Orie Rogo Manduli, Kenya’s woman of firsts, dies in Nairobi

Orie Rogo Manduli

Former MP Orie Rogo Manduli who died at her Riverside home in Nairobi on September 8, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

First Kenyan woman rally driver and former MP Orie Rogo Manduli, has died at her Riverside home in Nairobi, her daughter Elizabeth Rogo has confirmed, adding that the family spokesperson will give more details.

Ms Manduli, who often described herself as a “lioness in her cage”, died Wednesday.

In a past interview with the Nation, Ms Manduli talked of her achievements, but declined to disclose her date of birth.

“I was born in Maseno. Don't ask when. Ladies don't say, just like you don't tell us where you’ve been when you come home in the middle of the night. I was born to two teachers. My father was a headmaster, later to become Councillor Gordon Rogo, and his beautiful wife Zeruia Adhiambo, who later took vocational training and specialised in home economics and taught at Kisumu Technical College.”

The former National Council of Non-Governmental Organisations chairperson schooled at Ng'iya Girls’ High School, then went to Butere Girls and then to Machakos Girls before joining Machakos Teachers College.

“But I never taught,” she told the Nation.

“I went there because my parents thought it would give me the discipline I needed in life. I married immediately and left for Canada, where I did a diploma in office management.”

First job

She later got her first job at Kenya Railways and Harbours Corporation as the personal assistant to P.J. Mwangola, who was the general manager then.

“In 1973, he looked at me and said ‘Orie, you are very ambitious, where are you headed?’ The stars, I said.”

In 1974, Ms Manduli was employed by the Coffee Board of Kenya as an administrative manager.

“I was the first woman to hold such a post in Kenya. In 1975, I got a bigger job as marketing and public relations manager with Metal Box, in charge of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Again, I was the first woman to hold such a job. At the end of that year, I bought a large farm. I was fascinated with land,” she said.

She revealed that she used to work at the Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation in the evenings and that was where she got interested in motor vehicle rallying, eventually becoming the first Kenyan woman rally driver.

“I had two shows going on Mambo Leo and Women's World — a weekly. Because of my broadcasting, I would interview rally drivers. There were these foreign women drivers coming in and then I said to myself, why don't we have Kenyan woman also running? I felt so bad. There was a sprinkling of quite a few Kenyan men participating but not a single woman.

“I was told that no Kenyan woman would think of it, let alone try, so forget about it Orie. And I said here I am, I would like to do it. And I did it in 1974 with the Sylvia Omino, Joab’s wife. The safari was hectic, it was beautiful, the most exciting thing I've ever done in my life. I was the driver, I am always the driver. It's just that I’m always the driver in any situation. We did not finish but managed two legs,” she told the Nation.

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