to join the mentorship programme under the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) was shared on the Zimbabwe WASH Cluster platform. I thought this was an opportunity to learn from senior professionals and firm up my career. Following acceptance within the mentorship programme in 2020, I was linked with Dr Kerstin Danert a water sector professional researcher and facilitator.
I am Kerstin Danert, a rural water supply professional who has been active in RWSN since 2004, when I was still living and working in Uganda. I work as a consultant, with a range of types of work including research, training, facilitation and knowledge-brokering. I currently live in Switzerland.
My mentorship experience was a flexible one where I would ask questions or a raise discussion point and Kerstin would have a topic for discussion for our scheduled meetings. During our 9-month mentorship relationship, Kerstin and I discussed broadly on topics such as groundwater management, remote sensing and sustainable community-based management of water points key areas that have helped me in my career in the water sector. Kerstin’s experience in sub-Saharan Africa and remote areas made our connection easy as she could relate to my experiences and questions.
Our mentoring relationship commenced just as I was branching out to start my own company, which unfortunately coincided with the start of the Covid pandemic. It was not an easy time (as we all know), and I was worried as to whether my company would even survive. It very soon became apparent that this would not be a one-way mentorship by any means. Fadzai not only helped me to make contact with field realities (which I was very much missing), but also gave me a lot of support and encouragement regarding my new venture.
As a young professional, I was not confident speaking in public forums, a weakness my mentor helped me to work on. Now I can confidently speak in professional forums following her encouragement. Our engagement also looked into working on my resume and boost it to showcase the experience and skills I have. In addition, she connected me with experienced drillers and water specialists in Zimbabwe.
Although I have now worked in the water sector for over 25 years always as a consultant, I still remain concerned work may not come in going forwards. Further, I think that I had began to take my years of experience for granted. The exchanges with Fadzai helped me to fully appreciate that I am actually not at the start of my working life, but (hopefully) in the middle of it with a lot under my belt already!
Both of us
Since the mentorship programme under RWSN, we have kept in touch resulting in our participation in the UNHS Climate and Gender podcast on Global Partnership: Gender, Progression and Climate-Orientated Careers (The UNHS Podcast and Spotify) in 2021. The following year, our mentorship led us to work on a report and video documenting the impact stories from participants of online courses on professional drilling by the RWSN
As a result of my mentorship experience, I can more effectively allocate my time for various activities, connect and confidently engage with other professionals in the water sector as well as have knowledge on key aspects of documentation. I highly recommend other young professionals to join the mentorship program that will build them up in their career within the water sector. Many thanks to the RWSN for this amazing and life changing experience.
This mentorship brought me closer to the field again. I learned so much from the conversations with Fadzai – and drew insights from her into all of my ongoing assignments, whatever the topic in fact. She always had such insightful contributions to make. And I argue that I was the mentee just as much as Fadzai was. So I encourage others to take the time to get involved in this programme. It has been so rewarding and I look forward to finally meeting Fadzai one day! We have been talking regularly now for three years. A big thanks to RWSN for this chance.
To find out more information about the RWSN mentoring programme, please see here.