FATUMA HIRSI MOHAMED is easily a cultural ambassador. Born to a Muslim family in Wajir, Kenya, she has gone on to study bilingual (French/English) Secretarial and an advanced degree in two Christian Catholic institutions- Kianda College and Strathmore Business School. Her work experience is as diverse- from a local bank startup, through Kenyas’ largest media house, the Nation Media Group to the World Bank. Indeed, from change management at the Universal Postal Union (specialized agency of the United Nations), diplomacy – working with government delegations, non-governmental organizations, to managing press and media relations, the public through online publishing and managing the social media, Fatuma has it all on her fingertips.

Her reputation precedes her, so I heard of her several years before I met her. What everyone forgot to say is that this soft spoken highly influential woman, walks into boardrooms and other high level meetings clad in a fashionable buibui. So when I first met her during my tenure as the President of the Public Relations Society of Kenya, (PRSK), I was tongue-tied. She was our guest of honour at the launch of our 5-year strategic plan and I was her hostess.

Can you imagine the hostess forgetting her role as she tries to figure out what exactly is happening? Of course I knew she was Muslim but I have interacted with many Muslim women whom I have never seen in a buibui.  Mercifully, she knew all there was to know about PRSK having been a former President of the Society and now a Fellow, the highest ranking membership level. She engaged me in small talk until I was comfortable enough to brief her on the event and ask her the unspoken questions.

As a wife and the mother of four children, Fatuma is quite aware of the work, family balance. She creates time to be with family on weekends enjoying sports and especially golf which she plays in her veil! 

To bring order to her day at work, she stops every morning to think for a minute about what is the really important thing for her life. “At times you discover that some of things you were planning to do actually conflict with your goals in life” she says.

“This need to bring some order into my day has become fundamental for me as a woman with so many responsibilities–as a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an employee, a boss, a nurse, a seamstress, an organizer of activities, a counselor, a teacher… You understand what I mean.”

She is well aware that she is a shining light among a minority population of Muslim women who comprise almost 4% of Kenya ‘s population. She isan ethnic Somali from a tribe of shepherds who live in northeastern Kenya. It is common for them to neglect the education of children, especially girls and is grateful that her parents gave her the same opportunities as her brothers. Consequently, to open doors for girls who may lack access to the privilege she had growing up, she has helped to start an NGO called Gargaar Kenia to increase educational opportunities for young girls in this country.

She has organized charity events, fundraised for famine relief, tree planting to mitigate against deforestation and climate change. She is a Founder Member, North East Professionals Association (NEPA), Founder Member, Starehe Girls Centre (school of excellence for bright but needy students), Mentor, UNICEF/Govt of Kenya education scholarship beneficiaries from marginalized areas of Kenya.

A pioneer in many situations, Fatuma has helped establish a new bank and seen its Chief Executive Officer become a household name in three short years through branding and profiling. An excellent people manager, she coaches her teams to focus, develop clear goals aligned to the strategy and provides the necessary resources to meet the goals.

A dynamic communicator and stellar negotiator, Fatuma is a leading light in the communication sector having recently completed her doctorate from Moi University.  The communications fraternity celebrated when she became the lucky recipient of the National Award of Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS), from the Head of State, Republic of Kenya (2017); The following year, she was honoured under the category of Women Achiever in the Promotion of Tourism from the Institute of South Asian Women (ISAW) at International Airport Tourism Bourse (ITB), Germany. Prior to these awards, she had been honoured as a Fellow of Public Relations Society of Kenya and received a Lifetime Achievement award as well as the Golden Honours Award for contribution to the PR profession. She advises young people to set clear personal goals and learn to enjoy the simple things in life! 

One thing that the communications industry remains grateful for is her involvement in the establishment and operationalization of a Taskforce on Improvement of Government Information and Public Communication to look into the existing Government information and public communication structures and their capacity to fulfill the access to information requirements as set out in the Constitution. This was done by reviewing legislation and policies on information and the effectiveness of public communication platforms in fostering a democratic, accountable and transparent Government. The Task Force’s report was concluded by end 2019 and should streamline communications enhance better communication for the government by effectively communicating its vision and policies on Kenya’s Big 4 development Agenda.

Her tenure as the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism is marked by the construction of the Mama Ngina Waterfront in Mombasa to create a new iconic seafront recreation area in Mombasa town. The building of a new Cruise Ship Terminal to revitalize the beach product is another project that she initiated.

Prior to that, at the Universal Postal Union (specialized agency of the United Nations), based in Bern, Switzerland, Fatuma worked as the Regional Coordinator, Africa & Least Developed Countries, Directorate of Cooperation & Development.  Besides driving the technical assistance and enhancing cooperation with the member countries of the African region and least developed countries in the development of their postal sectors, she oversaw two regional bureaux based in Benin and Zimbabwe for French and English-speaking African countries advocating and gaining buy-in on new initiatives such as financial inclusion and e-commerce.

As PRSK celebrates her 50th anniversary, Fatuma will be one person the association will want to celebrate.

An award winning, seasoned global story-teller with experience in culture, gender and development; Founder Chair of the Chevening Kenya Alumni Association Network (ChevKenya), President Emeritus & Fellow of the Public Relations Society of Kenya (F.PRSK), Fellow & former Secretary General of African Public Relations Association (F.APRA), a past Board member of the Global Alliance for PR &Communication Management (Portugal), board member of Trans World Radio (TWR), member of Women on Boards Network and a member of the Greenbelt Movement. I support management level fundraising and lead strong and effective teams, most of them both multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural in nature.


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