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How I became Kenya’s first female forensic pathologist, Dr Kizzie Shako

Achieving Woman
 Dr Kizzie Shako's fascination with death drove her into the field of forensic pathology (Photo: Instagram @kizzie_shako)

Some careers, it’s sad to say, are thought to be strictly male. From matatu touts to auto mechanics and even some fields of medicine have been predominantly male. But women are slowly breaking these societal barriers and venturing into fields of work that they love even if that means they will be the only woman there.

Dr Kizzie Shako is one such woman. An interest in death and its causes led her into the world of forensics.

“What drove me to this field is this deep intense interest in death investigations,” she told KTN Home’s Everyday Woman.

As we know anything related to death often goes unspoken and showing an interest in it brings up lots of questions. People often look at you like there’s something wrong with you. Dr Shako knew no different.

“I know it was really weird, creepy. My family was looking at my mother like 'what did you give birth to?'” she confessed.

“As I got older I noticed people who die, it's sad and there's loss, there's mourning, grieving. There's unfairness sometimes or carelessness attached. These different aspects became interesting to me. Suicide also.

“At some point I found out where city mortuary is and I was like can we go there?” She was of course told no.

“Everyone is so scared of the dead,” she said.

 Dr Shako during the interview (Photo: KTN Home)

It was this fascination that drove her to seeking information on a career related to her interests.

“I found out that the person who always deals with the dead and the type of things I wanted to know - establish the cause of death, how can it be stopped - that is a forensic pathologist and that requires becoming a doctor first and then specialising in forensics.”

Later on, while looking at the work that the police do, she contemplated branching into a similar line of work.

“Of course I was talked out of it, I don’t know why,” she quips.

“When I discovered I have to do all of that I was just like forget it, that's just too much work. With time I agreed to do it. My mum talked me into it.”

She then proceeded to do a course in medicine before specialising in forensics. 

“I was sent to work in the forensics and pathology services and I thought, wow, I can't believe [it]. My dream is coming to pass. I was over the moon,” she revealed. “On the first day I was told, go to city morgue. that's where you will go and you will go with your senior colleagues.”

She worked at City Mortuary for three years under the tutelage of her superiors. She was then sent to the police surgery.

“A police surgeon is a forensic medical doctor,” she explained. “It's a doctor who works with the living injured to collect information that the police will need for the investigations and for the prosecution.”

 She has faced her fair share of challenges in her journey (Photo: Instagram @kizzie_shako)

She was now working with the living and not the dead.

“No-one ever talks about the living injured,” she confessed, “so it was really shocking. The first day I was like, oh my goodness, I don't know what to do with this.”

She turned to her studies, she was now pursuing a Masters in forensics, to gain knowledge on how to deal with the living injured.

“It became very interesting to learn that there is a very big gap when it comes to dealing with those who are alive and living through the pain of the injury that they have sustained emotionally, physically and mentally.”


Like in many professions, the world of forensics is not without bias when it comes to dealing with women. 

“There's a lot of bias. There's lots of discrimination especially when you appear to be younger 

You're young. You're female. You're a mother. I find that that's not something that people want to deal with. 

“In the office people don't care that you are a mother. You sort out your issues at home, you come and you work. It's an understandable expectation but sometimes it's a bit unrealistic because a mothers priority is her children,” explained the mother of two.

Dr Shako went on to point out that women are also thought to be lesser employees, being designated with jobs like taking minutes during meetings and serving tea.

"This actually happened to me,” she said. “But I learned from a certain mentor recently that if it will get you favour, then just do it. You'll grow slowly and people will begin to see the value you bring to the table.”

 She believes knowing your purpose will push you to achieving your destiny (Photo: Instagram @kizzie_shako)

“I found I had to validate myself and be happy with me and set my own criteria for success because I will never make the others happy and that is not how I should determine whether I am achieving goals or whether I'm making impact or not. I had to find it from within.”

Career tips

“You have to be confident,” Dr Shako, founder of Vunja Kimya, stressed when speaking about succeeding in your career. 

“The thing with this is you will now be called arogant but it's okay. Don't think about what people say. You just have to be confident within yourself.” 

A mentor is also important. They will help you navigate the different aspects of the corporate world. 

“Find someone who can be your compass, sort of like your mentor, who can guide you through the corporate world in terms of how you communicate with men, with women. How do you appear to others - you have to dress a certain way, you have to speak a certain way. You have to behave a certain way if you want to be taken seriously.” 

Get out of your comfort zone and push boundaries. 

“You have to go above and beyond what is required,” she explained adding that finding your purpose will give you a sense of peace and fulfillment.

“At the end of the day what you must have is a clear understanding of your purpose. You must know why you are on this earth. What is your destiny and are you walking in your destiny path or are you away from it? Because if you are away from it you will never be at peace. 

“Take time to understand what it is you are supposed to be doing, what are your strengths, what do you like, what do you not like, what troubles you at night. What is it that you see that makes you want to change it? What is it that wakes up a fire within you? [Ask yourself] all these kinds of questions to understand more about yourself.” 

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