PROFILE: TI Kenya boss Sheila Masinde going the extra mile

PROFILE: TI Kenya boss Sheila Masinde going the extra mile

By Patience Nyange

The spotlight today is on Sheila Masinde, the Executive Director of Transparency International, Kenya.

Well, I heard of Sheila before I met her. I remember her as a news presenter for Easy FM at the Nation Media Group.

She would later become my boss at BBC Media Action in Nairobi between 2011-2014. She served as the Communications and Training Manager then.

Shei, as loves to call herself, is the second born and only girl in a family of four children.

“Fighting for the preferred pieces of chicken, meat or bread with boys made me learn to claim my space early in life. You had to be outspoken to be heard by the boys in our home. Therefore, the fight for equality and equity is almost a natural process for me,” she says.

“I come from a strong Catholic family, coupled with enrolling in a Catholic Primary School gave me a robust foundation. The values I cherish and now seek to promote including integrity were seeded there. We had weekly pastoral education, hymn classes, mass and confession – having to take penance every week from the age of eight drove one to do the right thing always,” she adds.

Her career path has been an interesting turn of events.

As a young girl, Sheila wanted to be a journalist cum creative writer. She started as a contributor for the local dailies while still in university.

Despite her interest in the media industry, the first job that came calling after she completed her undergraduate studies was at ‘I Choose Life-Africa.’

“At ICL, I worked as a Programme Trainer and was later promoted to Assistant Programme Manager. I then had a two-year stint in radio, and after two years I was thirsting to get experience in another medium, so I went into online sub-editing for the Nation News website,” she says.

Following the post-election violence, she realised she had an urge to do more than report on events that shaped the nation as part of the Agenda Four reforms.

When Transparency International Kenya advertised the role of Advocacy and Communications Officer, she jumped at it with the desire to contribute towards anti-corruption efforts.

“My first stint at TI-Kenya spanned three years, my tenure coincided with the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution and I was thus charged with leading institutional civic education efforts ahead of the referendum and I was involved in the development and advocacy of laws that supported the implementation of the new Constitution as well,” she says.

“It was truly a fulfilling period of learning and serving beyond the given job description, I had bargained for a communications role but in the end I drew a learning curve in many other aspects of democracy and governance work such as legislative advocacy, and this experience pointed my career path towards another direction,” she adds.

She later joined BBC Media Action as Communications and Training Manager.

However, in less than two years, TI-Kenya came calling and this time, she took up the role of Research and Learning Manager.

Within a year she was promoted to Head of Programmes, a role she served for five years before her current appointment as Executive Director.

She considers this role as one of her biggest achievements, especially at a time the country is gearing and driving the vision for a corruption-free Kenya.

She says it is no easy task but a demonstration that going that extra mile, challenging one’s self to swim in uncharted waters, and being all-rounded, are propelling factors for leadership opportunities.

“My personal vision is we will win the fight against corruption in my lifetime. Now I suppose I have 30 or 40 more years on earth, with just 20 of these being very active thus every second of the minute, every minute of the hour, every hour of the day, and every day of the year must be dedicated towards flooring this vice.

“Therefore, getting the right strategy, particularly a strategy to drive attitudinal and behavioral change among Kenyans and understanding the psychology of corruption is a key plank for me. I am dedicating my life towards this vision. Not just for me, but for the generation behind us.

“A key driver for my growth is a positive attitude to learn and drive outside my lane. Throughout my career I have taken up opportunities for both vertical and horizontal growth. When I am confronted with a new responsibility or challenge, even this one I will handle, just like the one I am handling one, which scared me at the beginning.

“Taking that extra mile to deliver in my work and consistency have been key too. I would not retire a day without delivering on an undertaking. This kind of fulfillment, keeps me stay motivated and focused in all my assignments.

“Traditionally, governance including the anti-corruption field was largely male dominated but things are changing with more women sticking their heads out. However, we are not there yet. We still convene stakeholder or public events and find that the majority in attendance are men, or even where you have a significant number of women, majority of voices captured are male.

“This is telling of the ground that is yet to be covered to give women the confidence that they too can speak about corruption, this is important as they bear the biggest brunt of it. I thus hope that my leadership will draw more women, young or old, to speak about and actively tackle pertinent issues on abuse of power or resources,” she says.

Sheila Masinde underlines integrity as her principal guiding value. She believes that it is the cement that holds all other values in place.

“I also value teamwork because I know that alone I am just but a micro-drop in the ocean but together with others I can achieve much more, this is especially important in the promotion of integrity as it cannot be achieved in a vacuum,” she says.

I was privileged to have worked with Sheila and now I share a number of professional groups with her, so I asked other people to describe her.

The following adjectives were mentioned more than once: determined, meticulous, amicable, articulate, experimental, pragmatic and empowering.

I couldn’t agree more. This is the Sheila I know. When asked about what would she wish for in a new world and what should we do differently if she had a chance to create a new world for her child/children, she says:

“I wish for a future that is devoid of theft, the atrocious kind we see today that has caused the loss of lives and opportunities for those most vulnerable or deserving. I am motivated as I think of the immense opportunities and resources for our children ‘in my ideal world.””

But she quickly points out that this requires that all resources in this country are efficiently mobilised and deployed for the benefit of all and not just a select few.

“This is my biggest inspiration even as I lead in the promotion of integrity as envisioned in the Kenya constitution. To get there we must break the chain of corruption, and central to this is developing a strong value system that embraces integrity, transparency and accountability and building a culture that is intolerant to corruption and individuals implicated in acts of corruption.”

There we go.

Shall we all make a pact that in 2021, we will hear none or less of corruption stories in Kenya and that together, we shall help Sheila Masinde achieve her dream and vision for a Corrupt-Free Kenya come to pass? Shall we?

Patience Nyange is a Chevening Scholar with a Masters Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management from Cardiff University. Prior to joining Cardiff University, Patience served as an Assistant Director at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).