Remembering Lorna Irungu-Macharia, through the eyes of her loved ones
By Edwin Macharia
Lorna Irungu-Macharia was the loving wife of Edwin Macharia and mother of Nancy Mumbi Macharia. Daughter of the late Festus G Irungu and Lucy Bancy Wanjiru; daughter-in-law of the late Elias Macharia and Nancy Macharia; sister of Rose, Carole, Jomo and Ikiki; sister-in-law of Siteiya, Dennis and Jackie, Eric and Eliza and the late Irene Wanjiku; beloved aunt of Tyger, Mikey, Mayiana, Zeta, Xaria, Zozo, Zahari, Kim, Jasmine, Shannon, Shanice, and Talida. She was a niece and cousin of many.
Lorna had many dear friends and was a beloved aunt to their children. Lorna passed away on Monday 22nd March 2021 at the Karen Hospital, Nairobi, while undergoing treatment for COVID-19. She was cremated on Tuesday 23rd March 2021.
Lorna was a communications professional and a committed social activist. She began her career in the performance arts and was serially awarded for her Phoenix Theatre stage performances.
This expanded into the TV scene, where she hosted Club Kiboko on KTN and Omo-Pick-A-Box on KBC. She also worked on movie productions such as Dangerous Affairs (2002), the first of its kind with an all-Kenyan production team and cast. In addition to playing a leading role, she supported the film’s marketing and PR efforts.
Lorna then moved behind the camera after she was chosen to be in the first class of MNet Initiatives, a move by the pay-TV platform to identify and groom the next generation of African movie producers.
She produced Rastar (2003), which was featured at the Zanzibar International Film Festival where she represented Kenya. Lorna continued utilizing and expanding her skills in various spaces.
She served as Entertainment Manager for the Tamarind Group, using the platform to create premier entertainment experiences in the region. These included popular events at the Carnivore such as New Jack Swing, Simba Soul, Rock Nite, and hosting international acts like Sean Paul and Shaggy. She consistently used the platform to create space for Kenyan artists to showcase their talent.
After the Carnivore, she continued to elevate Kenyan and African artists through Siwa Communications, a boutique PR firm she founded.
In 2007, she served as Project Manager for the first season of Tusker Project Fame, the first-ever live simulcast show across Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
She then served as Producer of Red Kona, the comedy show featuring the Redykyulass trio that took the country by storm with their edgy act that challenged social and political norms.
With Motorola as the client, she pioneered global corporate engagement with Kenyan artists, supporting the production of the hit song, Tatizo, which featured leading Kenyan artists such as JuaCali, Nyashinski, Abbas Kubaff, Nameless, Pam, and Karma, with DJ Pinye and Fakii Liwali as producers. She also shepherded the process that led to Juacali being named a global Motorola ambassador, a first for the region.
Lorna was a committed social and gender activist, using her platform and skillset to amplify women’s issues and causes. She worked tirelessly to promote women’s voices in media and politics. These were recurring themes in all her radio shows on Capital FM, KISS FM and, more recently, Nation FM.
She was a core part of Warembo Ni Yes, the successful grassroots women’s campaign to develop and adopt Kenya’s constitution in 2010. She was Head of Communications for Martha Karua’s run for President in 2013. She hosted the Vagina Monologues numerous times to create awareness on violence against women and girls, efforts that were critical in the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, while raising over $10,000 for grassroots organizations dealing with gender-based violence.
That same year, she co-led Vijana Tugutuke, Kenya’s most successful youth voter registration campaign to date.
She was a passionate advocate for women in business, always supporting women-owned and women-led enterprises; many will count her as an early adopter and committed champion for them.
Between 2018 and 2020, Lorna served as CEO of the Gina Din Group, Africa’s most awarded PR firm. She worked directly with the founder, Gina Din-Kariuki, to prepare the group for acquisition by Edelman, the global PR agency.
Lorna was a popular and effective team captain, providing leadership in handling critical clients such as President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2018.
In 2016, Lorna was appointed to a Government task force to work on the restructuring of Kenya’s state broadcaster, KBC.
She served on the boards of the African Leadership Institute and World Reader-Kenya, and completed her term on the Advocacy Accelerator Advisory Board in 2019. She was an Eisenhower Global Fellow (2016) and an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellow (2010). She had a Bachelor of Communications degree from Daystar University.
For over 20 years, Lorna fought and, in many ways, won the battle against lupus, an autoimmune disease. Between 1998 and 2008, she had three kidney transplants. Despite continuing health challenges, she chose to live a joyful, purposeful, generous, and impactful life.
From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Lorna understood that implementing basic COVID-19 protocols was central to protecting the lives of those at risk of serious illness. While her family has not spent time speculating over how and where Lorna may have contracted the virus, the rigorous implementation of COVID-19 protocols at home protected her family, friends, and staff from exposure to the virus.
She was often frustrated by the alarming misinformation that has shaped and continues to shape public perception of this virus, including the vaccine. Lorna acknowledged that a trust deficit in our public institutions and leadership have contributed significantly to the current crisis. Lorna believed that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
Therefore, as her family and friends, we take this opportunity to reiterate her message by imploring all Kenyans to: Properly wear well-fitting masks (over mouth and nose); maintain social distance; keep rooms and public spaces aerated, including public transport; wash hands with soap and water; sanitize; and get vaccinated.
To celebrate her life and continuing legacy, her family will set up the Lorna Irungu-Macharia Foundation dedicated to two causes that were close to her heart: the improvement of health policies and support for people living with autoimmune diseases, and the advancement of the rights of women and girls — particularly in leadership and politics. Contributions to the Foundation can be sent via Paybill 891300; Account: KUISAN or https://secure.changa.co.ke/myweb/share/46091
We thank all the doctors who through the years have been instrumental in tending to her medical needs: Dr Ahmed Twahir, her nephrologist at Parklands Kidney Centre, Dr Charles Kariuki, her cardiologist at Nairobi Hospital, and Dr Dan Gikonyo, Dr Anthony Gikonyo and Dr George Nyale at Karen Hospital, as well as all the nurses who treated her with love and care particularly in her final days.
Loved by so many, Lorna will be remembered fondly. A virtual memorial service will be held on Saturday 27th March 2021 from 7pm East Africa Time to celebrate her life. Further details will be shared on social media platforms.
Meanwhile, tributes can be posted on https://www.mykeeper.com/profile/LornaIrunguMacharia/