Remembering my mom:  Woki Munyui, UNICEF Somalia Education specialist

On April 20 2015, a suicide bomber blew himself up next a bus carrying staff from UNICEF Somalia in Garowe, Puntland. Four people were killed, including Woki Munyui who had been a champion of girls’ education in Somalia since 2007. Here her daughter Ivy Mokua shares memories of her late mother, and how she has been dealing with the tragic loss.  

It’s been one year since mum was taken away from us, and I am still unable to put my thoughts about that day’s events in order.

That day – Monday, 20 April 2015 – seemed like a normal day. I started my routine as usual: wake up, work out, text mum and so on. But then my father called, telling me to quickly rush to his place as we needed to talk urgently. So I dashed over with my sister Lucy. The moment I saw his face I knew something terrible had happened. My world, our family’s world, shattered at that moment. The very person who was so true and dear to me was taken away from me – so crudely and senselessly.

I have never felt such pain.

It was also at that moment my life changed from being just a 20-year-old enjoying her youth to a 20-year-old with 45-year-old responsibilities. Being the first born, I knew I had to step up. But how could I ever fill the shoes of a woman who seemed to do it all so easily without breaking a sweat?

Three women standing together.
Family of Woki Munyui.A happy family: Ivy (first left), her younger sister Lucy (right) with their late mother Woki Munyui.

A year has gone by, it still seems like a dream. I have been hoping that one day I will wake up and see her doing her morning exercises before jetting off to work or hear her ordering us around to do our chores or boasting in front of Lucy and me when she’s dressed up on the weekends. No matter how much I have hoped for it to happen, it never does.

The void left inside of me when she was taken away from me is so deep. Nothing has been able to replace her, and nothing will.

I miss her. But I know the best way to preserve my memory of her is to be as much her daughter as possible – diligent, hardworking, joyous, kind, honest and always be generous and loving to others.

We will not let her legacy die.

She was enthusiastic about education and worked for UNICEF Somalia as an Education specialist. She traveled to Somalia time and time again, knowing all too well the risks and danger. But she did it without any hesitation. She worked hard on project after project; she wanted to make a difference in children’s lives, especially girls. She knew the value of books and pens, as she herself was a shining example of overcoming great obstacles through education. And with her skills and experience as an English teacher, she was so good at it.

After work, she was equally passionate about life. Being a fitness enthusiast, she would wake up at 5 in the morning and ensure I too was in the gym with her. Fitness and good health was very important for our family. When any marathon came up, believe me she was there running.

With these two passions she held close to her heart, The Woki Education Trust was born. The goal of the Trust is to educate children from marginalized communities, including those surviving the conflict in Kenya. Our first event will be The Woki Education Trust Run that will be an annual event to raise funds to support these children and help them realize their dreams through education.

It’s been a long journey, and it still is, it slowly sinks in day by day, some slower than others. I don’t know whether the pain will cease to exist, but I still feel her love for me, far stronger and greater, and this makes me stronger today than I was yesterday.

Ivy Nyambuteri Mokua, 21, is the eldest daughter of Woki Munyui. She is currently pursuing a degree in Arts and Design at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Email:, Twitter: @t_mokua

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  1. To me woki was not just my sister in law she was my best friend ..I loved her so much…always encouraged me to work extra hard ..a strong lady I always admired…nothing stopped her to go for what she felt was right
    I truly miss heart was shattered ..I wish you all the best Ivy and Lucy.Am sure your mom left a big shoes to be filled but I know you can do it…you are all strong ladies..I pray for you…nothing hurts like losing a mother nobody will ever replace her..keep moms legacy a live and make her you 💘
    Untie Vero

  2. Thanks ivy for that very tough autograph on your mum.Woki was my classmate at maseno university and those articulating words truly describes her character RIP woki

  3. Just reading that gives me a check on my desire to work with UNICEF or any other humanitarian organizations. No matter how many times I have settled in my mind that I am willing to make such sacrifice for good, such stories make me step back, and then reaffirm my stance. The noblest cause in life is to lay one’s life in LOVE for others as Christ has taught us.

    1. Woki will forever remain in my heart. She was a dear andvsweetvfriend. She was so genuine that she wouldn’t hide anything to her friends. She loved her children and family dearly. Her passion for her work made her spend sleepless nights working on project proposals. I sincerely miss my moments with her. We travelled to Somalia together in the same flight. We had our breakfast together at the Airport least did I know we were having our last meal together. We shared our intimate ‘girls/Women ‘ stories all the way up to Mogadishu where alighted. The good and dear friend in her could not forget to pray for me since we considered Mogadishu to be more unsafe than Garowe_ Puntland. We had planned to be in Puntland together but things changed when i got accommodation in Mogadishu which coincided with our planned trip in Puntland. While in Garowe we used to chat every day and Woki would tell me how lonely she was in Garowe and kept wishing we had travelled together as per our earlier plan. I took the drinks she had sent me with to the her friends in Mogadishu and we called her to chat as we had our dinner. It’s so painful that Wok and our other colleagues _ Brenda, payenda and Steve had to be killed by a merciless devil.They died serving the children of Somalia doing what they loved most. May God Almighty grant them eternal peace and bless their families