Saturday, 29 October 2011 11:00

MIRIAM KAHIGA: she walked the talk

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By Awaaz Team

MIRIAM KAHIGAWhen the story of journalism in Kenya will be re-written, Miriam Kahiga’s name will stand out among the trail blazers in the profession. Miriam identified early in her career a distinct genre, and this stood out in most of the work she did. Through her stories in the various publications she contributed to and edited, it is her quest for social justice that set her apart from her peers. Wambui Kihiu was privileged to work with her and attest that Miriam always walked the talk.

The Miriam I knew By Wambui Kihiu I first met Miriam Waceera Kahiga in 2004 at a Medico Legal Network meeting where I was representing the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK). The first impression I had of Miriam was that of a boss as she passionately called on the network members to volunteer in the efforts to end sexual violence. I was proved wrong during consequent meetings and the work that was achieved by the network later. Thus began my professional and social journey with Miriam
thus began.

Miriam appointed me to coordinate medical camps for survivors of rape and provided working space at Amnesty International-Kenya, which she was heading. Working closely with her became a great joy, as she appreciated the time I spared from my work to undertake the noble task. Three medical camps eventually took place and Miriam introduced me to her work on human rights.

My career as a journalist took a great turn as I discovered the essence of writing not only as a source of income but purposeful writing to influence humane behaviour among the readers, thanks to counsel by Miriam. She consistently involved me in training and research work at Amnesty International, thereby nurturing my skills in the two areas. Miriam would assign me and other team members leading tasks which she expected nothing short of quality output, promptness and direction on how to take the tasks to the next level. In case of mistakes she would promptly make corrections and encourage us to move on with the task. She was a mentor who never feared that the student would outsmart her.

Miriam had a heart for women and youth as is evident in the programmes she initiated at Amnesty that included the Human Rights Clubs for secondary schools in Kisii Central, University of Nairobi AI-K group and nurturing the Medico Legal Network currently known as Tukomeshe  Unajisi Network (TUN). She believed in a multi-sectoral approach, tapping the human resource of different professionals in tackling violations of human rights.

Though at a glance Miriam looked like a no nonsense work oriented woman, I was lucky to know the jovial and humorous Miriam. She liked putting her hands in her pockets and when I sought to know why, she explained by recounting an incident when her primary school teacher scolded her doing the same, alleging that she was doing so to show off in her new school uniform. Miriam often joked fondly about her children, whom she said belonged to two generations.

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