Patience Nyange is a media, communications and advocacy specialist with more than 18 years of experience in human rights and various communications fields.
She’s also the founder of #KenyaWomenSeries, a platform to curate incredible, inspiring, powerhouse Kenyan women.
Nyande shares her career path with the Sunday Nation.
Briefly tell us about yourself.
I am the girl next door who believes in a just society. I am guided by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate and to have it make a difference that you lived and lived well.”
And this living well must be defined by you.
I am the founder of #KenyaWomenSeries, a platform to curate incredible, inspiring, powerhouse Kenyan women and what they are doing to change the world in their own small and big ways. I help women hoot their trumpet.
When all is said and done, I would love to be remembered as an easy, fun-loving human being who appreciates the beauty of life while taking photos and smelling roses.
Tell us about your childhood and educational background.
I am the second born and the first daughter in a family of five. I hail from Kisorongonyi, a small village in Mbale location, Taita Taveta County. I went to Fighinyi Primary School and the famous Murray Girls High School, both in Taita Taveta County.
I was a hardworking student who held leadership positions from class one. I was a perfect all my formative school life. I also served as a head girl for two years. I wore socks throughout my schooling life. And on several occasions, I received accolades for being the smartest girl in school.
I went to Daystar University to study Mass Communication, Electronic Media for my undergraduate. All I wanted to do in life was become a journalist; to use the power of my voice, pen, microphone, and camera to tell the stories of the voiceless or the oppressed.
I graduated in 2006, and in 2009, I joined the University of Nairobi to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Studies and Diplomacy. Ten years later, I left the country for Cardiff University, Wales, as a Chevening Scholar to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management. I came back in 2021 with a Distinction that I worked so hard to achieve.
I have two diplomas in Intercultural Communication from Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication in Norway (2011) and Level Two Leadership/Team Leading Course from the City and Guilds of London Institute (2021).
Share with us your career journey.
Just before my graduation in 2006, I went for my internship at Baraka FM in Mombasa, which turned into first job. I served as a Presenter/Producer for a drive time Swahili Show. I was on air Mondays to Fridays from 2-7 pm and later read the news bulletin till 9 pm before calling it a day.
Three years later, I left for Nairobi, where I served a short stint at KBC Radio Taifa as a Presenter/Producer before leaving for Norway. I went to Norway courtesy of the Association of Media Women in Kenya through an exchange program held between Norway and developing countries globally. This was a very rare opportunity that opened my eyes to international prospects giving me a chance to create networks and friendships that I treasure to date.
I returned to Kenya in 2012 and joined the Media Action, the charitable arm of the British Broadcasting Corporation, as a Broadcast Mentor. I left the BBC in 2014, marking the end of career in the mainstream media as I made my entry into the world of public relations.
My first PR job saw me serve as a Communications Advisor to the Cabinet Secretary (CS), Ministry of Devolution and Planning. This job felt like being thrown into the deep sea. It was a tough job. I was serving a top government official with a very high-level engagement. Every day for me felt like being in school. I was learning on the move. My boss had very high expectations for every one of us, and we had no choice but to deliver on our task.
After Ms Anne Waiguru resigned in 2016, the office felt different. We got shuffled and moved offices. My new boss became Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri who became the CS. I was already searching for a new job, and I really wanted to try out the human rights field.
So I applied for a job at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and in April 2016, I moved offices. I felt at home once again. I got a chance to work as an Assistant Director, doubling up as Personal Assistant to the Chairperson, Commissioner Kagwiria Mbogori, a woman who took her time to teach me about Human Rights and about life in general.
Because of my role in her office, we shared many moments together. She took me in as her mentee. She was the kind of boss who would bring me gifts every time she travelled. Ours became more than a working relationship.
In 2019, I left the country for the UK. I came back in mid-2021 and now I do media /communications consultancy.
Besides all these, I also serve as a delegate-at-Large representing Africa on the executive board for the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. In addition, I am a board member at the Media Council of Kenya and Emerging Leaders Foundation in Kenya.
What are the fondest memories of your career journey thus far?
Every step of my career journey has helped me create extraordinary and memorable moments. However, I believe the greatest of them is the ability to keep friendships that I value long after leaving the offices I worked for.
I have served in over 10 offices locally and abroad, and in each office, I have networks that have stood the test of time. My networks mean everything to me. Being chosen as a Chevening Scholar in 2019 and the chance it gave me to create global networks was a big achievement. In just a year in the United Kingdom, I feel like I have major networks from all over the world. We had a life together, made memories, and continue to be in touch.
What has been a key driver of your career growth?
The understanding that I am here on borrowed time and that tomorrow is only but a promise, gives me the urge to keep going. I believe that I have to be bigger than myself, and therefore, I want it to be remembered that I was here, and I lived life to my best.
At my age, I am no longer afraid of failing. I have learned that great is the man who tried, than the one who stood by the fence wondering, ‘what if I tried.’ I feel the fear and do it anyway. I follow my guts to the core. If it feels right, I do it, no matter how many other opposing forces come my way. I am old enough to overcome fear. I have grown over the years and I’m firm and solid in my resolve.
In 2014 I lost my father and almost lost my life too. Healing after my dad’s death, picking myself through it all and even being able to talk about it has been one of my greatest achievements over the years. It was tough. I was a wreck, but I grew life resilience through it all. I am bolder and alive. I have learnt that in every setback, there comes your greatest power. There’s an opportunity in every adversity. I have learnt to appreciate life and its challenges.
Who can you single out as having been useful in your career growth? How did they influence your trajectory?
Allow me to enumerate them. My immediate family members – I couldn’t ask for a better family. They keep me sane. They are my greatest support system. In them, I find solace. In them, I can be honest about life without any judgement. We are a tightly knit group. Their way of loving me is to give me freedom to be the best version of myself.
My late father is the one man who truly believed in me and loved me unconditionally. He is the man who taught me that I could be anything I desired to be. He worked all his life to see that I could live a better life than what he gave to all of us. He sacrificed all his life for us and left empty. To me, he never left. I carry my surname as a reminder of the man that I most fondly miss in my life.
My squad. A team of my girlfriends that I treasure a lot. Together, we write our vision boards and keep each other focused. We remind each other of the dreams and aspirations we have in life, and we pray for each other. We watch out for each other and bring each other gifts whenever one of us travels outside the country, from Somaliland to Nigeria and South Africa to Norway.
My mentors. They are walking the journey with me and have vowed to support me in this journey called life. They can spend hours on the phone with me to ensure that I get solutions to my life tribulations. I feel safer and secure knowing that I have people I can look up to.
My mentees. They have a special place in my life. I do life with them, and it is beautiful. They are a powerhouse in their own sense, and they keep me moving. They give me a reason to forge ahead.
My Critics. I am one person who treasures critics in my life. They give me a reason to pray. I am now in politics, so the more critics I have, the better for me. They give me reasons to refocus my undertakings.
Key decisions you might have taken along your career journey?
I have made many key decisions in my career journey. Some of those include:
Being bold enough to resign and leave my job when everyone else worried about the move. Being able to block all those opposing voices to chat my way in life was hard.
Being able to leave my country at a young age to settle abroad on my own. Of course, it scared me, but I made it through. It proved to me that there was nothing to fear than fear itself.
I have rejected seven job opportunities that were bigger and held greater promise than the opportunities I held at that moment. The power to say no and be at peace with it, shocks me. I have learnt not to mourn my losses. Instead, I focus on what I could be and move on.
Moving from the mainstream media to public relations was a decision that scared me, but I was sure that it will all connect with time. I am happy I made the move. I am still a journalist, and my role as a board member at the Media Council of Kenya allows me to still connect with people within the media industry. So I am a journalist and a PR practitioner.
Getting into politics at this time of my life. It is a scary venture, but I have a great support system with me. I believe I am equal to the task, and I am confident that I am capable. Well, my dreams scare me all the time, but I love the satisfaction that they come to pass. I am trusting God even with this one.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy reading. I read for fun. I take long drives and listen to music. I watch movies and series. I am currently watching Manifest. I find it very interesting. I like movies/series that keep my mind engaged.
I love sleeping. I enjoy cooking, and I am the chief cook in our household and amongst my friends most of the time. My family and friends appreciate this side of me, a lot.
If there was one thing you could change about your past, what would that be?
I would be bolder. I would speak my mind without fear and openly confess that I love the rebellious part of me. I would resist being too careful about life. Just that. There’s very little about me that I would change. I am a woman in love with myself, with whom I’ve grown to become.
What would you advise the youth in Kenya today?
Kenyan youth make up 70 per cent of the population. My advice to them is to make this block their negotiation power. To stand and be counted. To make sure that their voices matter. They must demand to be in the next government.
They must register to vote and speak loud enough to be heard. The message of nothing for them without them should be loud enough to all persons seeking public service opportunities.
A message of policies that project social security and predictability of life in their advancing age should inform their considerations.
Your future plans?
It is an electioneering period. I am contesting for the gubernatorial seat in Taita Taveta County. I believe I will be the third and the first woman governor of Taita Taveta County come August 9, 2022.
I am unhappy at the levels of deceit happening in my county today. The deliberate and skewed approaches to development are a strategic bottleneck designed to frustrate and deny the people an opportunity to define, participate, own and involve themselves in decision-making processes.
The dividends of devolution are not people-centred but are an avenue for advancing self-serving interests. Development is not data-driven, is spontaneous and not sustainable.
In short, the community has been denied and deprived of meaningful platforms and spaces for engaging and interrogating budgetary procedures, processes and development priorities of the county government; suffice to say that the exercises have been a sham, gloss over value and leaving the residents with no access to information as guaranteed by the 2010 Constitution.
The spirit of devolution is being undermined as we watch. I foresee a bleak future if something is not urgently done to secure the county from the leadership trajectory. So I offer a path from that abyss.
I am also not satisfied with how the women, youth, persons with disabilities, and special needs have been neglected and denied opportunities to participate and gain from meaningful development. Taita Taveta is a county of enviable and undeniable resources, but its people continue to live in abject poverty. What we have experienced is empty rhetoric and inaction. We must change that.
The indignities my community has been subjected to under successive regimes by way of dispossession and denial of their rights to land and natural resources, and access to social and economic opportunities, which has led to wanton poverty and destruction of lives and livelihoods, has also motivated me to contest this election so that we can begin fixing the problems bedevilling our county.
This also includes addressing the deplorable state of health and wellness, the collapsing education standards, reviving agriculture and tourism, addressing access to clean, safe, and affordable water, climate change mitigation, human-wildlife conflict, youth bulge and unemployment, social vices and collapsed societal values and value systems amongst a host of other pressing challenges.
So, I am offering myself, ready to change the narrative. It is time for the community to take their destiny into their own hands through proactive, efficient, effective, transparent, accountable, and people-centred leadership.
That’s my plan for now and the future. To redeem and repossess Taita Taveta County.