“It’s not about how much money you earn, but about how many lives you touch.” Ruth Elineema Lukwaro
The last half year, Madam Ruth was my boss and I was able to learn so much from her. She is CEO of the "Gongali Model CO. Ltd" and co-founder of the NGO "Tanzania Human development Foundation" (TAHUDE). Madame Ruth is a strong, self-confident, inspiring woman. This is a short interview about her life and mission.
“It’s not about how much money you earn But how many lives you touch.” Ruth Elineema Lukwaro
The last half year, Madam Ruth was my boss and I was able to learn so much from her. Madame Ruth is CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the "Gongali Model CO. Ltd" Company and co-founder of the NGO (Non-governmental organization) "Tanzania Human development Foundation" (TAHUDE), both organizations work hand in hand. There I spent my 'weltwärts' volunteer service through the German-Tanzanian Partnership e.V. The sister organizations are striving to develop and implement technologies that are suitable to support communities and help them to cope with socio-economic challenges, such as a water filter that purifies water through nanotechnology or a small biogas plant. Together with my Tanzanian colleagues, I have installed water filters and conducted promotional activities. It was a great pleasure to work there and learn so much. Yes, in some places, it was also difficult for me. I was homesick, since I was in a completely foreign culture, and I had to learn a whole new language, namely Swahili. Madame Ruth was always a person who comforted me, cheered me up, and motivated me! She knew what it was like to be far away from home. It was essential to her that everyone in the company felt comfortable. We were all one community – it was all about what we could achieve together. Madam Ruth is a strong, self-confident, inspiring woman for me.
Name: Ruth Elineema Lukwaro
Age: 38 years old
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro Region, in a village called Suji. I am proud of my home village, because it made me who I am today.
What kind of family do you come from – do you have many siblings?
Our family is an average family. I can’t say I have many siblings, if I compare it to other families and the size of our family at the time of growing up. I have one older sister, two older brothers and one younger brother. Altogether it’s a lovely, very hard working family.
What is your education? Have you studied? Where did you go to school?
I have a Bachelor of Commerce (BComm.) in Accounting from the University of Dar es Salaam, one of the top Universities here in Tanzania. Furthermore, I obtained a Master in International Business Management from Ajou University, South Korea. I received my basic education from primary school to middle school in my home village. Lastly, I enjoyed participating daily within family economic activities while studying, therefore I learnt multi-tasking from a very young age.
A (childhood) memory that comes to your mind spontaneously that has shaped you a lot?
One of my cherished childhood memories is the involvement in family economic activities at a very young age. I started to get a sense of being responsible for the well-being of the family when I was 7 years old. My mom and older siblings went to a faraway market to buy food supplies at a cheaper price so we could get a wider variety. On that day, I was left home alone with my young brother. There were not many instructions of what to eat, but several ingredients. Ultimately, I made ugali for the first time and picked some greens from the farm. I ate with my younger brother and left some for the other family members. When they returned they praised me, they felt relieved and I was proud for contributing in adding something to the family economy. My mom involved us all in good times and in bad times. I enjoyed and will always continue to cherish the hard work, long walks, stretching activities that would test us to the last bit of your capability. This has ever since shaped me to be sure of anything I find to do; I should do it at my best, because it has a contribution to my life and many other people’s lives.
What is your job here in the company?
As the CEO, my main activities are management of the staff, resources and the direction of the organization. I position myself as the key person for the sustainability and growth of the organization, making sure the team understands the company’s direction and ensuring I have the right team taking us to where we want to be.
How long have you worked in the company?
I have been with Gongali Model Co.Ltd as the CEO, since its establishment in 2014. Although I had another teaching job from 2014 to Oct. 2018, which is when I decided to put all other things on hold to be at Gongali Model full time.
TAHUDE and Gongali Ltd. – two companies under one roof. What are the respective focuses?
TAHUDE is a pure NGO, aiming at working with partners to reach the low-end income earners, whom Gongali Ltd. may fail to reach, while sustaining itself. TAHUDE uses Gongali Ltd. products to reach its communities. All this is in an effort to not leave behind the underserved communities in the development area.
How would you describe the company?
It’a a social enterprise working hard to change the livelihood of young people sustainably. As founders we find ourselves many times at the cross road whether we are employers or trainers. My husband and I have found that there is a strong passion for training that makes us enjoy working with young people. It is very difficult for us to make decisions to fire an employee because we feel that there is something more we can do to make the person a better employee. Mostly, we fire for skill mismatch. The combination of business, training and empowerment keeps me very busy.
What do you like most about your job?
Seeing the growth in the young people I work with brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction. Some will be more confident with what they do, while some develop leadership skills, others self-awareness and a combination of all is economic independence.
What is your biggest challenge here in the company? What challenges do you see for the near future? And how do you think the company can solve these challenges?
We are facing the biggest challenges in human resource management and the balance between profitability and impact. These balances bring difficulty in making decisions regarding the choice of market segment, pricing and getting the right team, which combines community contact and business mind-set at the same time. Solving these challenges needs a clear business development strategy to ensure stability.
Daily morning meetings are held in the company. How important is the exchange with the employees to you?
It is very important. Together we can move in the same direction and also provide the management a picture of what is happening in the field. Being an innovative company, we have very flexible strategies and approaches leading to new challenges every day. The briefing therefore helps us to get quick feedback as well as an opportunity to timely solve said challenges.
What motivates you for the projects of the company and for your work?
Touching people’s lives for better. That’s my motivation and that’s what I use to reward my team and motivate them. It’s not about how much money you earn but how many lives you touch.
CEO for the company, being a mother, other duties such as household... how do you manage all this so well?
I am still working on it. I do check and reevaluate my values and priorities, even if it starts with thoughtful prioritization; this helps me in the decision making process. My family is my number one priority, so if I am faced with two decisions I will know what to choose. Problems occur when company members become an extended family to us and I have to find a balance between both. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to take care of my children without a nanny at their young age, which is different to many mothers in Tanzania. This thankfully gave our family some permanent schedules that we still keep up today. These schedules include regular church visits, being home early, eating homemade food, having some family time together, where we can watch something together – just have some family talk, laugh together and we sleep early.
You, together with your husband, live here directly at the company and seem to be at work with all your strength and energy. Are the projects of the company your passion in life? It seems that work is not just work but a very specific part of your life.
It is truly part of our life and a mission. It’s our bedtime story or family-time story and we enjoy every stage. Seeing young people’s dreams fulfilled and others learning from us is not only our passion, but also it fulfils our life goal! The mistakes we make are part of our story for someone to learn. The mistakes we avoid play a greater part of the smart story.
You moved to South Korea for your husband's studies. Have you ever been to a university there or have you already worked there? How was it to live aboard in another country and to integrate into a new culture? What did you learn from this time?
Great question. Yes, first of all, when I went to South Korea, I had to quit a job that I loved so much. But the family being my first priority, I went to South Korea without full assurance of studies or work. One thing I knew was that I would take care of my family and I would not stay separated with my husband. I got a chance to do both – study (do my masters) and also work. I did a few little industrial part time jobs but the most important job was the internship I did with DAEWOO Company. There was a cultural shock, especially regarding food. We thank our Seventh day Adventist church community, who allowed us to live as a global family and very much welcomed us in this South Korean community, where we felt like having a true family to absorb a lot of shocks. I learnt teamwork, hard work and the never-giving-up-spirit of the South Koreans. We went to South Korea at a very early stage of our marriage, so the Korean culture of hard work and persistence has shaped our family.
Which values are especially important to you?
I am still working hard to live my values, but at least I believe that I know what makes me happy. It’s a range of values around peace, trust, and achievement. If I make a list, it would be kindness, peace, honesty, determination and achievement.