From Poverty to ‘Peace Beat’ Reporter

Mary Wagura is nothing if not persistent. Despite significant hurdles, she followed her dream of becoming a radio journalist in Kenya. With the benefit of Internews training and development, she was appointed her station’s dedicated “peace beat” reporter.

Mary Wagura, reporter for Sauti ya Mwananchi (Voice of the People, a community radio station in Nakuru, Kenya.

Mary Wagura, reporter for Sauti ya Mwananchi (Voice of the People, a community radio station in Nakuru, Kenya.

Mary works for Sauti ya Mwananchi  (Voice of the People), a community radio station in Nakuru, Kenya.  Prior to joining the station she had tried various odd jobs, but she eventually decided it was time to pursue the career she had always imagined for herself. Mary set off for Nakuru, having heard about the launch of a new station there, and moved in with her aunt.

"I used to arrive at the radio station every day at 8 a.m. and not leave until the evening. It didn't matter that the sun was beating down against my head as I sat on the bench outside the reception door. This went on day after day until the management decided to hire me."

Although excited at the prospect of realizing her ambitions, Mary hadn’t fully anticipated the challenge ahead.

“The editor was really tough on us. In my first week I was made to work on radio news stories even though I had no professional training or experience. Most of those stories were never aired, but I never gave up. I kept going back and learning all I could.”

Earning little money at first, Mary was unable to pay any rent to her aunt. She was forced to leave her temporary home and descended into poverty with dire living conditions. But she still came to work without fail and never lost her ambition to succeed as a reporter.

Early in 2009, Mary received training in conflict-sensitized journalism as part of the Internews Reporting for Peace (RFP)project. Through workshops and mentoring, she was able to build on her basic skills in order to create a professional standard of news feature writing and story-telling. The RFP training also equipped her with essential skills to cover the aftermath of Kenya’s post-election violence of 2008.

Impressed with her rapid professional development and growing expertise in handling conflict-related stories, Mary’s managers decided to make her the dedicated “peace beat” reporter.

“Internews Network has been on the frontline [with me] to expose me to the issues affecting the community; especially the common man,” Mary said. “I am so grateful to Internews as they have brought me this far, and I believe that I’ll go even further in my career.”

Internews conflict journalism trainer Daniel Bruce added, “Mary has demonstrated the full potential of a professional and ethical approach to reporting in conflict and post-conflict zones; her professional progress is testament to her own dedication, while the commitment of her station to regular coverage of these issues is the kind of result we always hope to achieve.”

The Internews Reporting for Peace project in Kenya was funded by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development.


Banner photo: Mary Wagura (right) with an Internews in Kenya staff member in a settlement in Molo, Kenya. (credit: Internews)