PROFILE: Judie Kaberia’s journey from radio intern to new AMWIK boss
Published on: August 08, 2021 06:40 (EAT)
By Patience Nyange and Esther Kiragu This week in the #KenyaWomenSeries, we feature a powerhouse in the media and journalism sector, not just in Kenya but internationally. With 11 awards to her name as a multimedia journalist, she is an accomplished media trainer and mentor, with over 15 years of experience in journalism. Recently, she was appointed Executive Director of the Association of Media Women in Media (AMWIK). She says passion drives her without which it is difficult to achieve goals. I agree! Ladies and Gentlemen, a warm applause for Judie Kaberia. Judie Kaberia’s career in the media began at Radio Waumini as a reporter, producer and later as an editor. “I was a rookie when I joined Radio Waumini, which provided me with the platform to make all the mistakes and learn from them. With my heavy Kimeru accent, I could hardly pronounce Bs and Ds without inserting M or N before words. To me books were mbooks. Still, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. I got advice to concentrate on print but I hang on to my dream to speak on radio or TV. A friend encouraged me to work on my accent by writing many words with Bs and Ds, and short sentences, practice reading them aloud for hours, record and listen. I spent lots of time working on this and improving. In 2004, I left Radio Waumini for Germany and interned at Hellweg Radio in Soest in North-Rhine Westphalia. By this time I had sharpened speaking in German and could comfortably communicate. Two years later I returned to Kenya and joined Capital FM; yet another opportunity for me to hone my skills in journalism. Chris Kirubi, may his soul rest in peace, was a man with a vision and alert to technological advancements. He was talking about convergence in 2006 as the future of media and encouraged me to try a hand at print and television. I did and became an excellent multimedia journalist. Then I got into feature writing and investigative reporting and maximized on impact and solution-oriented journalism. I discovered the power I have as a journalist; through stories, I could influence policies, spur public debates on important issues and bring impact such as the establishment of health centres for women to deliver their babies in hospitals, availability of family planning methods and many others. Yet another defining moment in my career was the Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC). I learnt about specialized journalism which introduced me to international criminal law. This expanded my knowledge and skills in reporting on international crimes, international and regional judicial systems. Before the Kenyan cases started at the ICC, I met two excellent friends, whom I look up to. Bettina Ambach, a former German journalist and now Wayamo Foundation’s director and Roberts Mensah – formerly Chief of Un Radio and Ag. Deputy Chief of Public Information for the United Nations in Liberia introduced me to media training, the donor world and projects. Together, we registered Wayamo Foundation becoming the main contact and training organization for Kenyan journalists reporting on the ICC. We later expanded to capacity building for prosecutors, investigators and judges in East Africa intending to enhance their skills and knowledge to address transnational organized crimes such as terrorism, money laundering, wildlife crimes, cybercrime and among others human trafficking. I was the East Africa coordinator of the project which also incorporated East African media as a key partner. Later, we expanded our network to training the military in Nigeria in Wayamo’s quest to address the eyesore of the Boko Haram. In 2020, I was among the 10 fellows who won the Resilience Fellowship of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), Austria. Until June this year, I have been reporting and researching on human trafficking and harvesting of human body organs in East Africa. And through this reporting, in December 2020, I won the Labour Migration Awards for the Migration and Health category due to my role in exploring the safety of victims of human trafficking during the covid-19 pandemic. The awards were organized by the African Women in Media in partnership with the African Union, International Labour Organisation and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Other defining moments in my career are participation in the U.S sponsored Edward R. Murrow Programme which enhanced my skills in leadership and excellence in journalism. It shaped my leadership in journalism as a mentor of the U.S Embassy sponsored programmes for female journalism university students and training of vernacular radio journalists across Kenya. In 2020, I also joined Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), Canada World: Voice for Women and Girls’ Rights Kenya as a Gender Media Trainer. This has been my springboard to living the dream of what I have always wanted to do- train and mentor journalists on how to report on gender with a link to human rights. To report on gender requires journalists to link their reports to human rights to give issues on gender context and also demonstrate the seriousness of violating them.
- That’s an amazing journey and congratulations on your recent appointment as the Executive Director at AMWIK! What does this position mean to you and why do you believe that having more women in the C-Suite is so impactful?
- What should we be looking for in your leadership?
- Having worked in the media in Kenya and Germany, in NGOs and participated in international conferences, please share some ways women can best position themselves for opportunities and rise the ranks?
- Don’t give up on your dreams. Never allow your limitations to deter you from going after your dreams e.g in my case the heavy Kimeru accent. Do whatever it takes to overcome the hurdle and attain your dreams.
- Be willing to do things differently. Focus on adding value. Whether it is story ideas or projects, I strive to identify what will make my work unique and stand out especially in addressing unresolved issues and pushing for impact. It is not easy, it requires a lot of research and reading to have local and international perspectives, but it is doable.
- Network! I can never overemphasize this. I am one of those people who will go anywhere without any allowance or pay for the sake of networking. Sometimes I give pro-bono training with the bigger picture-to network and establish long-term solid networks. I look at it as an opportunity to advertise my skills and prove that I can do it. After some time, I always reap big as a professional and an important partner with the organizations I interact with.
- Strive for impact. I don’t trade perfection for anything. I remain professional and leave a lasting memory by doing tasks assigned to me to the best of my ability. This has enabled me to continue to work with reputable institutions and organizations locally and internationally. And while at it, never forgo opportunities because they seem hard, just try.
- As an award-winning journalist with 11 awards, tell us what these awards mean to you and other young women who look up to you. Any tips for young journalists hoping to excel in the media industry?
- You are the board chair of Africa Check Foundation in Kenya, a subsidiary of Africa Check Trust, Africa’s leading independent fact-checking organization. What does it take to run this board?
- None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person(s) who you are grateful to who held your hand along your career journey?
- With such a flourishing career, what values keep you grounded and shape the way you work and live?
- This has made me become a well-respected journalist and an accomplished media trainer. Journalism is also about leadership; being responsible knowing that the public trusts us to lead them through the information or reports we do. Integrity has borne excellence especially in my leadership and management of people.
- Discernment. I always pray for a spirit of discernment. I have gone through a rough terrain, at some point I didn’t know if I would ever lift myself because I made wrong decisions. But this has helped me learn from my mistakes which is the reason why I am keen and take my time before passing judgments, whether it is about myself or others. I don’t discredit people, cut them out, let them into my life or trust them with assignments or certain information. This reduces the chances of falling into deep pits in my personal and career life. It is good to have personal boundaries and know up where do we let people in our lives, and which people.
- Lastly, given an opportunity to re-imagine the world (for women and girls), is there anything you would change? If yes, what will it be and why?