Q: What is it like being one of the leading News Anchors in Kenya?
A: Overall it’s been a wonderful challenge and great honor for me to have a career in Kenya’s news media, which is largely considered one of the most robust in Africa. Because the news is in many ways unpredictable, no two days are the same and one is constantly reading. as well as adapting to diverse situations. The news for me more than anything, is a way to give service to my country. The nature of work also provides one a certain level of access with decision makers and I’ve learnt to use that privilege for causes bigger than myself and to seek solutions to the challenges we face as a country both off and on screen. Like in any industry it does come with its challenges to one’s privacy, cyber bullying and sometimes intimidation and harassment by powerful individuals and their proxies. While none is by any means a small matter, I’ve had the grace of a good support system and dexterity to know when to confront and when to leap over these challenges.
Q: What topics do you usually cover?
A: I traditionally cover bare-knuckled politics and current affairs with special interest to gender issues and matters affecting the continent.
Q: What inspired you to start Punchline?
A: Despite the high caliber of political reporting, local media remained too conservative in execution of interviews. We felt there was a need to write new rules and “go there” by asking the questions our audience harbored silently, but didn’t have the means to raise. But, beyond the idea of “punching the issues,” we also believed that there was a need for thoughtful, unabashed commentary on issues of public interest. We therefore issue an editorial comment dubbed our Punchline for this purpose.
Q: How can media and honest dialogue contribute to accountability and to shaping policy reform?
A: By shedding light on dark, uncomfortable issues and refusing to back down in the face of intimidation. It often takes modelled behavior to persuade others to do the right thing. And the media must carry the torch and together with civil society organizations and citizens, and decide what needs to shift in our societies and to insist on that conversation. Policy makers and politicians are powerful but ultimately human, and therefore can be persuaded or indeed compelled to rethink decisions based on the level of public scrutiny and interest.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for organizations like AWRA to be involved in the conversation?
A: By playing a persuasive role and advocating for women’s rights, AWRA will be part of much-needed reform that will bring the ignored majority back to the table, so that Africa can compete with the rest of the world with all her “players” on board. This is the competitive advantage the continent needs the most: Include women. They will do their part to transform Africa.
Q: Have you worked with women on a grassroots level in Kenya? If so, What issues are they facing? How can they be addressed, and how do we ensure that they are allowed agency even to their own voices?
A: I have worked directly and indirectly with grassroots women through development partners and throughout my career as a journalist telling their stories. The biggest issue women – not just at the grassroot level but across all walks of life continue to face – is sexual and gender-based violence, including harmful cultural practices like female genital mutiliaton (FGM). The Covid 19 pandemic has compounded the problem with many losing their jobs and locked into potentially violent situations without the resources to leave.
In this regard, we must give women a way out of harmful and life-threatening situations, and we owe it to them to give them the security and resources to start afresh. This is why I’m pleased to work with local rights organization the Coalition On Violence Against Women- COVAW to lobby for the establishment of safehouses in all of Kenya’s 47 counties under the banner of their “Wape Kimbilio” campaign which is Swahili for “Give them Refuge.”
Finally, there is a need for continuous rights-based education for our women in every ward, village and homestead. But this must be coupled with the training and persuasion of ward and village level decision makers. Local administrators like chiefs, police officers and even village elders must be engaged to understand their roles and responsibilities and the contribution that women make to the society.
Q: What kind of future do you envision for girls and women in Kenya?
A: I look forward to a time when women will soar above the years of exclusion and degradation to occupy their rightful place in society, not only standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts, but indeed leading the nation in all spheres. And I certainly look forward to a female President of the Republic of Kenya.