She wants UMATI to incorporate community members’ opinions on sustainability and equality in order to become a well-known and indispensable resource for reproductive health
Dar es Salaam. There is no hesitancy when it comes to policies that promote gender balance or equality: UMATI was the first local organisation in Tanzania to provide sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information, education, and services for over 60 years.
Ms Suzana Mkanzabi is the executive director of UMATI, which has an unique policy in its constitution to promote gender equality in the workplace.
She says that at least half of the board members should be women. It falls to employees, but it occasionally reaches the statutory 50 percent, but youngsters and women are encouraged to participate in “our work and decision-making.”
She describes her more than 15-year career path as beginning with a few years in a financial institution and afterwards in the private sector, both local and international.
Building her leadership muscles, she has learned to be a goal-oriented individual with strong leadership capacity, financial management, risk management, project management, process improvement, strategic planning, and grant resource mobilisation from different funders.
“While working at NGOs, I had the opportunity to oversee portfolios from multiple development donors. I have managed risks and donor funds of up to $35 million a year and, at the same time, ensured compliance with donor requirements and government laws,” says Ms Mkanzabi.
In terms of her vision at UMATI, she says that she is working to make UMATI a reputable and go-to partner in reproductive health by instilling a sense of sustainability and equity for community members in project designs and implementation, as well as strengthening strategic partnerships with the government and all stakeholders for a positive impact.
She also practises leadership thinking; every week she gets time to reflect on how she leads the organisation, learn about the needed changes, and learn which goals have been reached. An endless curiosity for learning new things and how to address different situations also keeps her shaping her leadership skills. This helps her be ahead of any situation that might occur.
She has a passion for Tanzania’s health system strengthening and youth has been the reason for joining the UMATI team in achieving its mission of provision of sexual reproductive health to youth and underserved in Tanzania.
She attributes her family, her previous boss, and her colleagues for inspiring her to achieve her roles as a leader over the years, as they have always inspired her to be better and keep improving on a daily basis.
“I did not envision being in this role as I grew up. However, my husband and previous boss spotted my potential and would always tell me of my abilities, even when I could not recognise them myself. “That gave me the reason to go the extra mile,” she says.
Being asked on what is the most pressing issue that need to be addressed at the grassroots in Tanzania’s health system specifically for youth and women she says, the right education and information about their sexual reproductive health is key.
She says this helps them make informed decisions about their bodies and their future. This should go along with the quality services on reproductive health among women and youth.
According to her years of experience in leadership, she says lack of confidence, cultural norms, and lack of self-awareness are reasons that derail women’s progress in the corporate world.
She says motivation is needed to help more women climb the corporate ladder. She coaches women by telling them that women are the agents of change. They need to be confident and self-motivated.
When describing her leadership style, she says she has many ways to lead, but coaching describes them all. “I have been coached to be where I am today, and I have applied the same to my team.” “This has helped the organisation and the team reach peak performance and meet expectations,” says Mkanzabi.
She says no job is always flexible, but the mantra she lives by, which is “go the extra mile, it is never crowded helps her a lot. In addition to that, she addresses the challenges at work to remain successful in her duties; she remains committed to her goals and mission, does not compromise her integrity, and consistency is key.