Najma Ismail, a seasoned journalist with close to two decades’ experience, has been chosen to replace embattled social commentator Pauline Njoroge as a Board member of the Tourism Regulatory Authority.
The journalist who describes herself on her Twitter bio as a “champion for change” is the current External Affairs/Editorial Liaison Manager at Kenya’s oldest media house, the Standard Group.
Her rise to the top is a tale of resilience and patience.
Ismail began her journalism career at Iqra FM in early 2000s, where she worked as a newscaster and reporter before joining Sound Asia FM in the same capacity.
In 2006, Ismail joined Radio Africa Group as a news announcer and reporter for the stable’s two English radio stations Classic 105FM and Kiss FM.
In 2013, Ismail crossed over to Mombasa Road (Standard Group), where she was hired as a TV news anchor for KTN. Most times, she broadcast the lunchtime news bulletin.
In September 2016, Ismail announced on Facebook that she was taking a break from broadcast journalism, an announcement that many of her fans understood to be her goodbye message to them, believing she was quitting Standard Group.
The journalist, however, swiftly clarified that she was taking a break from anchoring news because she “had gotten dental braces, which couldn’t allow her to read news while wearing them”.
The break, she said, would last two years. She was, thereafter, elevated to the position of External Affairs/Editorial Liaison Manager at Standard Group, a position she currently holds.
In August 2019, Najma Ismail was appointed the Education Goodwill Ambassador by the Kenya Education Fund (KEF), a non-governmental organization that gives high school scholarships to financially challenged students.
“As an employee of the Standard Group, I am humbled and honoured to have been chosen by the Kenya Education Fund (KEF) team to become part of their noble cause of providing educational support to the less privileged. I am drawn to the impact KEF has on our country — giving Kenyans access to quality education to improve communities and break the cycle of poverty,” she wrote on Facebook on August 15, 2019.
KEF said they settled on Ismail as a Goodwill Ambassador because of her professionalism and commitment to the empowerment of women.
“As an influential role model in both her personal and professional life, in pursuit of women’s empowerment and gender equality, KEF is uniquely privileged to have her in our team. Welcome Najma!” said KEF in a statement then.
Najma undertook her O-levels at the Aga Khan High School and later joined Griffins College for computer studies. She enrolled at the University of Nairobi for a Diploma in Public Relations. She, thereafter, pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at the Kenya Methodist University (KEMU).
She says her hobbies include: watching movies, swimming, sampling various restaurants and spending time with her family. She has managed to keep information about her private life as private as possible.
Ismail has — in the past — been featured among Top 30 Muslim Achievers in Kenya.
On Saturday, August 8, 2020 Tourism minister, Najib Balala, appointed her to the Tourism Regulatory Authority Board as a member for a three-year term after the original occupier of the post, Pauline Njoroge, was removed over her past comments about the importance of the Nairobi National Park to the Kenyan economy.
Njoroge had stated on Facebook that she saw no significance of the city animals’ park.
“It does not make sense that in a congested city like Nairobi, we can afford to have acres and acres of land in the name of a park when the commercial capital is literally bursting with people,” Njoroge said in a previous Facebook post, a statement which led to the revocation of her August 7, 2020 appointment to the Tourism body.
“I am revoking Pauline Njoroge’s appointment as a Board member of the Tourism Regulatory Authority because we have just seen what she had tweeted in the past — that Nairobi National Park was useless. We do not want to be associated with such people and such thinking,” Balala was quoted as saying in an August 8 Tourism ministry press release.
“Pauline Njoroge’s position, [as a result] is, taken over by Najma Ismail,” added the CS.