Nelly Kamau Melita, Honorary Secretary of Ufanisi DT Sacco, shares her life experience and journey to get to the top.
It is an hilarious journey that began in 2009, riding on one particular incident that looked like her fortunes were lost forever.
She remembers this with clarity, frivolous as it might be but it took an ironic twist that changed her life for good.
Back then, when she attended her first Annual General Meeting (AGM) to vie for the position of director, she arrived late and had not even campaigned.
She was greeted by an irate Ouma, whom she had entrusted to her campaigns.
Ouma, together with another friend, had put her best foot forward after they had listened to her agenda and agreed to rally behind her.
Sweet as her manifesto might have sounded, people do not buy into things they cannot see.
“Unaombea kura mtu hatumuoni na hata hayuko hapa?”, roughly translated ‘How dare you campaign for someone who is not even here?”, rang the judgement from the disinterested delegates as Melita entered.
She knew it was over. She was sorry for her friend and bemoaned her appetite for githeri which had delayed her arrival until the meeting was underway.
Though she had enthusiastically woken up as early as 5 o’clock in the morning, she was held up by this small but important matter.
However, when the voting was over, she was elected unopposed!
Her pregnancy, and her appetite, seemingly, had conspired to hand her the job.
The rest, as they say, is History.
It was a dream come true for her and the womenfolk, having mooted the idea but told to back off by a gentleman, who unequivocally said she needed to dish out money to get the post.
Yet according to her, she first heard of a Sacco in August 2004 when she shifted from the private sector and the non-governmental organization (NGO) world to government, where her new employer -Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) – gave her forms to fill, and among them were Ufanisi Sacco Society Ltd recruitment form.
“All those years, I had never thought of joining a Sacco. I was a novice hearing new financial terminologies such as deposits and shares. And for the first time, I heard of gurantorship,” Melita told Sacco Review in a recent interview.
She said her love for the Sacco began there, and when she inquired who the leaders were, and learnt there was only one lady on the board, she decided to take a stab at it.
“From then on it has been a journey of growth and development all round – socially, economically, politically, spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and environmentally, and now I am working on my financial freedom,” she adds.
Her youthful life had been wrought by the drudgery of conventional transitory life, joining Oloitokitok Secondary School from Arap Moi Primary School in Kajiado North in the early to mid-eighties.
The daughter of Peter Kamau Waithaka and Mary Sanaipei Mutel did her Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) in 1983, Kenya Certificate of Education (KCE) in 1987, and later joined Mary Leakey Girls School for the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE), popularly known as ‘A’ Levels, in 1989.
Afterwards she trained as a paralegal between 1991 and 1993.
Nevertheless, her curiosity to learn new things after joining the Sacco moved her to think of higher ideals.
“I enrolled at St Paul’s University for my first Degree; Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies between January 2010 and August 2012, thereafter pursuing a Master’s Degree in the same field at the University of Nairobi, where I majored in Development Communication between 2013 and 2015,” Melita reflects, noting that it was after joining the board that she seriously considered pursuing higher education.
She says the position of Honorary Secretary is a challenging one in the cooperative movement, though she is clearly enjoying every bit of it judging from her demeanour.
When she was appointed Secretary with the ‘Honorary’ prefix in 2012, at the back of her mind she knew it was her God-given opportunity to serve.
A key element of the Honorary Secretary position in Saccos, and the cooperative movement in general, is keeping communication channels open.
This is the big picture she paints as one among the few women in top Sacco leadership in the country.
According to Sacco by-laws, the general duties of an Honorary Secretary are to record minutes of the general, committee, and joint meetings with the Supervisory Committee.
They are also to ensure that notices of meetings are prepared and sent out, and that society’s correspondences are promptly and correctly attended to.
Melita states that a Sacco Honorary Secretary should be a communicator for and to the management, members and other stakeholders.
“To achieve these effective structures, systems and processes are essential. Continuous improvement in regard to internal and external communication with members and stakeholders is crucial in building the Sacco reputation,” she says.
She is also charged with collective leadership, arranging and preparing for meetings in collaboration with the chairman and the chief executive (CEO).
“The Hon Secretary is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring minutes of the board, Annual General Meetings, joint meetings with the Supervisory Committees, general meetings and any other body are properly recorded, ensuring that notices of meetings are sent out timely in compliance with the law and by-laws,” she recounts.
She adds further that after the meeting, the Hon Secretary ensures minutes are implemented, working with the CEO to prioritize decisions requiring action, and also determining the implementation process whereby the Treasurer, who is in-charge of the management team, could be consulted.
Upon joining the board, she realized that to provide strategic leadership she required knowledge, wisdom and information, but above all to stop speaking the pedestrian roadside language and improve on her communication and critical thinking skills to enable her professionally engage in boardroom debates and discussions.
“I found myself in this space and later graduated to the Credit Committee. Today I am in the Finance and Administration Committee and in the year 2012, I was appointed the Honorary Secretary. As I served in the various committees I learnt the intertwined threading and observed the board dynamics; how board members interact with each other in the course of undertaking their roles,” narrates Melita.
After achieving her certification as a Sacco director, her desire was unstoppable. She started a conversation around time while doing a briefing on the course covered and pointed out clearly the need for change in running meetings and the timing.
Time is of essence to Melita, demonstrating how she has managed to revolutionize the concept at Ufanisi.
As Honorary Secretary, she says one needs to set certain goals and objectives, and her desire is to achieve the dream of ‘one hour meeting’.
“One advantage is that our board has worked together effectively as a team and we have achieved key milestones from drawing up the first strategic plan to embracing technology as articulated in our vision. The conversation brought on board diversity of opinion, thinking, listening to clear expectations of each individual and committees, learning together, and sharing common agreement about the meeting time,” she says.
“The board agreed that the Any Other Business (AOB) appendage should be used as a platform to gather agenda for the next meeting. However, there is an allowance for agenda to be proposed by board members 10 days before the main meeting,” she points out, saying the aim is to cut down on bickering and time wasting.
Result? Most of their meetings end within 45 minutes. “Adoption of the hybrid system of meeting has made time keeping even sweeter. I applaud my board members for making this dream a reality,” she said.
By Roy Hezron
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