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I have learnt the value of humility

By | January 23rd 2011

Rosa Buyu, 47, is a commissioner with the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC), a philanthropist, a children’' rights advocate and a businesswoman with a bug for politics. She spoke to Mangoa Masota

I attended Aga Khan Primary School in Kisumu. Mrs Tejpa was for a long time was the school headmistress. Her image alone denoted discipline and authority. Both students and parents admired her.

I then joined Loreto Girls’ High School, Limuru, for six years for my high school education.

Sr Mary Owens the headmistress and Mrs Obuku, my English Literature teacher at Loreto were my source of inspiration. They were very professional. I promised myself to be like them one day.

Rosa Buyu

In 1982, I joined Kenyatta University, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree, majoring in English language and literature.

My teaching stint in Pangani Girls’ High School for the next six years exposed me to yet another great woman, Mrs Ruth Cheruiyot the then principal of the school.

Through Cheruiyot, I learned that without discipline, one couldn’t achieve much in life. I also learnt that with the right conviction of doing the right things even against all odds, one couldn’t fail. Cheruiyot developed the institution from a school considered to be a pass-time for failures to what it is today: the largest provincial girls’ school that performs in the league of the top national schools.

She believed that it was possible to mould girls into a success despite their backgrounds. Students and even the parents misconstrued her strictness, at the time, as high handedness. But she stuck to her guns clinging to her convictions.

I changed careers in 1992 though I had thoroughly enjoyed my stint as a teacher. I joined Johnson & Johnson (K) Ltd as a customer services manager.

Valuable lesson

With training, exposure and hard work, I rose to the position of marketing manager in charge of baby products and adults skin care.

My experience at the company under my boss, Bella Ochola taught me my most valuable lesson—success in business is dependent on maintenance and sustainability of good relationships with people and in this case, customers.

I was exposed to great managerial, administrative and public relation skills, business sense and yes—a conviction that nothing is ever beyond my grasp, not if I badly want it.

The Buyu family. [Photo: JAMES KEYI/STANDARD]

Bella was alert, professional and intelligent; she could be referred to as the crown of my finishing school.

In 1999 when Johnson & Johnson (K) Ltd , as a result of regional restructuring became a small sales and marketing outlet, I decided that it was time to leave and venture on my own.


I ventured into the Hair and Beauty industry and started my own business Talebu Hair Care. The name Talebu was an acronym for my children’s names. My daughter Tanya, son Leon and our family name Buyu. Talebu became an instant hit and won hearts and customers for its exemplary customer care.

I revolutionised operations in this industry bringing in a new dimension—customer care. Women want to get value for their money and will look for haircare outlets that offer them additional services and customer care. The entrance of Talebu also ushered in a new era in the face of beauty salons. Away from the neutral white walls, pale blue and baby pink colours, Talebu was a strong mustard and blue in colour enjoying uniqueness from the salons at that time.

Eye opener

I like strong colours; they warm my heart and make me alive. Strong colours, to me, depict bravery, courage and a sense of just being daring!

I have met many prominent people from whom I have learnt the value of humility.

Meeting US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle when they visited Kenya in 2007 was an eye opener.

The couple is so down to earth and it was humbling that two years later, Obama would become the president of the most powerful nation.

Seeking political office in Kenya, especially for the ‘disadvantaged groups’ has many obstacles.

During the 2007 General Elections campaigns, some of my detractors went on a smear campaign that I was not married, hence would not make a good leader. They knew that marriage is a key leadership issue to the people of Nyanza Province.

As I sought votes for the Kisumu Town West parliamentary seat, some people started raising questions about my marital status with some going to the extreme of labelling me a ‘prostitute’.

Towards the end of the campaign, desperate not to let anything come in the way of my win, I unfortunately succumbed to the insults and paraded my husband, Dennis, in the campaign meetings.

Political campaigns

Dennis is an introvert and accepting to join me in the political campaigns was evidence of the support he has always given me.

I take pride in having a caring and a great husband. We have three children. Leon is 21, Tanya 16 and Tamara is 5. My husband is a businessman and I respect the fact that he loves his privacy. More importantly he supports me in whatever I do and urges me to reach the zenith of my dreams.

Dennis is, however, quick to anger especially when he feels undermined and insulted. On the other hand, I am an extrovert, a deep contrast of him.

You wish to know my age? I am 47, and growing younger!

My father, the late Patrick Onyango Ochang’ and the women I interacted with at the different stages of my life shaped my career and professional bias. He was a polygamist with three wives and 17 children.

With his modest education, he made it his business to widen his horizons. I loved him and I joined politics largely due to his influence.

He liked people and often hosted leaders like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga at our house in Tom Mboya Estate in Kisumu.

As a result, I got to interact a lot with the Jaramogi family including the Prime Minister Raila Odinga as I grew up. Unfortunately, my father passed on in 1999 and my mother followed in December 2009. I thank God that I had them as my parents.

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