Show Up

Eunice Kilonzo
4 min readMar 25, 2024

Show up.

That was my overall message as the lead speaker on Saturday at a Women’s High Tea hosted by Phenomenal Women Global at the Hotel d’Anglettere, Geneva.

In my eight-minute or so speech, I gave a summary of how I had, over the years, done it.

I spoke about starting as a young ambitious student from Mombasa with a dream of joining university (even when I didn’t know anyone in my family who did) to becoming a health journalist, working with health researchers shifting gears into writing about coral reefs, telecommunications, and technology, and back to global health. I also shared about being a mother, a wife and everything in between.

My speech outline

I spoke about showing up for myself, others, and the communities/networks we belong in.

But showing up, as you know, can be challenging.

How do you show up when imposter syndrome is gnawing at your confidence?

How do you show up when you barely slept the night before because you were up with the baby because they were teething or had a fever?

How do you show up, as other women shared, while dealing with a litany of heartbreaks–jobs, opportunities, empty nests, divorce or death of loved ones?

Tough.

Sobering.

Relatable.

As I shared–and listened to others after me–it became evident that allowing people to show up in their true selves was tied to being aware of people’s experiences, backgrounds, and diversities for true inclusion, equity and belonging.

This is best explained by the analogy of brewing a cup of cardamom tea. Diversity is like having all the ingredients: milk, tea leaves, cardamom, sugar and water; representing the variety of people in a group. Inclusion is mixing the ingredients and creating a space where everyone feels welcome to contribute. The outcome, the cup of steaming cardamom tea is a team effort of various ingredients mixed in the preferred amounts. And then equity is like making sure everyone gets the right amount of what they need to enjoy the tea. Some might prefer more, little or no sugar, or honey, while others need less milk/no milk.

Showing up is like faith, taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.

It is scary.

It is sometimes a battle no one knows about. It may be upskilling, going for therapy, changing your circle of friends, it may mean addressing our conscious biases, confronting your fears, it may look like many things.

And the beautiful wins of showing up, as shared by the end of the high tea, were too many to count: from reconnecting with God, getting better jobs, negotiating better salaries, fundraising for communities in Uganda and Ethiopia, mentorship projects in the Caribbean, learning the Swedish language and becoming a university lecturer where the language of instruction was Swedish, to people leaving abusive marriages and a lot more.

These professional women — elegantly dressed including fascinators — in the heart of Geneva, whom I was meeting for the first time, affirmed me.

It was magical.

While not many people in the room knew, this speech would not have happened if I was not at the right place and time.

Until Friday at 6 pm, I didn’t know about the Phenomenal Women Global. But then Brandina Florence Sidloff walked up to me as I ate a solo dinner at the popular Zanzibar restaurant in Geneva. She showed me the poster for High Tea and asked if I was interested. I requested for more details, and then she called in Liza Brenda Sekaggya, who I shortly found out was one of the founders of Phenomenal Women Global.

Liza asked me, what do you do?

“I am a [health] storyteller.”

She paused, looked at me, and asked, “Do you want to be our keynote speaker tomorrow? The person who was supposed to do it is down with a cold. You would be a good fit.”

And I showed up.

We all have unique perspectives to offer. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity — show up — for yourself, your dreams, and others.

I am including a short video of my speech shot by Keeva B, who I sat next to at the event, and was kind to be my impromptu videographer.

This is the fifth instalment of #KalundeLearns, my observations and lessons as I navigate living and working in Switzerland. You can read the previous post about a theft incident on the train to Geneva Airport.

--

--

Eunice Kilonzo

#Writer | 11 #Awards | #Synesthetes | #Health | #Media #Comms @Gavi | Past @WHO @safaricomPLC @UNEP @nationafrica @aphrc @Falling_Walls