Kenya: Mogadishu is the Most Beautiful Place I've Ever Visited - Leila Mohammed

NTV's Leila Mohammed is arguably the best female crime TV reporter in the country. In 2018, she was the only civilian woman to go to Somalia during an African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) sponsored trip to see how Kenyan troops served.

She was among journalists, drawn from different media houses in Kenya, who had the opportunity to traverse Somalia.

"Looking back, that was the beginning of a new journey for me to not only look at security as local crime, but to see a bigger picture that connects security, diplomacy, human rights and people in one sentence," Leila says.

"Over time, defence has become a point of interest in my reporting journey; how do they think, work, plan, breathe? How do their decisions and choices affect Kenya and its neighbours?" she says.

And of all the places she's been to, Leila says Mogadishu, is the most beautiful destination.

Born in 1984, Leila is the youngest in a family of six siblings. She says growing up in Nairobi's Upper Hill and being around four brothers meant that every aspect of her life had to be fast and aggressive.

But being with the boys also got her into trouble with her mother on so many occasions.

Wanting to look like her mum, little Leila once inserted a piece of jewellery inside her ear. It took a surgery to remove the jewellery and Leila spent three months in hospital.

During her childhood, Leila had so many dreams of what she wanted to become. She wanted to be everything that fascinated her back then.

"By the time I was five, I didn't know I would grow up into an adult, but then I saw something interesting at that moment. My mum had a pocket radio which she carried everywhere, and the constant engagement with the radio allowed me to dream," she reminisces.

To actualise her dream, Leila joined Multimedia University for a diploma in communication after she cleared high school.

In 2011, she graduated from Masinde Muliro University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. However, she kept volunteering at the campus radio station.

The following year Nation Media Group journalism training team visited the university to recruit students through the media lab programme. Leila was one of the lucky few who got picked.

"It was an amazing experience. Other than getting industry skills, I formed lifelong friendships with people from across East Africa whom I still engage both personally and whenever I need professional assistance," she says.

In 2013, she joined NMG's QTV where she worked until 2016, when the station closed.

"I formally joined NTV in July 2016. Before that, I have been an intern at KBC and Iqra FM," she says.

Although she takes pride in her career achievement so far, Leila says she is not yet there.

"I have not done as much as many other women in the industry. But every day presents me with an opportunity to do something significant. In the last few years, I have been through the corridors of power and also to the lowliest places in this country," she says.

That said, the Leila credits many people for the person she is today. She says her mentors are just too many for her to mention them by name.

"If I mention my mentors by name, especially here in Kenya, I would be doing a disservice to many people. I have gone through the hands of so many women who have shaped my career in journalism. Likewise, I have gone through the hands of many men who I look up to. I take notes from them every day," she said.

In her own right, Leila is also a role model to many with whom she readily shares valuable nuggets of wisdom.

"Don't try to be me, be you, pick out the good things you see in me. Be yourself; there is only one better version of you, and that is you. Also don't be afraid to learn," she says.

With the pandemic, Leila says she has learnt to take each day at a time.

"Covid-19 has taught me not to plan for next month. Therefore, I cannot plan for the next five years; however, I ask God for good health and life to explore new possibilities," Leila says.

Away from work, Leila has a soft spot for cats. She says cats often brighten her dull days.

Leila is coy about her love life, only revealing that she has had her fair share of pleasant and awful dates.

Careful not to reveal any identities, she speaks fondly of one particular date.

"We used to take long walks. We would walk from one place to another, take a bus ride from Nairobi to a place we had never been to. We would take in the sites and sounds of our destination, eat, have a good time, enjoy the moment then return back home," she says of her mystery date.

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