"We have a duty to shine a light into the deepest recesses of human experience and provide a mirror for society to examine itself."
– Rose Wangui
Reporter, NTV Kenya
Rose Wangui grew up in a Catholic home in a small neighborhood in Nairobi called Eastleigh. She says she was always fascinated by the nuns. More than anything she admired the way they gave back to society, which encouraged her to give back as well.
From a young age, Rose knew she wanted to change the world and do good in her community, so she decided to become a nun herself. After high school, however, she had a change of heart. She learned that it takes nine years to become a nun and explained that she just couldn’t wait to “hit the ground running.”
Neither religion nor politics felt like the right route for Rose to create systemic change. When she noticed that no one around her was telling the stories of the most vulnerable and marginalized Kenyans, those impacted by harmful social norms and practices rarely brought to light, she began to consider investigative journalism as her path. Soon after, she realized the amount of people she could reach and the impact that storytelling can have in changing laws and lives.
Early on in her journalism career, she found that gender-based violence (GBV) in particular was an issue that was not making headlines. There were no stories about harmful practices like female genital mutilation (FGM), despite how prevalent the practice was in several parts of Kenya. She was told it was because there was no interest or budget for stories on such dark and taboo topics. Undeterred, she pursued them on her own. Rose says, “we have a duty to shine a light into the deepest recesses of human experience and provide a mirror for society to examine itself.”
It became her mission to spotlight this issue to increase public awareness and promote solutions to protect girls and support survivors. Rose soon reached activists and NGOs, eventually sparking national debate about FGM and other forms of violence against women and girls. With the help of Rose’s investigative journalism magnifying the issue, the Kenyan government passed a bill outlawing FGM in 2011.
Moving forward, Rose says she wants to see more men and fathers involved in the work of ending FGM and other forms of GBV in Kenya. “We need to make this more than just a women’s issue,” she explains. While doing stories about girls who had managed to escape FGM, she saw that fathers played a major role in successfully protecting them from the practice.
Like all of us at Kakenya’s Dream, Rose also understands that creating allies in men is crucial to ending violence against women and girls and ensuring they are seen as more than just property.
Rose’s passion for social justice through storytelling led to the creation of a rescue center for girls at risk of FGM and sexual bondage, and won her the International Center for Journalists Knight International Journalism Award in 2019. She says her proudest achievement, however, is amplifying the stories of the voiceless and using her platform to bring them hope and justice.