AfricAid is proud to announce that a Kisa Scholar has become student body president at her university. Let’s meet her and learn about her leadership journey.
Fides Peter Zakayo was born and raised in Arusha and is the last born of nine children. She lost one of her siblings and now there are eight in her family. Fides enjoys spending time watching sea and water views, exercising and listening to music.
Fides’ leadership capabilities were strengthened when she joined the Kisa Project at Enaboishu High School in 2014 for two years. Fides attributes Kisa to the maturing of her attitude toward life, gender, and social perspectives. She was able to run for the position of Head Girl at school because Kisa empowered her to believe in herself and convince students that she has what it takes to lead. Fides won the majority of votes and became a school leader for the final two years she was in high school.
When Fides graduated from high school, she wanted to continue her community development work in a leadership role. She said, “I think leadership is a passion. When women are empowered to change the status quo, they have the courage to change the perception of people about female leaders. Leadership is not limited by our biological differences. We have great examples of female leaders. We have our mothers, sisters and role models like Samia Sululu (Vice President of Tanzania) who are living proof that female leaders not only exist, but play a big role in making this world a better place.”
Fides is now a student at St. Augustine University of Tanzania in Mwanza studying for a bachelor’s degree in education. She continued her leadership journey and contested for the president of student government in May, 2018. She is only the second female in the history of her school to hold this position. The last female president, now a BBC broadcaster, was in 2004.
“It wasn’t easy to stand in front of the university administration. The attitude of SAUT was that a woman can never lead and since it started, there has never been a woman who has won the election. I faced challenges from both the administration and fellow students that I could be the first female president and get things done.”
Fides, explained that one of the biggest hurdles was finding a male candidate who would accept running alongside a female. In all previous cases, a man ran for president and a female as vice president. The administration told her “it doesn’t look good for a man to be led by a woman. It will hurt your chances of being voted in.”
Fides also received little encouragement from others and many times was actively discouraged from pursuing the post. People told her she was wasting her time. Fides said “The university community discouraged me in every way possible. They told me no woman can be president anywhere. They told me even if I tried my very best, I would lose.” However, these naysayers seemed to encourage Fides even more. “I didn’t want to let their noise stop me. I knew exactly what I was doing. With the skills from Kisa and life experience, I knew what my goal was and that biological differences don’t define my abilities in leadership. This made me so frustrated, so I went ahead and contested. I won all the interviews with the administration. I went ahead and campaigned. I was prepared not just to win, but I wanted people to see and understand that women should never be underestimated.”
Fides is very good with words, so let’s listen to what she has to say about how determined she was: “When I stood as a contestant, I carried the spirit of leadership of all other women with me, because I knew I wasn’t just standing for myself, but for the rest of us all. After I finished giving my final speech before the vote, I knew that even if I didn’t win, I had planted a seed for change on how society looks at women. Guess what? When the results came, I was won with 82% of the votes and now I am the first female class president at St. Augustine University of Tanzania!”
Fides has some advice for all of us: “My advice for all the women out there is we should support other women. There is so much power in a woman supporting another woman. We should honor the fact that we are the mothers of tomorrow and leaders of today. I feel so honored that I was born female.”
Fides ended her story by acknowledging that there were many different factors that contributed to her becoming a leader, but that Kisa is one of her main turning points. “Kisa is my family everywhere I go and it would be an injustice for me not to mention how helpful the leadership skills have helped me though this journey.” She still keeps in touch with her Kisa Mentor, Chausiku Mkuya, every now and then, and through the Kisa Alumna Network, we hope to follow her unfolding story. As someone who knows Fides, I am convinced her voice and desire for change will inspire a lot of people around the world.