This week on Comms Spotlight, we’re featuring Moureen Mutiso, a professional whose love for Communications began when she was a child. Today, Moureen is a Communications Coordinator at Pharo Foundation, a role that gives her a solid platform to communicate for impact. In her interview with us, she provides insights on how Communications can be used to facilitate the achievement of the SDGs and some challenges she has faced in her journey.
What do you do as a Communications Coordinator at the Pharo Foundation?
At Pharo Foundation we have a global Communications team based in London and Communications Coordinators in each of the locations the Foundation operates in – Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somaliland. I am the Communications Coordinator in Rwanda, and I am responsible for External Communications in the region, including Media Relations, Public Relations, content creation and Digital Communications. Among other things, I support the development of Communications strategies and the planning and design of Marketing campaigns.
The Pharo Foundation is a non-profit organisation with a clear mission and commitment to making Africa self-sufficient, prosperous, and dynamic. Our operations span Somaliland, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda, focusing on several critical missions. These include providing quality education to empower the next generation. We also ensure access to safe and affordable water and remove barriers to employment and productivity in essential sectors like healthcare and agriculture.
Tell us how you began your career in Communications.
Two decades down the line, the phrase “Hujambo, mpendwa mskilizaji” still sends shivers down my spine, reminiscent of the days of my favourite news anchors, the late Budi Muhsin and Catherine Kasavuli. At the tender age of 4, this greeting felt intensely personal, I could have sworn, they were saying, “Hujambo Moureen”. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about their voices – a symphony of richness and comfort breaking through the airwaves, bearing the responsibility of the day’s unfolding events – that called to my inner child.
The first time I heard Kasavuli’s voice, I knew I had come to myself! My ritual involved tuning in at 7 o’clock, then again at 8, and once more at noon – this was the inception of my childhood role-playing as a news anchor. Armed with bite-sized news pieces, a poised demeanour, and, in retrospect, the quirkiest facial expressions, I would present the news to my captive audience, my family, whenever they were willing to lend an ear. Little did I know that this would be my life, my passion, my calling!
My childhood charades evolved into small gigs with the local radio and television channels over time. However, it was not until a pivotal moment with my university lecturer, Mr. Wilson Mbugua, that my professional journey in Communications truly took shape.
I still remember that day like it was yesterday: sitting in the university studio and lost in my little world of assignments and competing deadlines, utterly devoid of the profound impact this day would have on my career. Mr. Wilson Mbugua briskly announced a job opening at a local radio station, Royal FM, and encouraged me to apply. I was now not just a first-year student; I also wore the hats of both a News Anchor and a News Editor, honing my skills in these roles.
These were the platforms I needed to bring news to the world, to be the voice to the voiceless, to breathe hope and empathy through print, to voice injustice and to transform the news arena into a space for nurturing our shared humanity. I was young and ambitious; I knew I could transform the Media space into a forte of helpful information. This would later inform my transition into the field of PR and Corporate Communications within the same organisation.
Upon graduating, I did not just want to anchor and edit news items; I wanted more – to rebuild what is broken, to build bridges and networks, and to frame brands with agility and freedom of speech. I was driven by a need to bring impact. I was growing increasingly aware of my role in Communications and Journalism, and I was ready to embrace it.
In this role, I found myself immersed in the art of effective communication across various media platforms. This experience ignited my passion for crafting compelling narratives and connecting with diverse audiences.
Filled with youthfulness and boundless ambition to bring this vision to reality, I became a regular attendee at conferences and meetings spanning different sectors, from Health and Education to Medicine and hospitality in Rwanda. My primary objective was to observe how other Media and Communications professionals covered these events.
Tired of the repetitive “dog-biting-a-man” narratives that seemed to hinder progressive communication, leaving me feeling frustrated as a Communications Specialist, I became deeply interested in practising Communications with a genuine impact. The hands-on experience I gained further spurred my enthusiasm for a career in Communications.
To enhance my professional growth, I pursued a master’s in Corporate Communications and later left the radio station and joined the NGO world as a Communications Specialist keen on supporting different organisations to communicate strategically and communicate their goals to the public. These endeavours allowed me to gain expertise in areas such as Crisis Communications, Digital Marketing, and Strategic Public Relations. By continuously being curious, I was able to stay ahead of emerging trends and adapt to the evolving needs of the industry.
One of the pivotal factors that contributed to my growth as a Communications professional was the opportunity to work alongside seasoned industry experts in Rwanda. Not to mention my friend and mentor Jackie Lumbasi who provided invaluable guidance and insights. Collaborating with colleagues from diverse backgrounds further broadened my perspective and enhanced my ability to work within cross-functional teams.
As technology rapidly evolves, I have recognised the importance of staying abreast of digital tools and platforms. Embracing Social Media, Content Management Systems, and Data Analytics have enabled me to craft targeted Communications initiatives, measure their impact, and optimise strategies accordingly.
To remain at the forefront of the Communications field, I have consistently pursued professional development opportunities. I have not stopped attending conferences but instead focus on those specific to Development Communication. I go to learn and expand my network. By continually expanding my knowledge base, I have remained adaptable and agile in an ever-changing Communications landscape.
The journey from a novice in Comms to a seasoned professional has been marked by continuous learning, practical experiences, and personal development.
Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced on your career journey and how you overcame it?
One of the biggest challenges facing the Communications and Media industry is the idea of “news that sells.” So many Communication agencies and Media houses have succumbed to the temptation of publishing “sensational” solely based on its potential to captivate audiences, often disregarding the intended purpose and potential repercussions of such.
Today, gossip easily passes as factual truth and anything denigrating is applauded in delusions of grandeur. The lines between ethical reporting and sensationalism have become so obscured that individual voices, like mine, struggle to make a meaningful impact. As a result, the world is struggling to operate above the din of wry news and bizarre entertainment.
Another challenge lies in the complex diversity and unique differences that characterise different markets. Each market has its cultural norms, values, and traditions, which significantly influence communication preferences. Mine was learning to understand and accept the distinctive differences between the Kenyan and Rwandan audiences. To effectively navigate and deliver to the Rwandan audience, I needed to speak and understand Kinyarwanda.
Tell us about a project or a campaign that you’ve worked on that still stands out to you today.
My passion has always been to use my voice unequivocally for the preservation of human rights, to fight for the voiceless and to champion causes that not only advance human rights but also remind us of humanity. Spurred by this passion, I’ve been involved in various humanitarian endeavours through the Media, but the most impactful one has been my contribution to the promotion of positive masculinity. It was an honour for me to be a part of a project that engaged men in gender-transformative actions.
In this project, I championed campaigns and messaging aimed at encouraging men to have more compassionate, sympathetic, inclusive and egalitarian actions. Recording success stories from most parts of Rwanda that translated into behaviour change was an assurance that more could be achieved in gender parity. It was inspirational to learn about men’s involvement in unpaid care duties, and how this could turn into a powerful tool for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Witnessing the transformational journey of Pharo School Kigali and its coming to birth, ultimately, in September this year, is perhaps the most rewarding way to experience the end of this year. As I walk myself through the Mass and Social Media pages, I can’t help but wonder how we managed to transform a once-empty building into a vibrant learning space for the children in Kigali. I’m thrilled to see students of Pharo school, Kigali return from the school’s first-ever midterm break.
This made me look back on all the work that took place in setting up the schools and the campaigns I ran to enrol students in this brand-new school. Pharo School Kigali officially opened its doors on 4th September 2023, and since then it has bustled with various activities and an enthusiastic student body. All the joys we celebrate today are a testament to the integral role I played in the set-up of the school and our enrolment campaign.
In your experience, how does Communications contribute to the achievement of the SDGs?
Communications has enabled different organisations to address the world’s most pressing Social, Economic, and Environmental challenges. Through my journey in Communications and Development Communications, I have come to appreciate the power of collaboration and partnerships. We will not achieve our goals without partnerships and collaborations.
I have witnessed effective communication build partnerships and foster collaboration among different stakeholders involved in conversations around gender equality, climate change, women empowerment, gender equality and education as a common goal. We should be at the forefront to facilitate dialogues, share information, and promote knowledge exchange among our organisations. It is only when Communications experts come in that they will bring together governments, businesses, civil society organisations, and communities to work towards a common goal.
In Africa for instance, Communications experts have made coordinated efforts in innovative solutions, sharing their experiences and challenges. We are in the right direction towards achieving the SDGs. I have gotten a chance to take part in conferences like Women Deliver and World Economic Forum, and the roles Comms experts are playing cannot go unnoticed. As we continue to work towards a more sustainable and inclusive future, harnessing the power of Communications becomes increasingly important in mobilising collective action and achieving the SDGs by 2030.
What advice would you give to your younger professional self?
This is what I would tell a younger professional Moureen:
Every day is a learning experience. Stay curious and commit to lifelong learning while staying true to your vision and purpose. Seek out professional development opportunities and pursue relevant certifications to stay ahead of the curve. Your skills need to remain relevant because this is an ever-changing industry.
Please build a diverse network, actively participate in events, conferences, and online communities to expand your network and do not shy off from seeking mentorship opportunities.
Do not forget it is going to be a dynamic industry, you need to know what you want sooner rather than later. The world of Communications is extremely diverse. Along the way, there will be artificial intelligence, and everything will change far too quickly very soon. Do you want to work in Digital, Social, or Marketing Media? Journalism, writing, publishing, Public Relations, etc. What do you want? Make that decision quickly. It will be difficult to decide. I know you want it all but be more specific. You will progress faster, and you will be more intentional.