A journalist, author and former UN worker, Ms Scholastic Kimaryo, clarifies a point during an interview with this paper in Pretoria, South Africa recently. She says that her work with Unicef in South Africa focused on supporting the emerging democracy by incorporating the rights of children into the new Constitution.
She has come a long way. Her experience around gender sent her on a journalistic and diplomatic journey to South Africa where she settled until today. A life coach and author, Ms Scholastic Kimaryo, told her story to Drive Hot Blog on Sunday in Pretoria recently
Tell me about yourself
I was born in Kibosho, Moshi Rural, in 1949 in a family of three girls and three boys. In my community, I was the first girl to go beyond primary school.
My father did not want to waste his money from coffee by sending a girl child to school, it was only after the local parish priest intervened that I was allowed to continue with standard five.
I was lucky in secondary school in that the government shouldered the burden. Fortunately, I was very good in class and excelled at a missionary school.
I later joined Tabora Girls High School which was under Barbro Johansson. Madam Johansson helped us so much, she wanted the girl child to do well, and we did not disappoint.
Afterwards, I joined the then University of East Africa in Nairobi in 1969, where I did a degree in home economics. During my studies, I wrote articles for various publications and it was not surprising that I would soon land at Uhuru, Mzalendo and Nationalist newspapers. I was later told to go and work for Daily News and Sunday News where I also ran a column on home economics issues. As a journalist, I rose to become secretary general of the Tanzania Journalists Association (Taja). In October 1977, the United Nations General Assembly declared that 1979 would be an international year of the child.
The aim was to remind and ask all governments to put structures that would improve the wellbeing of every child. Working for newspapers and also under the public service, I was sent to write about the year and, among other things, I interviewed the Unicef head, Mr Alex Tosh. That changed everything and the rest, as they say, is history.
So, that set off your next phase as a UN worker. How was the experience?
In 1977, I was appointed the first executive secretary of the Tanzanian Commission for children funded by Unicef.
Although I had written many articles prior to that appointment, this was the first organisation where my writing would make a difference. We proposed and implemented a number of child-related projects, found foreign donors; we translated a book-‘Mahali Pasipo na Daktari’-which was distributed all over the country. We were so successful that Mwalimu Nyerere declared that 1980 would be the national year of the child. I stayed on and progressed to be head of Unicef in the country and thereafter I was seconded to UN where I worked for various UN agencies, mainly in Southern Africa. After 23 years, I was promoted to be the UNDP Representative to SA, effectively responsible for the UN agencies in the country. I had wanted to join politics in the 1980’s but then UN policies did not allow us to participate.
So, I worked for Unicef for 23 years and UNDP for eight years in Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, where I was the first Unicef representative after the country attained its independence, Liberia during Charles Taylor’s reign, Kenya and New York.