Gladys describes her childhood as that of a typical village girl. Born and raised in Kitale to farming parents, she knew much was expected of her. Her siblings had set precedence especially when it came to matters academics and her father believed in education, so she was determined to excel.
“I think I came as an afterthought to my parents, but it had an advantage because now my dad could dedicate his resources to me – the last born,” reminisces the mother of two currently in her thirties.
Her father took her to Kitale Academy School, which at the time was a school for children from affluent backgrounds. Seeing her father’s determination, she worked hard in her studies and her schoolmates’ seemingly better lives only served to motivate her further. Her hard work paid off and she was called to Kapsabet Girls High School for her secondary education.
Owing to health challenges, her father took her back to Kitale Academy’s secondary school section where she became actively involved in the Christian Union and was elected CU Chairperson. On finishing her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, she found that her father had already enrolled her in Meru Teachers College since he did not want her idling at home.
“My dream was to be a broadcaster. I realised if I didn’t take charge, I would be stuck doing something I didn’t like,” says Gladys.
To save herself from becoming a teacher, she sought out the application process for Daystar University and quickly applied. Soon after, she was called for a Diploma course in journalism at the university’s Valley Road campus, which she started in 1997.
Having seen her leadership capabilities, her friends pushed her to vie for a seat in the students’ government and she emerged successful. She also joined the students’ fellowship, as she was keen on sticking to her Christian values. While there, she also got an opportunity to intern at her local church’s radio station and through that got to produce some shows for KBC, which was the leading broadcaster at the time. In 1999, she graduated and went back to her hometown in Kitale.
Gladys wanted to pursue a Bachelors degree but unfortunately, her father passed on and it threw their family into turmoil. Since they had struggled to pay for her diploma, her university education hung in the balance. As she waited for her family to sort the financial issues, Gladys applied and got a job at Sayare FM radio.
Luckily, by 2000, her mother had accumulated enough money to enable her continue with schooling at Daystar University, Athi River campus. But along the way, the matter of school fees reared its ugly face again and this time round she reached out to one of her professors, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics.
“The professor, who I regard as a destiny helper, talked to the administration and I was given more time to pay the fees, as well as a job within the work-study programme,” she reminisces.
Again, she vied for a post in the student’s government and became the chairperson for students’ welfare. This eased the burden on her finances as school leaders were given free meals by the school. However, she still had to pay for accommodation off campus as boarding was way too expensive. This led her to start selling mandazis at the school canteen. The money catered for necessities until 2003 when she finished her course.
Thrust into media
Still in pursuit of her broadcasting dream, she applied for an internship at KBC. Gladys knew she had to give it her best shot so she reported to work as early as the employees and even dressed the part.
“Dressing for the job you want is a very big sell, it gave me an edge over the other interns. I got the opportunity to work under veteran journalist Richard Chacha and he trained me on reporting and writing news scripts for which I am grateful. My bosses even recommended me for a media analyst job with the European Union (EU). I remember being intimidated as the interviewers were all foreigners but I went in trusting in God and I got the job!” she says.
After the contract with EU ended, KBC took her back and gave her an anchoring position. “Anchoring was a whole new cup of tea for me but it was my dream so I took it in my stride,” she shares.
While working there, she successfully applied for a news editor position at Hope FM. Having worked in the newsroom gave her an added advantage. It was during the course of her job she met her now deceased husband, Mwangi Geita.
“I had known Geita for a while since he was working at Voice of America (VOA). Our paths crossed a few times in the field during our reporting assignments before we eventually started dating,” says Gladys.
Towards the end of 2015, Gladys became pregnant and working at a Christian organisation posed a challenge. Before she could be sacked, she went to see her boss who asked her to resign but she stood her ground. When she insisted, Gladys sought the help of the late Mutula Kilonzo who by then used to represent journalists pro bono. However, after serious thought and discussion with her senior pastor then, Bishop David Oginde, she decided not to pursue the case against her employer.
Nonetheless, when she was five months along, she was fired from her job for being pregnant out of wedlock contrary to Church affiliated institution’s regulations. Just when she thought things couldn’t get worse for an unmarried, jobless young woman, a disagreement forced her and Geita to break up. A Good Samaritan from her Bible study group offered her a place to live and pay rent in bits.
Despite having a difficult pregnancy and depending on her family for upkeep, things started looking up when she was called for a job interview at Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company. She was eight months pregnant then.
“I had even forgotten I had applied for the corporate affairs coordinator position until the recruiting company called me. After several interviews, I was picked. When I went to see the HR Director to pick my appointment letter, I was heavily pregnant and so tired it must have shown. I assured her that I would work up to the last day. She was very supportive,” she explains.
On her due date, her doctor who had come through during her jobless period, offered to deliver her without paying a single cent. She delivered a baby girl, Neema on April 24, 2006. “My colleagues were so caring. The shopping they brought me was enough to last six months and the clothes they bought for Neema lasted her for two years. My experience at the water company was excellent! I got opportunities to travel and study which set me on an upward trajectory in my career,” she says fondly of her former employer.
Three months after Neema was born, Geita came back into her life and in 2007 they started living together before they officially tied the knot in 2009.
In 2011, she joined the New KCC as the manager, corporate affairs before moving to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) where she worked for two years as head of communication and outreach. October 2015 saw her joining Kenya Reinsurance Corporation as the corporate affairs manager, a position she holds to date.
With her gratuity from IPOA, she had embarked on building their countryside house in Geita’s home in Othaya. Their two bedroom modern house was in its finishing stages when the unthinkable happened.
“We were to travel to the countryside for my step-mom’s burial and my husband had just called to say he was 20 minutes away. I was just about to go warm his food when my nephew who stays with us got a call which seemed distressing. When I asked him, he just told me that my husband had been involved in an accident along Thika Road. I remember kneeling down in prayer while still in shock asking God not to kill my husband and to spare me widowhood at my age. After that I went to my neighbour’s in a huff and told them to take me to Thika Road. While on my way to the accident scene, my nephew who had accompanied me, decided to disclose that my husband was gone,” she says wistfully.
Her husband, veteran journalist Mwangi Geita, had succumbed to injuries when his car hit a stationary lorry along Thika Road. His death threw her into confusion and her children, Neema, then 9 and John, 3, were not spared, as their father had been heavily involved in their lives. Gladys shares that her children kept her strong during that period, especially her daughter who kept praying for her. Johnny, as they fondly call him, had a hard time coming to terms with their father’s death.
Gladys admits she was angry with God for making her a widow that young. However, their troubles were far from over as part of her late husband’s family became hostile towards her that she has never gone back to Othaya and had to forego everything they owned there.
Although 2016 was a tough year for her family, Geita’s death made her more involved in her children’s lives and saw her make many new friends who offered immense support and counselling. She also started a catering company to ensure her children’s lifestyle was not drastically altered. Her mother, whom she describes as an angel and her best friend, also gave her part of their land in Kitale where she constructed a home for her family.
“My children come first, no matter what. I’ll only consider remarrying when I meet someone who will value my kids as much as I do, or love them as much as their father did,” she says emphatically.
Being a staunch Christian, Gladys says that she has since forgiven her in-laws for their hostility. “I believe in facing your past without regret, handling your present with confidence and preparing for the future without fear. If anything, I have learnt to let go and let God be,” she says in conclusion.