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Vol. 42 (2023): Advancing Women in Leadership Journal

The Perceived Impact of A Post-Secondary Education Program On Kenyan Catholic Sisters' Understanding of Their Lives As Women Religious

May 29, 2019


Kenyan women religious serve in ministries that provide essential aid in their communities.  These ministries include vital positions in the fields of education, healthcare, social work, finance, and agriculture, among others.  However, approximately 80% of women religious in sub-Saharan Africa lack the post-secondary education necessary to adequately meet the evolving demands of their ministries (Wakahiu & Shaver, 2015).  For this reason, women religious in Kenya have been provided an opportunity to participate in a uniquely delivered, fully funded, post-secondary education program.  Although two qualitative studies had previously been conducted on this post-secondary education program, none had addressed the impact of the program on the participants' understanding of their lives as women religious.  As a result, this qualitative study endeavored to answer the questions:  Has participation in the program transformed Kenyan sisters' understanding of their lives as women religious?  And, has participation in the program influenced how Kenyan women religious view themselves in their ministries?  In-person interviews with program participants and staff (N = 17), as well as document reviews, were conducted in order to effectively answer these questions.  Upon analysis, three themes were revealed, including enhancement of ministry abilities (academic, professional, congregation strengthening, spiritual), empowerment (self-confidence) and relational engagement (social interaction, self-awareness, leadership).  From these themes, the concept of servant leadership emerged as the ultimate perceived impact of the post-secondary education program on Kenyan Catholic sisters' understanding of their lives as women religious and view of themselves in ministry.


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