It all began in June 2007 when I started my journey at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a third secretary cadet, also known as a foreign service officer. The Foreign Service is a part of global political affairs which is traditionally a male-dominated field. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of a successful diplomatic career in the Foreign Service.
I landed the job after submitting an application in response to an advertisement I had seen and going through a rigorous interview by the Public Service Commission of Kenya. The recruitment followed suit, and after an intensive three-month Foreign Service Induction course, I was deployed to the Middle East department of the ministry, then to the Foreign Service Institute in 2008. Finally, I was posted to the Kenya High Commission in Canberra, Australia to serve my country for four years.
My deployment Down Under (as Australia is colloquially referred to) was the most gratifying personal and professional experience: from bilateral meetings, conferences, national day receptions, tourism & cultural exhibitions, festivals, inter-state visits, trainings, awards, and host country events, to consular, and diaspora services among others.
There were challenges I expected to face given that I was a young female diplomat in a multicultural nation and continent (Australia is both a country and a continent). It was not easy to try and fit in the diplomatic circle as a Muslimah in an environment comprised mostly of older male diplomats. I was seen as “a new kid on the block”. There was also the loneliness and isolation from family and loved ones who were thousands of miles away. Despite all these challenges, I was able to acclimatize and network with ease given Australia’s spirit of hospitality. Thus, I managed to make new friends and acquaintances, and most importantly, represent my country to the best of my ability.
Australia’s openness to foreigners made it easy for me to fit in and adjust well. There were Muslims in every state I visited. Therefore, finding halal food and mosques was not difficult. I was able to carry myself with decorum and uphold my Islamic values despite living in an environment dominated by purely Western values.
I would say that my career has enriched my life. It is often remarked that, “a diplomat is a global traveller”.
Working in the diplomatic world has quickly turned me into a nomad of all sorts. From my many diplomatic travels, I now see different cultures and different people I have encountered over the course of my work as one of the biggest benefits of my job. Representing one’s country makes you distinguished. You’re always on your toes on the defense line when it comes to the issues affecting your country.
The diplomatic exposure in Australia has transformed and refined me into a person with more of an inclination towards community development, uplifting of my society, and appreciating and tolerating cultural diversity.
My advice to young people aspiring to be diplomats, also applicable to other fields: let the sky be your limit; love what you do, do what you love, and own what you do.