Hilma Mote – She Leads Green


    Our leading green lady this month is Hilma Mote. She is the Executive Director of Africa Labour Research and Education Institute in Lome, Togo. She lets us into her world of green leadership for a better planet.

    ECN: You have made a mark in your sphere of influence. Tells us about what your job entails.

    Hilma: My job description is quite elaborate, especially because I am the founding Executive Director of the Institute. As you may know, the institute was established only in July 2014.  So we needed and are still busy laying a firm  foundation. Thus, my job primarily entail the following:

    a. Leadership: which include developing a vision and strategic plan to guide the work of institute in consultation with the board, our primary constituency and partners. Together with the Board, develop a vision and strategic plan to guide the work of the Institute. I also represent the organisation at various platforms to enhance the profile of the institute.

    b. Operational planning and management: which include developing realistic operational plans which take cognisance of the goals and objectives of the organisation, but also the resources available (human, financial, time etc).

    c. Program planning and management which include: Supervision of the day to day program work and ensure that its execution is inline with the set expectations

     d. Human resources planning and management: which include recruitment, but also coaching and mentoring staff as appropriate

     d. Financial planning and management which include developing funding proposals, but also researching further funding sources, establishing and maintaining funding relations.

     e. External relations/advocacy: Generally regularly communicate with labour research and education organisations, networks and individuals, funders, trade union leaders and other organizations inside and outside the continent to help achieve the goals of the organization

    f. Numerous speaking and facilitation engagements: Speaking at conferences, presenting at workshops broadly acting as the face of the organisation at various platforms-network building and sustenance of such networks

    hila 5

    ECN:  What is the driving force behind the Africa Labour Research and Education Institute?

    Hilma: After having examined and assessed the research and training needs of the trade union movement in Africa, and having carried out a feasibility study on the need for the establishment of an ITUC-Africa research and education institute there was a realization that: the trade unions across the continent face a wide range of multifaceted research and training needs for which they lack appropriate capacity to address, they also lack capacity to use research outcomes for appropriate policy interventions and influence,  furthermore, most of the ITUC-Africa affiliates have low capacity to develop, conduct and evaluate trade union education programmes; the feasibility study confirmed that aside from the Africa Labour Research Network (ALRN), there exist no continental labour research institute; the feasibility study also confirmed that apart from a few national-based labour research and education organisations (mostly based in Southern Africa), there is no continent-wide organization simultaneously providing labour research and education services to the trade union movement on a continent-wide basis.

     We therefore resolved to establish a semi-autonomous institute to reinforce research and education capacity to the ITUC-Africa affiliates and to build capacity for appropriate interventions based on empirical evidence.

    ECN: What will you describe as a sustainable working environment?

    Hilma: A thought-provoking question, but maybe I can say that a sustainable working environment is one which takes into account the economic, social and environmental dimensions of its existence. This means, a good organisation shall ask some critical questions (a). What is my social contribution to society? What kind of jobs am I providing and what is the quality of jobs? Am I assisting in raising the standard of living of my employees and the general community in which I operate? (b) How important is the physical environment in which I operate for the sustenance of my organisation?. And quite frankly, one will find that no organisation can operate without the physical environment. Therefore one has to go further and ask what contribution you as an organisation is making to ensure that the environment is protected and preserved for your current and future use. But more importantly for the future generations. To what extent are your organisational activities contributing to the  sustenance or destruction of the environment directly and indirectly, both above and below the land. Human beings have a tendency to think that we are superior to all other beings, when in actual fact, even in the bible,  the story goes that God first created other beings before he created Adam and Eve. It goes to show how dependent we are on other beings and how we should respect their existence. And how it is possible for other beings to exist without us. The question is can we survive without them?

    ECN:  From your experience, what major challenges prevent the realization of what you have just described?

    Hilma: Lack of awareness: sometimes people simply do not just know

    • Fear of the unknown:  at times when we know, we are not interested in doing the right thing merely because the status quo works for us
    • Utter greed, we know but we like how things are because its from that we make profits, so why should we change it?

    ECN: With the advent of the SDGs, we are once again reminded that a sustainable environment must be climate friendly. However, not many understand this. Can you elaborate on the role a sustainable environment plays in enhancing productivity in a workplace?

    Hilma: A simple definition of sustainable development that has been used for two decades and over states that “sustainable development is about ensuring that you meet the current needs without compromising the needs of future generations”. Many people do not understand this partly because many of us in development work tend to speak with each other, preach to the converted at various luxury hotels across the globe instead of going down to communities to share the knowledge in a practical way. If all the almost 1 billion Africans as individuals and as a collective understood that our actions contribute in one way or the other to the changes in climate that we are facing now, but also the dire consequences of such changes for the current and future generations and that something can be done about it, things will be surely different. If for example we simply say that the water scarcity we are facing now shall be 5 times more in 20 years time if we do not learn how to replenish the environment, plant more trees etc, end deforestation and use more sustainable energy sources, then change shall come faster because more people’s awareness would be raised, which shall lead to change in individual and hence collective positive behaviour and relations towards the environment .

    hilma 2

    ECN: How do we ensure that workers are placed in a green environment? *Needs rephrasing I believe but not sure how to get my question across in a more acceptable manner

    Hilma: Workers need sensitization about environmental and climate related issues. They are the first point of defense, especially those who work in the agricultural sector, but also in construction etc.

    ECN: What mechanisms are in place to enhance a sustainable working environment? How are you going about the process?

    Hilma: Mechanisms differ from work place to work place and from industry and sector to sector. There is really no one uniform standard. The reality however is that we all have to adapt, adjust or parish.

    ECN: How important is the Paris Agreement in the realization of sustainability in labor.

    Hilma: Organised labour managed to get our voices heard with the inclusion of the “just transition principle” in the Paris agreement. Workers are saying, yes, we can transit from fossil fuel industries to non-fossil fuels, but it has to be in a just manner. Just, meaning that workers should not lose their jobs in the process, just because for workers to shift from one industry to another, they shall need training and re-skilling. Such resources and opportunities should be availed so that a just transition is achieved in a manner that does not compromise the livelihoods of workers.


    ECN: How do you have fun, what is your best meal.

    Hilma: I love dancing, I wish there could be more places for us mature people to hang out without fear or favour. I sing quite a lot when I am in a relaxed mood. I read quite a lot too, but not always for fun.

    ECN: What is your assessment of climate actions in your home country and your present country of residence.

    Hilma: In my home country Namibia we have made substantial progress, especially given the fact that Namibia is a semi-arid country so we already experience the worst effects of climate change through frequent and more severe droughts and in some cases now floods in some parts of the country. Our Ministry of Environment and Tourism is quite renowned among its peers in the SADC region for good programs on environment and climate change related work. We also have a functional Environmental Fund Agency. I think we are well on the way in terms of institutional and legal frameworks on environment and climate. I however think we are still fairly reactive when it comes to issues related to climate induced disasters such as floods and droughts. We are not very strong just like many African countries in Early Warning Systems, to predict extreme whether events and to prepare for such disasters and its effects in the long term.


    Leading Green Lady – LGL,  and Leading Green Men – LGM, is an Eco Nigeria Development project which puts women and men who are leaders in the global green movement on the spotlight.