On June 22, 2021, Mercy Auma Okuto passed by her place of work, to attend a zoom meeting.
This was four days after burying her father who had died two weeks earlier.
“I had a zoom meeting to attend, but I had no stable power and internet, so I decided to go and do the meeting from the office,” said Mercy, commonly known as Nyar Katolo in her radio program.
And then the chilling breaking news. Her supervisor asked her to pass by her desk and pick some letter.
Before she could pick it, a few colleagues leaked to her the content, that she had been sacked.
She picked the letter and proceeded home without opening it.
At home, she locked herself in a room and read it. It was a sacking letter.
“I thought so hard how I would break the news to friends and relatives,” she said.
She broke down, but the so called friends and relatives thought it was an extension of the pain of losing her dad. This was the beginning of six months of living in denial. She contemplated suicide. She could not pay her bills.
She was swimming in deep thoughts. Her voice would nolonger hit the airwaves of Dala FM.
On November 11, Nyar Katolo wrote on her Facebook page; “Any time am on the road, I wish I could get an accident, but why? Such a coward thinking, but again even the strong ones get tired at times. We get so weak, I feel my brain is distorted.”
The post attracted over 200 comments within hours, and her phone rang until it ran out of charge.
“People asked what was happening that I could post such a message. Some sent texts, some called, while others came to see me physically,” she said.
She disclosed to those who cared, narrating her ordeal.
Nyar Katolo, a second born in a family of five children lost her mother at a young age.
“It was in 2004, and I was a Form Two student,” she said.
Since her father did not remarry, she took over the mother’s roles, being the first born among the female siblings.
The father later remarried in 2020, but Nyar Katolo was already used to being a ‘mother’ to her younger siblings.
In January 2021, her father was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and on June 4, same year, he died while undergoing treatment at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.
Nyar Katolo had a mid-morning program at Dala FM, but on this day, she failed to report to work after her father’s condition worsened.
“I had to rush to the hospital and check on him, and get a few things that the doctors demanded,” she said.
By 3pm, Mzee rested.
Nyar Katolo relayed the information to the employer, and sought for two weeks leave to plan for her father’s burial.
On June 18, Mzee was buried at their Katolo home in Nyando.
“I was to get back to work on June 26, but due to the zoom meeting, I decided to go to the office for internet and power convenience,” she said.
And when she got her sacking letter, it took her back to her mourning period.
“During my break from the microphone, a lot of fans called me on my cell phone while some inquired through the social media accounts when I would return, and I kept telling them I would be back on June 26,” she said.
But with the new developments, the narrative changed. She feared informing them that she was nolonger working there.
She first told the fans that she was on her annual leave. Time passed, and she changed the narrative again, that she was on unpaid leave to build on her side hustle.
And six months later, she couldn’t lie anymore. It was then that she took to her Facebook account to pen the shocking information.
“Even my family members got to know about my situation through that post,” she said.
“I couldn’t hide anymore, as I could not pay bills. Rent was here. School fees and other basic needs were staring at me,” said the single mother of three.
A month into her sacking, Nyar Katolo had begun a small business of cooking dried meat, commonly known as ‘aliya’ from her house, which she used her social media accounts to market and deliver to clients.
After it proved unprofitable due to the expenses incurred for delivery of the orders, she got some small space near Kisumu National Polytechnic where she did the cooking.
“It became better here because there are students here, and those who are not my Facebook friends could easily get here,” she said.
Determination of a Power Woman
When Lake Region Bulletin caught up with her at her new work station, Nyar Katolo was busy serving her clients in the small iron-sheet structure painted ‘Nyar Katoz Kitchen’.
Despite the business not being able to cater for all her needs, she says it has kept her away from begging, and exposed her to a new world out of formal employment.
She is however happy that despite the trauma and months of denial, she accepted her situation, and avoided evil thoughts of taking away her life after the job loss.
“I felt wasted, and I didn’t feel like looking for a media job again,” said the Moi University Linguistics, Media and Communication graduate.
She has had to pause her Masters Degree program at Maseno University, but she remains determined as a Power Woman.
“When Ramogi TV was launching, I dropped my application, but I did not get any feedback. I hope God’s time is the best, and I will definitely wade through this situation,” she said.
Dala FM Director Seth Mbaka confirmed that indeed Nyar Katolo was an employee at the station, but was shown the door over what he termed as ‘performance related issues.’