The teenage dream that influenced my career choice

Jackline Lidubwi is a multi-award-winning communications professional passionate about Persons with Disabilities. Photo | Pool

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Jackline Lidubwi is a multi-award-winning communications professional passionate about issues affecting Persons with Disabilities. 

Growing up in Chavakali, Vihiga County, Jackline Lidubwi wanted to be a teacher, just like her father. Despite her keen interest in listening to the radio at her younger age, she did not know of any learning institution that taught journalism at the time, so she was convinced that she’d launch her career in a teachers’ training college.

However, a dream she had would later change her aspirations. After her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations at Iregi Girls High School, she ended up pursuing a diploma in mass communication at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication. Then, the media world was beckoning.
“I had a dream that I was in the studio with some broadcasters and I saw machines and how people speak on the radio from the studio,” she told Saturday Magazine.
Even though Jackline did not know of any journalist near her who could offer mentorship, her dream became a reality. She quickly made friends in the industry when she landed an internship opportunity at KBC where she found herself at the TV department and not radio which she had interest in.
“I joined KBC with Terry Anne Chebet, Kanze Dena, Dolphine Emali and Monica Kiragu. Together, we formed an all-girls team of young, talented and ambitious journalists. We made our mark by crafting programmes that oozed fresh ideas. Top brands noticed our hard work and my friends were poached by other media houses,” she says.
Jackline stuck to KBC, which was her first love, and grew from a producer to a senior producer, and even the head of station at Y254 television. During this time, she produced more than 20 TV programmes like “Grapevine”, “Good Morning Kenya”, “New Vioja Mahakamani”, “Kenda Imani” and most notably “Abled Differently” which was the first disability-specific show in the country.
The quest to use stories to touch lives helped her to develop content that had an impact. She started the “Taj Touching Lives” programme, which mostly featured vulnerable people. To her, the story did not end when it went on air.
Viewers often reached out to offer help to some of the vulnerable people that her shows featured. At other times, she would reach out to organisations or individuals to support, such as fundraising for school fees for needy children.
“I won my first award through the “Taj Touching Lives” programme for a story I produced on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I featured a lady who provided a safe house for victims of FGM and she was promoted to an area chief after the story was aired,” she says.
Jackline’s perception of the vulnerability of People with Disabilities (PWDs) changed after interacting with a number of them on her show. Her biggest realisation was that not all of them needed financial help. “With time, I started hosting PWDs who are well off like lawyers and board members of national organisations. Some of them were better educated than I was,” she offers.
It is at this point that she realised that she had to change the narrative about PWDs through a new programme she dubbed “Abled Differently”. She gathered like-minded storytellers to do it effectively.
Jackline started by finding young journalism students with various disabilities and making them hosts and reporters for her new programme. Jane Theuri who was studying at St Paul’s University was one of them.
“Through her work as a presenter of the Abled Differently show, Jane completely changed the perception that PWDs cannot be TV presenters,” she says.
Jackline’s commitment didn’t go unnoticed. She won the American Disability Act fellowship at the University of Massachusetts. While in America, she proposed a fellowship project to train journalists and students on disability reporting.
Upon her return to Kenya, she implemented the project at St Paul’s University where she was a lecturer. Her passion for mentorship helped over 1,000 journalists, many of whom have since become household names in the media. .
“When I take journalists on board, I mentor and train them so they can also mentor others and give them opportunities,” says Jackline, who has made contributions to disability policies. 
She was part of the working group that led to the passing of the Sign Language Interpretation law in the country. 
She collaborated with her mentor, Dr John Ndavula, to introduce disability reporting as a unit in the journalism degree programme at Murang’a University of Technology where he is the humanities department head. While the biggest recognition of a story is the change it creates in society, Jackline’s work has also received public approval from her peers and other stakeholders.
Her passion has seen her win several media wards, among them The Disability Mainstreaming Award 2017, Annual Disability Rights and Advocacy Award as a media activist for PWDs 2014 and UNFPA/KEMEP Award 2013 as best television producer in the FGM category. “Working at KBC also opened doors for me to tour the world,” says the award-winning journalist. USA, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, China, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda are some of the countries she visited.
She was trained at renowned media institutions like Media Training Centre in the Netherlands and Radio Netherlands Training Center (RNTC). In 2017, she took the Global Change Leaders course at St Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia in Canada. In her personal life, Jackline carries the same ethos. She identifies and nurtures talent whenever she sees it. “I supported two of my housekeepers to continue with higher education and become teachers,” she prides.
Jackline is currently a doctoral candidate at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and holds a Master’s degree in communication from the University of Nairobi.
After transiting from KBC, she joined Internews where she merged her passions of teaching and mentorship. 
Currently, Jackline is the project coordinator for the Clean Air Catalyst in Nairobi for Internews Earth Journalism Network, which she considers a very important topic in human existence.
“With the shocks that climate change is sending across the globe, this is probably the biggest story of our times. I’m happy to be one of the people working towards a sustainable society,” she notes.