Acquiring a leadership mind-set

Publication Date : March 1, 2021

Acquiring a leadership mind-set

Ms. Kewalee Bualek (Kee)

Lua Ethnicity, Ban Salai Luang, Pua District, Nan Province

From dream to reality

     Ms, Kewalee Bua Lek, or Kae, is a 23-year-old Lua ethnic woman with a two-year-old son. In the past, she was just a normal young woman who dreamed of becoming a medical professional. But she lacked confidence in decision-making, expressing her opinion, or asserting herself because of the patriarchal culture of the Lua people.  In that tribe, women traditionally had no right to make independent decisions, including whether to pursue a position of leadership.  However, Kae was learning that society was changing.  She saw that women were increasingly achieving self-determination and advancement.  This realization inspired her to head for the city to get an education.   Her dream was to be a health worker in order to help others heal and stay well.   She also wanted to learn about city life and to understand other cultures.  Over time, Kae came to believe that “Women can be leaders," and she wanted to her home community to share that vision and allow women to display their leadership qualities.

“...Whether it is a woman or a man, anyone can be a leader. It depends on our own determination and mind-set to be that person …”

Opportunity and Obstacle

     To pursue her dream, Kae first applied to be a Village Health Volunteer (VHV) for her community.   The VHV provides primary care and coordinates public health services for the entire village, which had more than 200 residents.  In the past, villagers relied on traditional birth attendants, shamans, or other types of faith healers.  At present, although modern medical treatment has reached people in the community, there remain barriers to accessing hospitals when an emergency arises or specialized treatment is needed.  The route to the city is a long distance from the village, and it can be especially hard to travel during the rainy season.    Thus, the role of the VHV in Kae's village is even more important.  The VHV needs to emphasize prevention and be able to recognize health problems that are beyond her skill level.  Another challenge faced by Kae is that the households in her village are not clustered in a single location.  Instead, there is some distance between houses, and that means that Kae has to travel by foot just to see her constituents each day.  In addition, Kae only has a limited supply of essential medicines and equipment to provide first aid.   Kae remembers to this day how there were two persons in the community who were dying, and how she was not able to save their lives or ease their suffering.   It was that failure that inspired Kae to reach higher and pursue a leadership role for her fellow tribespeople.

Into a leadership role

     In addition to being a VHV, Kae has gradually become accepted as a local leader.   Since the beginning of her service as a VHV, Kae has proven to everyone that gender has nothing to do with being a good leader. Good leadership depends on a person’s mind-set, determination, and selflessness. What is more, Kae has not just provided primary health care and first aid to the community. She has also been a source of health education on such topics as reproductive health, premature pregnancy, and childhood nutrition.  Kae also listens patiently to problems of the villagers, and always gives good advice on public health. As a sign of her accomplishments, no child in the community is malnourished and she has helped reduce teen pregnancy.

Raks Thai Foundation and the Development of Women's Potential

     Although Kae has proven to everyone that women can be leaders, her leadership role continues to grow and expand.   Raks Thai Foundation heard about this remarkable woman, and staff visited the village with the idea of providing occupational support, vocational training, and other skills building.  Kae was recruited to spearhead these activities in the village.  This partnership with Raks Thai has helped formalize Kae as a true community leader.  In addition to providing knowledge and services in health care, Kae has also created a career development program.  Alternative occupations from these efforts are generating income for many people in the community. Because of her confidence, dedication, and determination to always serve everyone in the community to the best of her ability, Ms. Kewalee Bualek, or Kae, has earned the trust of the entire village, and is the bona fide community leader of Sali Luang Village, Bo Kluea District, Nan Province, Thailand.

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