By Prudence Minayo
Orie Rogo Manduli is remembered as a strong willed women and a fashion icon who inspired many. When life threw challenges at her, she faced them head on and is known to have challenged conservative notions. With her signature head wraps, she embodied everything a strong woman stands for even at a time when women were meant to be seen and not heard. In 1974, she was the first black African woman to compete in the world circuit safari rally alongside Sylvia Omino. She was also the first woman to head the National Council of Non-Governmental Organisations.
With her poise, elegance and hoarse voice, Orie carried herself with grace that can only be innate, most would remember her for the strong lioness she was. Her death was announced on 8th September 2021.
Manduli is 73 years old.
Born in Maseno in a family of eight children, her father Gordon Roho was a headmaster while her mother Zeruia Adhiambo a teacher. She went to Ng’iya Girls’ High School, then Butere Girls and finally Machakos Girls. She attended Machakos Training college and left for Canada where she pursued a diploma in office management.
She got married to a civil servant at a young age. Unfortunately, the marriage was not a rosy one. Her husband would often beat her up and she suffered both physically and mentally. She said enough was enough when the man extended the violence to her children prompting her to call it quits. Not one to focus on her woes, she decided she would raise her three girls (Elizabeth, Allison and Janice) and offer them the best life possible.
In 1980, she got married to Norman Manduli, a Zambian national who was a cousin to Frederick Chiluba,a former Zambian president. She conceived a son from the marriage but her husband passed on in 2003.
She first worked with Kenya Railways and Harbor Corporation as a PA.
In 1974, she secured employment with Coffees Board of Kenya as an administrative manager.
In 1975, she got a job as a public relations manager. During the day she worked as a marketing and public relations manager for a metal box company. She was in charge of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. At night, she worked as an anchor for KBC’s program Mamboleo- a program that focused on current affairs. She also hosted a weekly show named Women’s World.
Quitting Her Job
One day, she learnt of a land being auctioned in Kitale. She approached Mr. Philip Ndegwa- the then permanent secretary for finance. The then young lady convinced him to give her a blank check, something that was nearly impossible. In fact, at first he thought she was insane but relented due to her persistence. Once she got the land, she quit her job to begin farming. While her father supported her, her mother was against the idea. She could not understand why she should give up her lucrative career for one that was uncertain. She came around later.
Later, she grew in popularity and took on bigger jobs. She became the head of the NGO council. When people called for her resignation, she refused to step down and even barricaded herself in the office for a number of days.
Previously, she had been the International council of Women’s permanent representative to the United Nations Environment Programme and Habitat.
Manduli died in her Riverside Drive home. Speaking to the media her personal Assistant Samuel Ndambuki said they “…….had gone for a checkup at Nairobi Hospital yesterday [Tuesday]. This morning we visited her brother at Embakasi and she was very normal. We had a dental appointment this afternoon and as she was doing her makeup, I noticed she leaned on one side..”