• The top 20 feature stories of 2019 from the Big Read and Sasa pages of the Star
Adversity is writ large across the diary of Wanjiku in 2019, but she registered some triumphs that bespeak her resilience. In good times and bad, the Star was there to dig up and document her untold stories on its feature pages.
From having her innocence traded for beads to being a willing seller to willing buyers, from being dispossessed after getting widowed to barely surviving a hammering by a lover, Wanjiku had a long year. But she also made historic innovations and thrived in the international arena against great odds.
The Big Read and Sasa sections captured her struggles and successes in depth through features, a genre media trainer Judie Kaberia defines as, “Colourful pieces that deal with real events, placing an emphasis on the people involved.” Below is a list of the best in 20 categories, starting with one that touches on Wanjiku’s worst fears in this economy.
1. Best TRAUMA Feature
By Jane Abukutsa
Excerpt: He remembered six years earlier, when the Finance Manager of one of the companies within the group was terminated. He did not inform his wife that he no longer had a job. For eight months, the poor man would leave home every morning at the usual time but he would head to an upmarket cyber café, where he would spend his whole day. Wafula remembers laughing at the man. But now that he, Wafula, was facing the big R, he empathised with the man.
2. Best SURVIVAL Feature
By Barry Salil
Excerpt: “I was sweating and trembling, pleading with him to spare my life as I remembered my son Florian and my six siblings and mother, who were looking up to me for support. But he could not listen. When he pulled the trigger, the gun jammed… God had jammed it,” Elizabeth Kogo, 37, recounted.
3. Best HUSTLING Feature
By Elizabeth Mwarage
Excerpt: “I have fulfilled my dream. I have done odd jobs so that none of my children will do the same. Now that they are all working, I can go back home to retire.”
4. Best HARDSHIP Feature
By George Mugo
Excerpt: “I have been frustrated. I was born by my parents who I live with in Kinoo. I’m confused since I cannot start a business, and from the analysis of issues, I find myself being confined to being a cobbler. I repair shoes and I can see myself with all the talents I have remaining a cobbler,” footballer James Kiziwacho said.
5. Best GENDER Feature
By Malemba Mkongo
Excerpt: “They said I killed my husband so I could inherit the land we had bought. I could not take in the pain of losing a husband and being accused of killing him. It was too much for me,” she said.
“Nashami* (not her real name) quietly sat outside her manyatta, watching as other children played, not daring to join them lest her co-wife sees her.” I feel like crying. Really?? In this era and time? Where’s the children dept? Where’s the police? Aren’t these crimes against children? Where are the local politicians? Paedophiles!!?
Username: Thesage Bush
6. Best CHILD ABUSE Feature
By Njeri Mbugua
Excerpt: “They are babies and should not be having intercourse. It is a traumatic experience because they are not prepared for intercourse at all at that time,” Dr Allan Adungo, an obstetrician, said.
7. Best STIGMA Feature
By Ernest Cornel
Excerpt: The sanctum, filled with skeletons, jack-o-lanterns and a pot, is for the oath-taking and ‘healing’ the sick. Seashells and oil are among the healing potions the magicians rely on for their rituals. Other paraphernalia are hidden in a hut that is forever kept dark. They possess ‘powers’.
8. Best UNDERWORLD Feature
By Caren Nyota
Excerpt: “Although I was rained on, cheated, arrested and beaten by fellow sex workers, one day I'll go back. Prostitution is like witchcraft, you can't stop it once it's in your blood.”
9. Best TABOO Feature
By Geoffrey Mbuthia
Excerpt: “A lot of people think it is castration, but it is not. It is a modern, safe and effective family planning method for men whose families are complete,” Dr Charles Ochieng, 45, said.
10. Best LEGAL Feature
By Jillo Kadida
Excerpt: The advantage of having a living will is first, you as a parent decide who is best suited to take care of you and your wealth. Secondly, it saves the family from unending legal battles, which sometimes lead to bad blood.
11. Best HEALTH Feature
By Magdaline Saya
Excerpt: They are greeted with a pile of leaflets on the receptionist's table, indicating the diseases they cure and the time frame. They include chronic diseases, such as cancer, gynaecological complications and detoxification agents. Some promise healing in as little as two weeks.
12. Best ACHIEVEMENT Feature
By Lewis Nyaundi
Excerpt: They came to the limelight as not only the first African students but also the youngest to win a global law competition: the John H Jackson Moot Court on World Trade Organisation (WTO) Law.
How I shed 46 kilos to get six-pack — Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff
13. Best INNOVATION Feature
By John Muchangi
Excerpt: “Within a few weeks, the HIV is completely gone and there is no rebound,” Prof Benson Edagwa, 37, told the Star in Nairobi.
These are the kind of articles that really give hope. People should read and internalise its contents and go take actionReader by the username Lyc on the modern farming feature
14. Best FARMING Feature
By Melanie Mwangi
Excerpt: “You find youths migrating from the rural areas to the city in search of work, yet they’ve left a shamba back at home because they were told in the town is where they will get jobs and money.”
15. Best SPORTS Feature
By Agnes Makhandia
Excerpt: According to teachers and other stakeholders, different goings-on are to blame for the dip in performance among the once indomitable schools. They cite lack of incentives, age cheating, poaching, academic pressure and change of management.
16. Best TOURISM Feature
By Mbaruku Mohammed
Excerpt: The research covered the social and economic impacts of dredging activities off the coasts of Kwale and Mombasa counties. It predicts a looming collapse of Diani’s beach-dependent tourism.
17. Best ENVIRONMENT Feature
By Cathy Watson
Excerpt: “It was a mountain of garbage here, a thieves’ hideout. Men could pull you here from the road and God-knows-what would happen,” says Sarah Nyambura, 34, one of the women involved.
18. Best WELFARE Feature
By Allan Kisia
Excerpt: MCF’s work has inspired many and earned it multiple plaudits. Hollywood star Morgan Freeman flew into the country in December last year to interview the founder, Charles Mulli. The Academy Award winner travelled all the way from the US and spent time at the MCF.
19. Best SHOWBIZ Feature
By Davies Ndolo
Excerpt: Kenyan artiste MC Yallah, who made the lineup this year, agrees that the most noticeable aspect about the event is the ability to meticulously put together a festival without any A-list artistes.
20. Best COMMENTARY Feature
By Star Reporter
Excerpt: “This country is heaven. This is heaven on earth. You are blessed with great weather. A vibrant private sector and well-skilled youthful workforce. But the government has been taken over by barons and cartels. Nothing moves unless the barons are part of it.”
Congratulations to the writers for delivering such memorable pieces, and thank you to the readers who took time to comment on them. If you missed any, feel free to check it out now. The beauty of a good feature story is that it is timeless.
Compiled by the Features Editor, whose works include ‘‘Handshake’ and Brexit through the prism of a wedding’ and ‘Chess coach Githinji Hinga’s endgame’