Communication strategies and leadership development among high school girls in rural Kenya
Despite numerous deliberate efforts to nurture leadership competencies among girls, statistics show that gender imbalance is still experienced both in appointment and election to public and private sector. A number of organizations have made deliberate efforts to correct this trend with little success. This research holds the view that the problem is not with the initiatives but the communication strategies used to package this kind of information. The study set out to investigate communication strategies and development of leadership competencies among high school girls in rural Kenya. It adopted a descriptive study design which used both quantitative and qualitative approach to data gathering. Qualitative data was gathered through interviews with positive change agents, key informants‟ interviews with leadership development experts and other strategic stakeholders. Additionally, the researcher conducted structured participant observation of a model leadership development workshop. The researcher purposively sampled one schools from Migori County and the other from Homa Bay County. The study focused more on the perspective of the students being the beneficiaries of these communication strategies as they boost their self-confidence and leadership competencies. A descriptive survey was conducted with 130 students. In total 132 people participated in the research including 121 students and prefects. The researcher also interviewed program implementers/positive change agents and experts in gender issues and leadership development. The study sought to understand which specific competencies are necessary for leadership that need to be nurtured; which methods are used to identify these competencies; and to understand what challenges the implementers face in such leadership development initiatives with a view to proposing ways of addressing them. Since this study was generally based on girls learning leadership skills by observation and to some extent imitation through personal contacts and interaction, the study adopted Albert Bandura‟s social learning theory. Existing programs of leadership development amongst girls run by the Women‟s Initiative in Education- NEWI and other organizations served as model interventions and were used to draw lessons in the study. The researcher participated in girls‟ mentorship program sessions and interacted with the girls while recording his observations. The sessions were held outside the conventional classroom settings to allow the girls a free discussion atmosphere in a natural environment. Gathered quantitative data were processed and analysed using descriptive analysis. The findings were presented in tables, graphs and pie charts, and through narratives. Qualitative data were processed and analysed using thematic analysis. Findings emanating from different sources and obtained through different tools were triangulated to draw an all-encompassing conclusion. The study found that intelligence is the most critical competency in leadership followed by assertiveness and boldness. However physical appearance as a quality ranked low. All the four communication strategies were useful, with most respondents preferring mentorship and role modelling as key methods of developing leaders. The study concluded that communication strategies play a key role in developing leadership both among girls and the society at large and more thought should be put while planning one in an intervention.