The Power of Uwajibikaji

As we continue on our journey through the essential elements of trust. We come to uwajibikaji (u-wa-jib-ka-gee) this exotic-sounding element is key to the development of trust the world over. It’s defined as a state in a relationship where “You own your own mistakes, and you make amends.”

The English translation for Uwajibikaji is more recognisable. In English, it is accountability a word which sounds dry, stoic and very grown-up. Unlike translating it into Swahili, that suddenly adds an air of mystery that wasn’t there before!

Part of our problem with accountability is the status of those with whom we are accountable too. These are the ones we may have to, at some point, explain our actions to for good or bad.

As adults, we can forget that mistakes are an essential element of learning and are a crucial component of our emotional development.” Worse still the shame and guilt we feel over a mistake can become debilitating and freeze us at our current stage of development. It can communicate powerful shame triggers such as I am not good enough.

Living in a culture that doesn’t anticipate or except mistakes becomes an emotionally toxic place. Somewhat akin to metaphorically navigating around hidden land mines off ‘I didn’t see it’, or ‘I had no idea.’

To be clear accountability is not saying sorry for something you didn’t do or taking responsibility for other people’s mistakes. Accountability is a critical component of how we build trust within ourselves and with each other. The accountable relationship we are in needs to be carefully navigated. Being clear where the lines of power are and what is and is not ok to talk about.

A relationship of accountability can be rewarding and a source of growth and development. It can and should be a safe space, in which you can find your wings, and enable you to take a different direction if you need to.

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