Women of Java – Pauline Nganga, GM
Not long ago Pauline went back to visit her aunt in the village where she grew up. Her mom & two sisters had long died. Except for her aunt, she had no family, she was alone. “My aunt saw my car & started crying. She circled it squealing, Njeri! Njeri is this you driving a CAR?!” Then she put her hands on the car & started praying while crying. That’s when it dawned on me how far I had come- because I was never really supposed to leave Tinganga.”
You will be forgiven for not knowing where Tinganga is. It’s in Kiambu. Pauline describes it’s in the very cracks of Kiambu’s soles. Growing up there was a smallness to it, a remoteness that characterized it. A place where dreams were constantly covered in dust and doubt and precedence. “I was raised by a single mother who worked all the time in a major hotel in Nairobi and worried constantly about her three daughters.”
To get to Tinganga when she started working for Java as a cashier in 2008 was a journey. “From Gigiri branch I’d take a nduthi, three matatus & a Peugeot station wagon matatu that stacked four people in front, the driver constantly scrapping your thighs with his stubborn gear. No matter what time I would get home, my mom was always waiting for me at the stage with a torch & a stick…to beat thugs.” She laughs. The sad laughter that people laugh when they recall a departed loved one.
That journey home is reminiscent of her professional journey. She started as a cashier, worked her way up over the years – assistant manager, branch manager, area manager, group service manager, operations manager and now GM for the past two years. “It’s not easy to fail, to get up, to second guess yourself, to lead, to lack, but you do it. Somehow. But throughout the way you need people to hold your hand. Many women have held my hand even when I wanted to let go.”
She is a mother of two daughters like her mom. Her daughter is in university now. Whilst her mom waited for her at the stage with a torch and a stick, she’s holding up a torch to light up her daughter’s path. “The torch should never die. Hold it for the next person. Even if she doesn’t come from Tinganga.”