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February 15, 2019

Girls from community lack mentors, says Hirsi

Ambia Hirsi
Ambia Hirsi

BBC presenter Ambia Hirsi turned 40 last week but her journey in media has not been easy.

Ambia comes from one of the minority communities in the country called Munyoyaya in Tana River. She has managed to beat the odd and become an international journalist.

"Whenever I hear people talk about minority communities, I always think about mine because it is very interior and few people know about it. You can actually count the professionals we have from that community," Ambia told Word Is.

"Talk of a journalist and you will find I am alone, talk of a medical doctor and you will find one or even none. We have so many police officers because every child grows up knowing that they will become police officer because that is the only career present for them."

Her father was a police officer, but he wanted his daughter to choose a different path.

"My father was a police officer who struggled to get to the top-most level that no one in that community has gotten so far.

"One day we came for a national celebration in Nairobi. When I saw women matching, I told him I also wanted to be a policewoman but he discouraged and told me I should be something else. My role model was the only policewoman in my community. I was in Standard Eight then. In Form Two [my father] asked if I still wanted to be a police officer, I reminded him that he had told me to choose my own way."

She loved radio and became a journalist.

"I used to love radio and we would even fight over it with my brothers. So I told him I wanted to be a journalist.

"I worked so hard and joined Kenya School of Mass Communication. After school, I did my first internship with KBC. I always wanted to be heard on radio. Those days it was tough for a journalist because you had to be perfect unlike nowadays when you can delete a recording and re-do it. "I struggled so much to be heard on radio. I was working at the same time learning."

She has been in the media for 17 years now but she says BBC is her peak because it is where she has always wanted to be.

"I made a name for my community and I have reached this level of being in international media as I have also worked with German media for six months. I have done so many local [gigs] but my dream was to get to in international media. I have been in BBC for three years.

"This is the peak of my career and I have been asking myself, what will I do after here. I want to empower the girls from my community so that they can get a chance to be heard and known. I am reaching out to professional women from Tana River, specifically my community, trying to form a forum to mentor young girls.

"Schoolgirls from my community do not have mentors and get married at a very young age. I want us to have professionals from my community.

"Life starts at 40 and therefore I am starting this at this age. It does not matter your background, everyone has a chance in this country," Ambia added.

She is a presenter and producer of an evening radio program 'Dira Ya Dunia', which deals with current affairs and features news analysis.

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