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Parents started discussing sex when it was taboo - Eunice Mathu

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What was it like growing up?

My mother was widowed at a tender age when I was about four years old. She had nine children to feed and look after. It was a struggle, but she made sure each one of us had an education. She said that was the only thing she could give us because she had no inheritance.

Did you always want to be a journalist?

As a student, I was good at mathematics, and I thought I would do something related to it. At some point, I thought I would study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree. But I ended up enrolling for a BA course because the Commerce class was full. I was in tears because it was not what I wanted.

How then did you end up becoming a journalist?

During admission, I met a lady and told her I was not happy with the course I had enrolled in. She told me about a new journalism program and it had a scholarship and that’s how I did Journalism. I did not know anything about journalism. It was not by choice, but I needed to do anything as long as it was not BA.

Do you have any regrets?

Not at all! I believe that even if I ended up doing any other course, I would eventually become a writer. I grew into writing,Mathu.jpg and I love it.

Parents magazine just clocked 35, how does it feel?

Well before its anniversary, I had forgotten until my team came to me and said they wanted me to be on the cover. I refused! We are happy, though. Our first copy was in black and white, which explains just what a long, tough but exciting journey we’ve had. My children who were born around the time when I was starting up are now grown-ups doing their own things.   

Then and now...what has changed?

The parent of 35 years ago is not the parent of today. There is so much information out there, therefore we have to be good in bringing information that people cannot access on other media. Actually, I am no longer the editor because of the generational gap. We are constantly trying to live within the aspirations of younger mothers who are outside my age group.

Back then, we also did typesetting manually, editing, and all that. I had a little kid at home, but I used to sleep at the typesetter’s office on River Road. Today, I thank God for technology. I can work from home, and I don’t need those big machines.

How was Parents magazine conceived?

I started the paper in my 20s. I had just got married. It was a courageous move. I walked to my boss and told him I was leaving. He thought I was leaving because I had just got married. I told him, it has nothing to do with marriage. Many years: later, he came to my office to tell me he was proud of me.

Leaving job security for self-employment must have been tough...

It is not easy to walk out of a job when you have a family to take care of. It takes courage, but I was lucky too. I got a consultancy with Interpress service, and that consultancy was paying pretty well, which gave me a fall-back plan if things didn’t work out. This gave me courage. Fortunately, I didn’t need a fall-back plan because my business picked up really well.

How was it publishing your first edition?

I started with a magazine called Consumer’s Digest. I was inspired to come up with this magazine because of my experience working with a consumer goods distribution firm where I was in charge of communication. I could see we were always struggling to give consumers the right information on how to use products.

How did you source your first capital?

My first typesetting machine, currently called a printing machine cost half a million, that was 1986. I walked to my bank to seek a loan, but they needed collateral which I didn’t have, so I did not get it. Strangely, a local bank believed in my vision and sorted me out.

Why did you decide to brand the magazine as ‘Parents’?’

The decision was not random. We researched for two years to come up with the name. Being a young mother, I knew the challenges young mothers were facing. Because of that, I wanted something around the family, relationships and marriage.

We were trying to find something that could help strengthen families, help young people find ways to bring up families and have strong lasting relationships. The family unit is not just about couples, parents encompass all generations you can talk about.

You set the pace, didn’t you?

Correct. We started talking about things that seemed taboo at the time. I am proud that we opened that space and other people are coming in.

You were the first local publication to start talking about sex?

Yes.  Growing up, your mother will guide you and later on you realize what she was talking about. So, I decided that we should start talking to our children about sex when they are young because nobody spoke to me about sex when I was young. If I heard anything, it was from peers and older students, I think that is the wrong way of getting information.

How did you get Kenyans hooked on reading Parents?

The fact that we came up with issues that were not discussed elsewhere. It is honesty that people like. Real stories are great.

From where you sit, is the family unit, as we have always known it, under threat?

Families are under attack from many aspects. Men were brought up knowing they are providers, and they feel they are not “man enough” when they are not able to provide. Now we have women who are ambitious, entrepreneurial, and successful financially. That can cause friction.

The moral values of our society have changed, too. Parents are busy struggling to put food on the table. We employ others to take care of our children. I admire single mothers, they are doing a really good job, but we also feel these children need father figures.

What do you think about the debate on empowering the boy child?

I am a big crusader of uplifting the girl child. But I also feel we have left boys on their own. Girls walk into marriages empowered because they know what it entails. But the fathers are not there for the boys, so the boys come in with no ideas. Men have to take charge of empowering each other and fathers to need to step up.

You still work, don’t you? I have retired. If I hadn’t gone back to the office, my Parents would have died one year ago. I had to go back to the office to give my team reassurance. So right now, I work more than before.

What do you do on the side?

I am a tea farmer. I love playing golf and exploring nature.

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