Transforming Leadership for 21st Century Africa

Maryana Munyendo

Maryana Munyendo

Founder and Executive Director of Missing Child Kenya

Maryana Munyendo, alumna of a Harvard Kennedy School custom executive program and Founder and Executive Director of Missing Child Kenya, the only toll-free line dedicated to the search, rescue, reunification and aftercare of missing Kenyan children, recently spoke with us. In the 2019, she was recognized on the Top 40 under 40 Kenyan Women list for her continued work to improve the lives of people in her country.

What did you hope to gain by attending a Harvard Kennedy School executive program?

The leadership challenge I raised with my cohort involved legislative advocacy for missing children. I was just one voice trying to make sense of a cause relatively new to my country. A challenge for which there was no ready-made technical answer and it required the gap between our values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors to be addressed. This is why I chose to partake in the custom program, Transforming Leadership for 21st Century Africa, offered by Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education and Aga Khan University.  

What about the program resonated with you?

On the first day of the Adaptive Leadership for Africa: Chaos, Complexity and Courage session, I had my pen and notebook ready to tackle this monster called ‘Leadership’. Professor Hugh O’Doherty’s opening session demystified and simplified the thoughts I had about what leadership was setting the mood for the rest of the program to be one of learning from reflection and planning with foresight. I now looked at leadership from the perspective as a journey.      

How have you implemented the lessons you learned?

What I learned was the importance of partnerships and alliances. I have formed strong alliances for lobbying on policy review and strong alliances for community driven cultural change. We have managed to use sport as a vehicle for change to lead campaigns and conversations about missing children. Locally, we have partnered with our top teams in the Kenyan Football League; Gor Mahia and AFC. Internationally we have partnered with European League Football Club AS Roma. From these two alliances, we have reunited a total of five children with their families due to awareness created about their cases, and have sparked a nationwide conversation on the state of missing children in Kenya.

Read more about our alumni and their accomplishments.