Janet Mbugua Ndichu carved a niche in the local media industry as a respected media personality with both brains and beauty to boot. In April last year, the seasoned broadcaster quit from Citizen TV, leaving many wondering what her next move was. She fills LILY RONOH-WAWERU in on what’s cooking in her life.
Janet Mbugua Ndichu is very time conscious (she arrives for this interview 10 minutes early) a trait she says she might have picked from her father. It is this precision that she puts in all her endevours and it is no wonder then that she excels in almost everything she does. The 34-year-old goes on to explain that she grew up in a close-knit family and her parents gave her and her brothers a free rein in following their dreams.
“I am the last born in a family of three siblings. One of my brothers is my twin. I grew up in Mombasa and later on moved to Nairobi for my high school education,” she provides a sneak peek into her childhood.
Janet speaks in a deep, clear voice and I ask her at what point in her life she knew she could use it to not only to earn a living, but also help others who haven’t found their voice. “I have to credit it to one of my primary school teachers who prompted me to join the school’s debate club. Then in high school, one of my teachers asked me to study media in college. She said I had a very powerful voice,” she explains.
And so it was that Janet would proceed to Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia
for her Bachelor’s degree in mass communication. But even before that, Janet’s career in media had already started taking shape when she landed a radio job at Capital FM at the tender age of 19.
In 2007, Janet came back from Malaysia ready to hit the job market. She got a job with KTN as a presenter on the travel show Out and About, before she finally made her debut as an anchor in the same station. This marked the beginning of a 10-year successful career in media.
“I stayed at KTN for two years. I then moved to ETV Africa in South Africa where I honed my skills. While at ETV, I covered notable events including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After a two-year stint there, I came back to Kenya to work with Citizen TV. My comeback was intentional because I really wanted to cover the 2013 elections,” she expounds. Janet comes out as a very confident woman and I seek to find out if this has always been the case.
“I was quite shy growing up even though my parents always encouraged us to speak our minds. It’s when I joined the debating club in my primary school – Loreto Convent Primary School – Mombasa, that my confidence was built and cultivated.
From the debating club, I went on to perform in music and drama festivals and this really shaped the person that I am today,” she reveals. Janet caught many by surprise when she hang up her boots in media. But as she explains, she had served her time and it was time for her to step back and chart the next course of her life.
“The decision to resign wasn’t reached at once. I had been mulling over it for around eight months. I had a young family that needed my attention. I was also doing other things on the side that I wanted to develop. By the time I was handing over my resignation letter, I was mentally and emotionally prepared. My family supported the move and that’s the assurance that I needed,” she says, adding that she is currently taking her time to learn about the TV industry.
Janet is passionate about motherhood. So much so that she started a blog/movement named ‘Iammotherhood’. Drawing from her own experience, she uses this platform to give mothers a chance to share their motherhood experience in a bid to highlight the plight of Kenyan mothers as well as advocate for policy change to improve the lives of mothers and overall to celebrate mothers and to an extent fathers in Kenya.
That she is also fervent about women’s issue is not in question. She uses every opportunity she gets
to talk about and advance women’s empowerment. I pick her brains on the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement that are aimed at addressing sexual harassment of women. “I know women do suffer in the workplaces. To such women, my advice is to speak about it. Talk to your HR manager, to a friend or a trusted colleague. Keeping quiet will not help the situation. Luckily, many companies currently have policies on sexual harassment to address such issues,” she explains.
Janet calls to mind an incident where she was trolled on social media for anchoring news while heavily pregnant. She notes that most of those making snide remarks were men and she took her time to address each one of them if only to make them respect pregnancy and it’s significance. She also holds the view that we need more women at the helm of organizations echoing Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s sentiments that we need women at all levels, including the top to change dynamics, reshape the conversations, and to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.
Janet is keen on mentorship. She started the Inua Dada Foundation to uplift Kenyan girls and to ensure that they are empowered by having their basic needs met and rights respected. Inua Dada Foundation is looking to build sustainable mentorship programmes.
She is also very particular about the causes she endorses. “I live purposely and choose projects that uplift people. Apart from Inua Dada and Iammotherhood, I also take part in Unilever’s campaign called #HelpAChildReach5. I’m the Kenyan Brand Ambassador for this global campaign and it’s an honour to spread the message of safe hygiene habits to save young lives. I was also a lead influencer in UNICEF’s
#EndChildMarriage campaign late last year,” she says, revealing that she is currently working with a US-based organisation seeking to amplify Gender Equality messaging in Kenya and Tanzania.
Janet is married to Edward Ndichu and together they have been blessed with a two-year-old son Ethan Huru Ndichu. “My husband is very supportive and not only celebrates every milestone I hit, but also urges me to be the best I can be. He is also my friend and that really makes a whole difference. My son has a very strong personality and is also assertive and we love him dearly. He is our source of joy and love.
At that young age, he knows what he wants and voices it out. I want him to learn about giving back to the society,” she explains. What makes Janet tick? “I live by three F’s: faith, family and focus. Nothing comes easy and I thus work hard. I also keep abreast about what’s happening in the world,” she says in