Rose Muigai: I never had role models
Rose Muigai is a solicitor in the United Kingdom, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a businesswoman.
As an advocate, she runs three companies—GlascoteRose Advocates, Saclan International, which offers immigration consultancy in Kenya and East Africa and Adleoli, dealing with Kenyans who want to settle in the UK.
As a businesswoman, she founded B&CD Aggregates, which packs and sells ballast in 50-kilogram bags. She is also a mother of three children.
Rose spoke to Life & Style.
As we exchange pleasantries, I express my curiosity on a light note about her second name and ask if she has any relations among the significant people in Kenya with the same name. She quips that one should never be known as the son or daughter of so and so.
“You must work hard and have your own title,” and with these words, our interview starts.
As a young woman growing up, did you ever look up to someone and say you wanted to be like them?
I have never wished to be anybody because my journey in life has been purposed by my foundation. I went to a mission school, where we were trained to be who we wanted to be.
I wanted to be a judge since I was nine years old. I worked towards being a judge. I have never worked to be like anyone because I cannot see what I want with anyone. And I want to achieve in my own way.
That is why I ended up studying and practising law. My dream was the foundation of my practice both here and in the UK. My journey has always been towards what I wanted to achieve, not wishing I was someone else.
What would you say has made you who you are?
One, belief in myself and hard work; I had my destination, and I worked towards it. I am also very organised and follow my schedule strictly.
I am surrounded by powerful women who have walked my journey with me, made my journey easy and possible, playing a significant role in every step of my journey. I can never forget them.
So, this way, I had my destination, and these people helped me walk the journey. And I recognise them. One has to remember where they have come from and those who made their journey possible.
As a leader, how would you describe your leadership style?
I mostly delegate duties and do the oversight role. I also inform my clients that people in my office are competent enough to make them the contact point. This way, I put them in a position in which they also become decision-makers. I always want to pass the baton to the next person. I empower my staff.
I always wish to have those around me rise. I train my staff and leave them to do the job. As a leader, you must train people to handle the job even in your absence. I don’t want to be in a position in which everything is on me.
What challenges would you say you have encountered as a woman in leadership?
I don’t think that because I am a woman, ‘I can’t do this or that’ or ‘I can’t get this’. I believe that if an opportunity is put on the table, I will take it. I worked in England, and there, they do not have differences between women and men at work. I don’t see how a man can perform better than me. I don’t even remember that I am a woman sometimes. I am cultured that way.
How did your stay in the UK impact you?
I learnt to invest in people. I cannot stay around people who do not go to school. When you come to work for me, I give you a grace period of two months. Everyone who never went past the secondary school has to go back to school. I have two people graduating from the University of Nairobi this year. My house girl has to go to school every morning.
I learnt to give people opportunities so that they can achieve something for themselves.
How do you feel about women in leadership in Kenya?
I see women like Martha Karua and Mary Wambui doing well. I know a great deal of other women leaders too. But we have to keep in mind that the world over is a patriarchal society. Look at a photo of G7 or G20, for instance, and tell me how many women you see.
I keep asking myself, can we as women first believe in ourselves and promote our own? Women have the capability and power but do they use it? Is it by fate that we become leaders like President Samia Suluhu?
Elections are coming up, and we have several women showing potential. The question that remains is, as women, can we hold the hand of our own? The power is in us. It does not have to be a man always.
Would you say that Kenya has enough women leaders?
Yes, starting with our mothers. Every home in this country is led by a woman. A society led by a woman holds. Women glue society together. However, we cannot measure the power of a woman with regards to politics, and the jobs they do. Go to the church, go to the village set up and see how they perform there. Leave a child with a young girl, and do the same with a boy; you will see the difference.
What would you tell a young woman dreaming of rising to the same level as you?
I believe every child hears an echo from the parents, teachers, everyone, “believe in yourself. It is possible.” It does not matter where you were born or the family you were born in. Start small. The most important thing is to see that you can grow into an opportunity tomorrow. It starts from the foundation.
And then, it is entirely up to you to decide that you want to move forward.
Second, have a purpose in society; think of a legacy. Ask yourself what you will be remembered for when you are gone. Think about what those surrounding you will say when you are gone.
It will not matter how much money you have but how many lives you have impacted.
How do you balance work and family?
I am very organised. Secondly, if I am not there for my family, who will be there for them? If I cannot do homework with my kids, who will do it for me? I am a woman, and women can think about so many things simultaneously and get to achieve all.
Do you ever have free time?
I have so much free time. My earliest appointment comes at 10:30 am, and I come to this office only once or twice a week.
What do you do the rest of the time?
I walk my children to school every morning, the first then the second one.
During this time, they can tell me stories about them what happens at school and what they are thinking. In the evening they are tired and it is not a good time.
I have to be back home by 4:00 pm and spend time with them again on their homework. I am currently working on my PhD to send out tonight to my supervisor.
As the interview draws close, she asserts, echoing what Salome Gichura (then Education attaché) once told her that nothing waits for the other.
“Children do not wait for education, and education does not wait for work. One has to run these concurrently.”
She explains, “I gave birth to my first child in October and graduated with my first degree in November the same year; my second born came in March, and I graduated with my second degree in May and the third one two weeks after I had handed in my Master’s thesis.” She credits Salome Gichura with being the foundation for her Master’s degree.
One last word for women?
Women must believe that they are as good as men. If they think that they must be given handouts, they will forever live on bread crumbs. Why should I wait to be appointed?