As part of BBC World News Ikenye forms an important part of the African narrative. The Kenyan-born anchor is in an interesting position: She can tell female stories with more depth. In fact, she draws inspiration from African women, and hopes women find their political identity – they hold power in their countries, after all.
Ikenye started as a reporter in Kenya 13 years ago. On a whim she applied for a position at the BBC, and managed to land a job there. On an international platform she is helping uncover Africa’s untold stories, but also values the role of women on the continent. This is important work, highlighted by this Women’s Month in South Africa.
What issues do you see affecting women today?
I think one of the biggest challenges women have faced for a very long time is making inroads when it comes to leadership or politics. This has impacted quite highly on the type of choices they make, whether it’s with regards to their homes or their own health. It’s quite interesting; a country like Kenya, for instance, has a majority of women voters but, until two years ago when a provision was included in the constitution to have a certain percentage of women in parliament, women hardly ever voted. So there’s a big question as to whether women don’t trust their own in leadership positions, or is it a societal influence that’s made them make the type of decisions they do.
Who inspires you?
The late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai was one of my biggest role models. She fought for what she believed in, she fought for trees against all odds, to protect the environment. She even collided with authority and that did not deter her agenda. That kind of spirit for me is one that is admirable, I don’t think I’ll ever forget her. My mum is also a huge role model, in fact my sister and I call her shujaa, which is Swahili meaning hero.
What tips would you give to a wannabe female journalist?
Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, this is a profession that requires a lot of thinking. Don’t be afraid of the odd hours that you have to put in. Don’t forget you are a woman, don’t leave behind your feminine side, because what they say about women and instinct does come in handy in this profession.