Each week, frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet Namukabo Werungah, an award-winning Kenyan journalist and multimedia storyteller, who is a health and science reporter from Nairobi with a passion for maternal health. She now works as a BBC Africa reporter, reporting on stories across Africa.
Q: How did you become a journalist?
A: Journalism wasn’t my first career choice to be honest, not because I did not admire the profession or felt I couldn’t make a good journalist.
Where I grew up, journalism career prospects were few in media houses on TV, radio and in newspapers so I felt I wouldn’t be able to get a job. That did not seem like an achievable dream for me because I grew up in a remote village with little exposure to how the media works. I am also an introvert and quite soft-spoken – qualities that I thought were not for journalists.
I got admitted to a public university to study education and English literature to be specific but my family felt teaching wasn’t the right career for me. So I joined a private university to study journalism. And that’s how I became a journalist.
Q: What draws you to women’s issues particularly maternal health?
A: First, it’s because I am a woman and a woman who aspires to be a mother soon. So maternal women issues including maternal health affect me directly.
It is also because of what I witnessed while growing up in the village.
I would see how a woman got blamed when there is no child just a year into marriage.
I would see how women would be blamed for the bad behaviour of their children or sometimes even their husbands. I would see how parents prioritised boys’ education over girls’. I would hear or sometimes even witness women delivering on farms, or by the roadside or at home. I would see how menstrual periods were regarded as taboo and how girls would miss school during this time of the month. I have also seen how misinformation affects women and society at large.
For the past three years my work as a journalist has been to misspell the misinformation and empower women with the correct information on issues that affect us, health included.
Q: What stories should African journalists be telling more?
A: African journalists should tell true stories, paint a true picture of what is happening in the continent, both good and bad.
There are many positive stories in Africa but we can’t also deny the fact there are problematic issues that need to be addressed. The problem is when more negative stories are told than positive ones. No African journalist should do this because we should be able to balance.
Q: What makes an exceptional journalist?
A: The one who tells the true and complete version of the story. Sometimes as a journalist, you set out to do a story with a version that will make it more appealing but along the way, the story changes.
You find that the version of the story is not what you thought or in your quest to balance the story it kind of waters down what you had hoped to tell the world. There is always the pressure to stick to the version that you want, the version that may win you an award, or make it a trend. An exceptional journalist will report the truth.
Q: Despite all the challenges in the profession, why do you continue to be a journalist?
A: Because all stories have to be told.