Rica Kelly, a Jamaican, is an educator, women’s advocate, the CEO of The Rica Kelly Group and The Global Women of Power Foundation. As a serial business owner and scholar, her professional and humanitarian endeavours have taken her to many countries and have also secured her engagements with UNESCO, UNICEF and UNWomen. In this interview, conducted online by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she speaks about her life growing up in Jamaica and the United Kingdom, her interest in women empowerment, and what she intends to do when she visits Nigeria.
H OW was life while growing up in Jamaica? What necessitated your infant education in the United Kingdom?
It was comfortable for the most part. I’m blessed to have a mother who was the principal of a school and a father who was an army officer. I attended infant school in Bordon, United Kingdom because my father was completing a military course nearby. I returned to Jamaica and I was outstanding in primary school. I went to a reputable secondary school. I faced numerous challenges, but I was successful in my examinations. I went to the UK but later returned to Jamaica to complete teachers’ training. I was the only person of my graduating specialisation to receive honours. I won a pageant and later attended a prominent university to complete my undergraduate degree. Despite the challenges, I graduated with honours and relocated to the UK.
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What inspired your interest in women education and leadership?
I was influenced by my mother’s example. She is a female educator and a distinguished member of a global organisation for women educators. Despite my mother’s success—to my disdain—other females were restricted from accessing quality education and leadership opportunities. I noticed that when females were placed in positions of power, it was often an illusion because they only had titles and they oftentimes did not have access to enablers. It was necessary to create a global ecosystem that would transform the leadership seen around the globe and provide support for females that are struggling to maintain their excellence.
What motivated you to create The Rica Kelly Group? What corporate entities consist the group?
I was motivated by my vision. The Rica Kelly Group includes: The Rica Kelly Global Institute for Women Leaders, The Rica Kelly Synergy Space, The Rica Kelly Leadership Academy for Girls, Go Global Circle, Rica Kelly Global, Coco Global, Go Vegan Empire, Crowned Royalty, and Divine Purpose Apostolic Institute For Capacity Building.
Does your foundation, The Global Women of Power Foundation, cater for Jamaica women only?
It is a global organisation for girls and women. However, we have been recognised by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport in Jamaica, the Mayor of London and others. We will be forging official partnerships with diplomats globally. With that said, the beneficiaries are not exclusive to Jamaica. Our reach is growing. So, we intend to transform the lives of females in over 70 countries.
Briefly describe your involvements with UNESCO and UNICEF?
My work with UNESCO is primarily in the area of Educational Planning. I was instrumental in the delivery of policy, planning and leadership for Sustainable Educational Development, which catered to 36 educational planners from various countries. My work with UNICEF is in the area advocacy. I was invited to speak on educational inequalities. I explored inequality in the following areas: race, gender, age and socio-economic status.
If you were the president of UNWomen, how would you use the office to empower the girl child and women in Africa?
I would take a multipronged approach. I would hold my team accountable in order to ensure that policies translate to actions. I would focus on capacity-building. This would involve demanding that governments improve their infrastructures and provide enabling environments. Girls’ education would be priority. I would ensure that purposeful curricula and programmes are designed, delivered and evaluated in order to close the gender gap and to produce educated and self-assured girls.
I would ensure that women are encouraged to participate in politics and that these women are supported when elected. Africa would experience a paradigm shift because funding would be available to business incubators that are interested in supporting female entrepreneurs. These females would also access external resources and be trained in financial literacy.
What is your impression of Nigeria? If you were to visit the country, which places would you like to visit and why?
I often communicate with Nigerians that are proud of their country. Interestingly, the most disturbing thing is the collective perception that corruption is synonymous with Nigeria. Irrespective of this popularly held view, I believe that corruption is not exclusive to Nigeria and the corruption perception index reveals this. The side of Nigeria that attracts me is the unmistakable intellect and creativity of the people. I know that with access to resources and the necessary training in managing these resources, Nigerians will be able to transform Africa and the rest of the world.
I would love to visit Aso Rock to engage in strategic negotiations with the president. I would also like to visit other diplomatic offices in Abuja in order to engage in robust discourses about improving education and other sectors in Nigeria. I would also love to visit Lagos, as well as Ogun State and the other areas. In fact, these visits would be to solidify our rural and urban development building plans.
Is there any man in your life you could attribute your successful career to? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of your role models. How has she influenced your life?
I attribute my success to God. I give honour to everyone who may have in one way or the other opened a door, spoke well of me, encouraged me and invested in my vision. I believe after God, my parents must be recognised (Mrs Merle Kelly and Mr Roberto Cecilio Kelly), as well as those who imparted great wisdom or taught me difficult lessons.
I do admire Chimamanda Adichie. She is one of Nigeria’s finest. Through her orations, I have been able to own who I am and be bold in the face of opposition. While I strongly believe in submission from a Biblical perspective, I have been able to accept that submission does not translate to slavery and it is perfectly fine to be a female that excels in various areas of life. I am aware that it is possible to marry a man that does not have an inferiority complex.
What is your greatest challenge as a woman advocate and educator? What is next for you after your doctorate in University College London?
One cause for concern is the way that some males perceive female capacity-building projects. Our Foundation rejects rebellion. We encourage females to thrive in family life as well as other areas. I believe that the overemphasis on vocational training can lead to a generation of skilled labourers for a season that is fleeting. It is important to value critical thinking and problem solving skills.
My doctoral journey positions me in good stead to add value to multiple disciplines and more specifically educational planning. We are presently working on projects related to the built environment and we will be completing building projects in Africa and around the globe. I will be releasing a global leadership book series. We will be hosting Royally Approved™ Global Leadership Summit (RAGLS), which is a summit that intends to deliver, equip, activate and launch (DEAL) female leaders.
As a vegan brand promoter, what is your favourite food? What do you like doing at your leisure?
Soya chunks curry sautèed in coconut milk with potatoes, cauliflower and carrots, served with basmati rice and kidney beans. Then, vegan potato pudding. At my leisure, I like beauty treatments, watching/reading meaningful content, hassle free shopping and travel.
What advice do you have for young people, especially the female ones, who are aspiring to be like you?
Develop your faith in Jesus. Appreciate wise counsel. Therefore, select mentors that are honest but not intimidated by your ambitions. Strive to make global impact by engaging in mutually beneficial collaborations.