Elaine is an internationally recognized leader for her commitment and involvement in the defence of human rights and an amazing integral coach.
She has spent more than 6 years managing a child labour elimination program called ARISE. Today, she is an advocate for business and human rights and we are honoured to share this interview with you.
We know that since you were a child you have believed in the power of education and this has led you to continue fighting against child labour, tell us a little about your story over the years and how you have reached the position you are in now.
I was born in the Kingdom of Swaziland, the 4th of 5 children, and was able to pick and bale cotton by the time I was 9. However, my parents never allowed work to interfere with my ability to attend school, and I now have a Masters’s Degree from a university in the United Kingdom.
My personal and professional career has always been geared toward the not-for-profit sector and in my early career focused on education and HIV and AIDS. I moved into the private sector to broaden my skills set and realized that the private sector has a unique ability to manage intractable social and human rights issues in global supply chains. For example, if your company purchases an agricultural crop, chances are there is child labour in your supply chain – child labour is endemic in agriculture. Companies must understand what the impact of their supply chain is on people, and work towards remediating harm.
At the heart of this, our families in communities. Many don’t know that there is a difference between child labour (which prevents children from attending school and may harm their development or expose them to risk) and child work (making a contribution to the household that is appropriate for your age). Understanding this is key to supporting communities to get children into school and support them until the completion of formal education.
What’s your story with your experience in the coaching industry?
I decided to certify as a coach in 2020 – a year we will all remember as the COVID year. At the time, I believed that we need a new kind of leader – one who is able to inspire and motivate, but also leaders who can liberate the best in people – leaders as coaches. I wanted to be that kind of leader.
Tell us the story that made you want to decide to take on this mission.
While working towards my certification, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. The coaching journey allowed me to deal with the emotional rollercoaster and perform at work. So many people have experienced difficulties. Mine all started with a C – COVID, Confinement, Cancer. I believe that my coaching journey provided me with the tools to not just survive but to thrive. Coaching is an intensely personal journey, one where impact can be felt when you allow yourself to go on the journey. I am a beneficiary of this and therefore a huge believer in the theory and practice of coaching.
We saw that one of the characteristics you love most about your work is that you can interact with different people, can you elaborate on that?
I believe that some of our greatest lessons are learned when interacting with people who are different from us. I learned about grit and tenacity from an African Mama working long hours in the field to feed her family and keep her girls at school. I learned about inspiration leadership when a village chief talked to his community about the importance of education as a means to liberate people from poverty. Like coaching, chemistry, an open mind and willingness to connect are key to creating meaningful interactions. My life is richer for all of these moments.
What was your vision for ARISE?
Very simply, children should learn, not earn.
Finally, is there anything that you’d like to leave us off with?
I work mainly with women, who are often more willing to seek help. Through the coaching journey, I have witnessed incredible personal growth, and a word that coachees use often is resilience. In times of profound stress and change, resilience is the key, whatever the challenge.
Special thanks to Elaine McKay for taking the time to interview with us!