Roseline Wangui and her camerawoman Wambui Kurema were winners of the Television Features Award at the recently concluded CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2013 Awards. The judges described Kurema’s camera work as superb, with interesting characters and complimented by very balanced reporting. Roseline is a current beneficiary of the Kenya Media Programme’s (KMP) Investigative Journalism grant. Hivos’ East Africa editor Kevin Mwachiro managed to catch up with Rose for an interview.
Q: What does it mean being nominated for and then winning one of these CNN awards?
A: Winning the award was quite humbling, but for me it has given me the added responsibility to continue being the voice of the voiceless. The recognition also put Kenya on the map as having some of the best journalists on the continent.
Q: What do awards like the MultiChoice/CNN African journalist award do, not just for journalism, but for investigative journalism in Africa?
A: Africa is on the rise and the world is hungry for African stories told from an African context. The awards highlight the depth and strength of journalism in Africa. It proves that top-notch journalism is alive and prospering, and Africa is having its stories told to the world.
Q: Why did you pick the story that you submitted?
A: I submitted two entries, stories that I covered in 2012, stories that generated a lot of debate and also had impact back in Kenya. But the winning story was ‘Beads of Bondage’. “Beading” is a traditional act practiced by the Samburu and Rendille communities in northern Kenya. It is a story that I’d always wanted to pursue and expose the barbaric culture which is a violation of the rights of the girl-child. The practice which is rampant can be described as a community-sanctioned rape. In “beading,” morans (warriors) approach a girl’s parents with red Samburu beads and place the necklace around the girl’s neck. It is a temporary engagement, and this allows him to have sex with the young girl. The girls are usually between the ages of 9-14!!
Children rights activists feel the government has done little to address this issue which continues unabated.
Q: What were the challenges you faced while doing the story?
A: ‘Beads of Bondage’ was three-part series filmed in Isiolo and Marsabit Counties. Part one was filmed in a very interior village known as Kipsing, Isiolo County. For three days, we were up by 3.00 a.m. and drove for 2 and half hours to reach the location.
Then we would film the whole day with cameraperson Wambui Kurema, whom we won the award with, with no breaks – which was quite tiring, but that’s journalism! Since it was sensitive story to do, it took time before the community would open up and agree to be filmed for the cameras. While we were shooting in Marsabit, it rained for two days consecutively and we could not film and had to wait for the rains to stops, and when they did… the roads became impassable!
Q: How long have you been in journalism?
A: Initially, I did a lot of behind the scenes, working in the studios and shadowing in the production department before I moved into the news room as a reporter five years ago.
Q: Why did you choose to become a journalist?
A: I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, but not through law or business or politics or public service. I wanted to tell the stories of the day in the medium of the day, that is, television reaching out to the world with ideas using real words and real pictures.
Q: What drives you to do the work that you do?
A: Many times my stories relate to children, the youth and matters of social justice. This has elicited a positive response from the public or influenced government policy. Isn’t that what the media is all about?
The subject choice of the story is what drives me, and the subject must always be new and surprising to the world.
When I set out to do anything in life I give it my whole effort and try to excel. Passion is my secret tool.
- Rose Wangui is a journalist with the Nation Media Group. She is currently at the United Nations in New York as a Dag Hammarskjold Fund fellow.
- The CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year awards were established in 1995 to encourage, promote and recognise excellence in African journalism.
- Hivos shares Kenya Media Programme’s belief that strengthening media can be a way to push for societal change through increased citizen engagement. Since April 2011, KMP has funded 75 individual journalists.