Women in Diplomacy

Diplomatic challenges for women are similar to other professions


H.E. Halima Abdille Mahmoud, Ambassador of Kenya to Kuwait is charming young diplomat who comes across as soft spoken and reserved. Even though she is relatively new to the world of diplomacy, Ambassador Halima has quickly made her mark in diplomatic circles with her active participation and positive approach. In an exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait Managing Editor, Ambassador Halima details her journey into diplomacy.

Can you please tell us a little about yourself; your background and what brought you to a career in diplomacy?

My journey in public life started from my early years at university when I was a student leader. The newly promulgated 2010 Kenyan Constitution had ushered in new opportunities for Kenyan women, youth and marginalized communities, in ensuring equal opportunities particularly the two-third a Gender rule in leadership positions.

In 201I, I began working with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that focused on issues of good governance and sensitization of citizens on the New Constitution. It was during this period that I developed a passion for politics and served at the Senate from 2013 to 2017. In 2019, I was appointed Kenya’s Ambassador to the State of Kuwait.

Did you have a role model that encouraged your choice of career?

I have several role models but the outstanding one is Professor Olive Mugenda, who was Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University. During her tenure at the helm of the institution, she exhibited transformational leadership which touched the lives of many Kenyans. This gave me inspiration to fulfill my dream as a positive role model for the youth.

Other notable role models include women leadership at the apex of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs such as Ministers Amb. Amina Mohamed, Amb. Monica Juma and the incumbent, Amb. Raychelle Omamo.

Where were some of your previous tenures and any interesting episodes during your diplomatic career?

My previous tenures included a career as an educator, social worker and a politician.

What challenges did you face as a woman diplomat and how easy or difficult do you think it is for women to work in the diplomatic field?

The challenges are not that different from those faced by women in other professions. As a diplomat, one may require to be flexible as issues that require attention may emerge abruptly hence staying away from family at short notice. In any case, I have a supportive and capable team which works with me to meet the mandate of the Embassy.

Do you face any obstacles being a woman diplomat in Kuwait, especially in attending the Diwaniya circuit?

Kenya and Kuwait enjoy cordial relations and for the last one year I have been in Kuwait, I have received a very warm welcome. I have not experienced any obstacles during the Diwaniyas though at present the Covid-19 restrictions have limited my interactions and God willing, I am looking forward to further engagements once the pandemic is over..

What do you enjoy most in your life as a diplomat?

I enjoy engagements and cooperating with the host Government to cement long lasting ties between Kenya and Kuwait. In addition, the Diwaniya I have attended offered me a chance to visit different segments of Kuwaiti society and gave me the opportunity to learn more on the rich culture and tradition of the people of Kuwait

How do you see Kuwaiti women’s role in society?

Kuwait has made remarkable gains for women in the region by cementing their democratic rights through voting. In the judiciary, I am delighted to note that there were about eight (8) women judges, the first country to do so in the GCC. Likewise, the domestic violence bill gives mothers the right to authorize medical treatment for the children. These are among others positive reforms touching on women in Kuwait.

What are your hobbies?

My hobbies include creating new friends, contacts and learning of different cultures and traditions.

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