KAMPALA – Ms Emilia Siwingwa, the Director of Toastmasters International’s District 114, which comprises Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda asked Ugandans to join the club if they are to gain better communication skills with more confidence.
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs with membership exceeding 358,000 in more than 16,800 clubs in 143 countries.
Giving her keynote speech at the Toastmasters International Open House at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala on Friday, Ms Emilia noted that it is only through the organization one can be part of millions of men and women who today have become more confident speakers and leaders.
She congratulated Ugandans upon being the first country to host her in her capacity as a district director urging them to use the platform to understand how to package ideas and find their niche.
“So let me take you back a couple of years 2018. By then, I was 16 years into my career. I had already been a chief executive officer I had already been the board chairperson of Greenpeace International. So, from an operational perspective, and from a policy perspective, I had managed to reach the pinnacle in terms of a professional career. Would you agree? If you asked me then, do you want to join a program where you can learn to become more effective as a communicator? I probably would have told you NO, what for? I’m already doing it,” the Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania and a Registered Arbitrator narrated her journey to the organization.
She says in 2019 she was among only 20 Africans who have demonstrated leadership in some way selected to be a member of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu leadership fellowship.
“And when we got there, we were asked to speak about the very reason we were selected. I got up on stage and blank I kid you not. Nothing came out of my mouth. My throat when completely dry. I couldn’t think about the things I’ve been doing for 15 years that got me selected in the first place. I was embarrassed,” she said.
Ms Emilia, also a member of the African Experts Group on International Criminal Justice says she nowhere to run to other than Google where she landed on Toastmasters International which she says has positively changed her life.
“So, I went to my first meeting. As you can imagine, I’m someone who enjoys order. And I fell in love with the structure I found at Toastmasters. These people started on time, these people had meaningful discussions of ritual time. That was feedback that was provided for a profession and I thought oh my goodness, if I could be a part of an organization like this perhaps I can reach new heights.”
Toastmasters focuses among others; on fostering career advancement, augmenting existing training programs, providing employees with an added benefit, building team camaraderie, encouraging employee retention, strengthening the leadership bench, conducting effective meetings, sharpening their presentation skills, boosting team collaboration, guiding successful teams and effective feedback.
Mr. Moses Rutahigwa area director of Toastmasters in District 114 noted the Open House would allow many people to learn more about Toastmasters since everybody needs an opportunity to learn how to communicate better and become a better leader.
Also, a banker at Standard Chartered Bank, said that the world today needs strong leaders, not just poor ones who can’t communicate their plans and ideas to the people.
“In every position you are, be it in life or in a corporate organization, you still have to communicate and learn how to share with each other because human beings talk and talk and talk but Toastmasters offers a platform where you can be able to learn how to be better communicators, better strong leaders who can help improve the communities and society where we live.”
“Toastmasters over the last three years has helped me become a confident speaker who is able to communicate to my team, to my colleagues, to my family in a way that is more responsive,” he added.
He encouraged members of the public to join the club by finding any Toastmasters club near them and subscribe.
He also noted that beating the challenge of the language barrier, they have established bilingual clubs, where people can communicate in their mother tongue wherever they are.
About Emilia Siwingwa
Emilia Siwingwa is the Director of Toastmasters International’s District 114, which comprises Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. She is responsible for directly overseeing and managing the District’s day-to-day operations, finances and human resources; and supporting other district leaders. She has attained the Distinguished Toastmaster Award, which represents the highest level of educational achievement in Toastmasters.
Professionally, Emilia is an Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania and a Registered Arbitrator. She holds a B.S. in Biology, Juris Doctor in Law, and LLM in International Contracts and Trade Law. She is the:
i) Principal of a pan-African boutique consulting practice that advises communities, organizations and individuals seeking entry or impact in African markets; and
ii) Founder of AHADI, a nonprofit, which advances accountability and innovative sustainable-development solutions.
Emilia has 20 years’ working experience. She is an advocate for the rule of law, sustainable development, and accountability of development finance. She has championed the environment, monitored democratic governance, led public-interest litigation, and amplified basic rights and duties in Africa. She led the Bar Association of Mainland Tanzania as its Chief Executive Officer when it filed the landmark Mtikila case before the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights; she has also served as the Programmes Director of the SADC Lawyers Association, Africa Director of Accountability Counsel, and Chairperson of Greenpeace Africa, among other things.
Emilia is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship. She is a member of the African Experts Group on International Criminal Justice, and is a current appointee to the inaugural Focus Group of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
Emilia hails from Momba district in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. She is based in Dar es Salaam.