Purity Kagwiria is the Executive Director at Akili Dada, a leadership incubation organization for women and girls in Africa.
My money mistakes: I have made several money mistakes, especially when I started earning. I didn’t start to save early enough. I love clothes and shoes, and my first salary after paying my bills was always spent on buying clothes and shoes. If anything was left, I’d give it to my mother who had just been diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness. Being the first person in a few generations of my family to complete high school, go on into university and get good jobs meant that I had immense financial responsibilities, which I’d meet often out of guilt. However, I later learnt that there are limits to giving to your family even when you’re financially blessed. I learnt to say no, not to feel guilty of my accomplishments, and not to make financial decisions based on how guilty a relative made me feel. And I taught my mom how to budget so that there would be less calls mid-month asking for money.
Biggest career lesson: Life will always give you a chance to learn lessons the easier way; if you don’t recognize and learn, you will end up learning the hard way. In my first job, I got caught up in gossip, and unhealthy and toxic work relationships. I would judge people based on hearsay and for a long time I didn’t know the line between being friends and being workmates. I expected that if I am friends with my boss, she shouldn’t question what I am doing or not doing, if she did I felt that our friendship was not strong. Since I have worked in the NGO sector my entire career, the lines are also not always clear. I didn’t take feedback well and always saw it as a personal attack. I eventually quit this job, became jobless and very broke for two years.
Saving and giving: I save together with my family. We include our savings in our monthly budgets. In the past, I would assume that I knew how I spent all my income, but I didn’t.
For instance, when my family tracked our monthly expenses over a period of time, we learned that there were things we spent money on that we actually didn’t need. For example, we spent at least Sh. 5,000 on juice monthly. We cut this expense off and opted to go for water. I also reserve 30 per cent of my income or expenses for giving to needy children’ homes.
If I were to start again: I would believe more in myself and explore the world more believing that I am the right person at the right place and at the right time. I would get a mentor, invest in my growth based on my strengths, and especially get to know myself better especially in my 20s.
Where women get it wrong in life: Conforming to rigid cultures that box us to either a wife or a mother. These are not the only things a woman can excel in. I have come to learn that as women, we should be able to tap more into who we are and bring it out into our careers or business. For example, the more I have learned to trust myself and approach the world using my strengths, the better I have become.
This feature on Purity Kagwiria was first published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a product of the Nation Media Group.