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Top women's leadership award for transformational change

Wednesday 27 May 2020 12:37pm

ANews0520 Onalenna Seito-Kgokgwe 226px
Dr Onalenna Seitio-Kgokgwe

Otago’s first Centre for International Health doctoral graduate is being recognised globally as a leader in her field and as one of Africa’s most influential women.

Dr Onalenna Seitio-Kgokgwe, who graduated with a PhD in Public Health from Otago in 2012, was awarded the Women Super Achiever Award from the World Women Leadership Congress, in Mumbai, India, earlier this year.

Dr Seitio-Kgokgwe is the Botswana Country Director for the Institute of Development Management (IDM), which encompasses Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. The IDM aims to improve the managerial knowledge and skills of people with senior responsibilities in public, state and private organisations.

“Receiving this award was a very humbling experience for me,” says Dr Seitio-Kgokgwe. “I had to take stock and reflect on what I have been doing these past couple of years and what I could term my contribution.

“I realised that yes, I have achieved quite a lot with the people I work with and the leadership that I have which afforded me the opportunity to unfold. I am therefore grateful to my team and my supervisor who is an incredible person to work with.”

The Congress describes the Women Super Achiever award as a reflection of professional achievement by women of the world who set a big example for transformation and change, as well as nurturing talent, having trained several young people to grow in their profession.

“Receiving this award was a very humbling experience for me,I had to take stock and reflect on what I have been doing these past couple of years and what I could term my contribution.”

- Dr Onalenna Seitio-Kgokgwe

In 2018 Dr Seitio-Kgokgwe was also was named Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Business and Government for the South African Development Community, North, by CEO Global. In 2019 she was nominated by the same organization for a continental award and in July last year was conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Education by the University of Bolton in the United Kingdom.

Her current role with IDM involves leading multidisciplinary teams to deliver training, research and consultancy work that addresses the needs of the Botswana economy.

“The position also has a lot do with networks and partnerships ¬- establishing links with local and international entities and in the process advancing the scope of the organisation I work for.”

For the past couple of months, Dr Seitio-Kgokgwe has been actively involved in supporting the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Tapping from the organization’s multidisciplinary nature, I sent a team of lecturers from public health and procurement and supply to support the Ministry of Health technical teams.

“I have also ensured that our students and graduates have a role to play by advocating for their inclusion in the response. This is particularly true for graduates of Public Health who have been recruited for contact tracing and screening, and graduates of the Community Development programme who are participating in delivery of social programmes during the pandemic.”

On another front, Dr Seitio-Kgokgwe is leading a team that is implementing a World Health Organisation (WHO)-funded health system thinking project that is using COVID-19 as an example of a complex problem that needs a systems thinking approach. One of the key deliverables for this project is documenting the country’s response to COVID-19 and developing a COVID-19 health systems observatory in collaboration with other countries that are participating in the project.

Dr Seitio-Kgokgwe credits her time at Otago as equipping her with the skills and attitude to be flexible and open-minded about her career path.

“Where I am today, my greatest memories and source of inspiration are the words of the then Director of Doctoral studies Dr Charles Tustin who used to run PhD seminars for us. He emphasized that PhD studies is about acquiring life skills that can be used in a variety of settings. It is not about the discipline in which one is studying.

“He made us appreciate that while we might be studying with perfect jobs in mind, in real life those jobs may not come our way and that we must remember the repertoire of skills that we acquired can enable us to survive if we apply ourselves.

“I take it that I have done that pretty well. While I was looking for a perfect public health job, I have been able to fit into a much broader scope of function when that job did not come by. I thank him for that especially when I see my horizons opening up in ways I never imagined.”

She says she also feels “forever indebted” to her professors Phillip Hill and Robin Gauld who took keen interest in her studies.

“They always did the best they could to address my needs to enable me to complete my PhD in record time. I continue to be in contact with them for my professional growth and to get quick guidance when I need it.”