Thu. Apr 25th, 2019

POWER WOMEN: Lizz Ntonjira – IBM Communication Manager for Central, East and West Africa

Elizabeth Ntonjira, or simply Lizz Ntonjira is a household name in the Kenyan Media industry having worked NTV for quite some time. The law graduate from the Catholic University of East Africa is also a Masters student in Public Policy and Management at Strathmore University awaiting graduation.

Lizz has also been the recipient of several awards including the International Women in Tech award and the IBM Smart Communicator Award. We had a little chat with her and here are her take on several issues that are elemental to campus ladies.

You made a debut in media at 10 years and have grown over time to establish yourself in the industry. What is the secret?

Oh yes! It was an article that I had written. I’m still very passionate about writing and I do some articles once in a while that touch on current pertinent issues, especially those on gender and youth. I’m not sure if there’s a secret but my mantra has always been to be true to myself and my vision. That’s what keeps me going.

What should be every girl’s dream?

I guess being a better version of themselves each day. We’re always so eager to compete with other people…I think that’s the wrong approach. We should always challenge ourselves with people that we look up to, not compete with them. And then every day, work on being better versions of ourselves (smiley face).

What are some of the lessons you have learnt in your career that you believe are relevant to today’s campus lady looking to join the workforce?

Always be innovative, think out of the box and stand firm in your decisions. The workplace is a very complex environment regardless of the industry you’re in. They’re a lot of people who will want to bully you because you are either a woman or you are young…stand firm. Be confident of yourself and your abilities. I’ve have the unique opportunity to always be the youngest in any team I work with, but I’ve always earned my colleagues’ respect because of the way I execute my work. Always focus on your work and always avoid being drawn into office politics.

What are your success habits?

Having a plan. Always have a plan which has your long term and short term goals. They could be goals on various aspects of your life like your personal and social growth, your professional growth etc. Surround yourself with positive people…people who inspire, empower and challenge you. Have conversations about dreams and visions, not about people.

How do you strike a balance between personal and life in the public eye?

My private life, is my private life. I’ve always kept it that way by limiting what I share on social media because we live in a society that is so quick to judge or tell tales about stuff they don’t know. Basically, people thrive on assumptions and I make sure I offer no room for assumptions.

How do you push through your worst times?

By listening to podcasts or videos from people that I admire like Oprah, Sheryl Sandberg, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, J.K. Rowling, Beyoncé, Emma Watson…I also read a lot of Biographies of different people. I listen to lots of rock music, rap, crunk music…I’ve often been told I don’t look like the music I listen to…ha ha ha. One of my favourite rappers is Cardi B!!!

If you were a president for one day, what would you do for the girl-child in Kenya?

I don’t think one day would be enough! There are so many things I would change but the single most important legislation I would pass on that day is ‘Equal Pay for Equal work done, regardless whether one is a man or woman.’ Very often, women holding same position as their male counterparts are paid less; this is something that needs to change. That gender pay gap shouldn’t exist…Not only in Kenya but world over.

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What woman inspires you? Why?

My journey through life for the past 3 decades- yes! Has been by far influenced directly and indirectly by women. Women of all colour, all race, all religion, all tribe and in all continents…women that I have interviewed, those that I look up to and those that look up to me. I began my career in media at a pretty young age.

At 18, I had secured a full time job in one of the media houses while in my first year of campus pursuing my law degree. Back then, I would read biographies of various women and was always fascinated by their achievements. The likes of Wangari Maathai, Justice Njoki Ndung’u, Tegla Loroupe, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Coco Chanel, Margaret Thatcher, Beyonce Knowles, Elizabeth Taylor, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti,Winnie Mandela, Miriam Makeba, Julia Ojiambo, Zipporah Kittony, Martha Karua among many others.

It’s so hard for me to pick just one because there are so many lessons and good practices I have picked from all the above listed women.

Some key similarities about these women that continues to inspire me is their tenacity, drive, discipline, hard work, resilience, persistence and their eagerness to impact on other people’s lives.

My one true hero I would say is my mom. She inspires me every day. She is just one perfect human being to me!

What is the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you? Why?

Um, I think our generation has so much potential. However, the challenge is that a lot of young people want to wake up and find success. Success is not an event, it’s a journey. And in that journey you have to work both hard and smart. Instead of admiring people that we look up to, it would be best to admire their journey. What did they do to get to where they are? I don’t believe in overnight success. The journey creates the breakthrough to success!

What is the best and worst decisions you have ever made?

I think the best decision I make every day is waking up knowing that I have to achieve more than I did the previous day…that’s what keeps me going.

I’ve made lots of mistakes…it’s hard to pin point one that stands out because I don’t look at them as ‘mistakes’ per se, but learning lessons. They are opportunities for me to make better decisions.

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