Salome Mbugua: ‘Ireland is opening itself to diversity and inclusion’
2018-06-15 14:35:17 -

The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin

All of Ireland is paying glowing tribute to Salome Mbugua as one of the five newly appointed members of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

“My position within the IHREC and as a commissioner requires my expertise not only for specific group of people but on human rights and equality as it relates to everyone within the Irish society,” says Salome, who was presented with her warrant of appointment by President Michael D Higgins.


“I represent a diverse voice and will bring added value of reality based on my experience of working with migrants and being an African woman.”

Salome’s dream has always been for Ireland to allow migrant women to develop their skills, flourish in their different professions and contribute more to the growth of their host country. For many years, she fought for this cause and today she is a beneficiary of her own initiative.


The first African woman to be appointed to the IHREC, Salome started her career in Ireland over 17 years ago and has been awarded several prizes for her work in various fields, including human rights.


“My activism and advocacy for human rights has taken me to many places that I never imagined,” she says. “I have given a presentation to the congress in Washington, DC; have been involved in designing policy on gender-based violence; and have given over 100 lectures and presentation on topics such as human rights, gender and migration.”


Salome’s appointment is been seen to many as a signal that Ireland is truly embracing its social diversity.


“I can say Ireland is opening itself to diversity and inclusion though it could be a slow process,” Salome says, though she implores migrants to play their role by going out to seek and claim opportunities, and to keep knocking on doors rather than wait to be asked.

Knocking on doors is where Salome began, after graduating at the age of 23 in social work and securing a job with an NGO in Nairobi, the capital of her homeland Kenya. Her role included rehabilitating street children, and this early experience helped shape and transform her life completely.


Salome relocated to Ireland in September 1994 as a student. “I came here to study, to better myself, improve my skills, knowledge and future prospects,” she says. This was some years before a much larger influx of Africans migrating to Ireland, and facing barriers of language, culture and employment among many others. Salome saw the opportunity to help migrant women in particular by establishing AkiDwA, the African women’s network, which found itself at the forefront of giving voice to a previously unheard segment of Irish society.


“Since its formation, the network has achieved so much for migrants and their families, providing platform and presenting migrant women at various levels,” Salome says. Indeed, her own achievements cannot be separated from those of AkiDwA.


“Setting up an organisation in a country that I was not born and becoming successful is an indicator of how my strategies for integration had been received by both migrants and my main mentors, the indigenous Irish.”


Despite Salome’s contributions to Irish life in various capacities, she has not escaped racism, whether institutional or individual – that includes racial profiling, media attacks and even physical assault.


“When I was pregnant with my now 17-year-old daughter I was physically approached, spat on and told not to bring ‘another nigger’ into this country.” The experience was horrifying for Salome, leaving her afraid of walking anywhere alone. But she refused to be cowed.


“My experience of racism has motivated me to be active, to stand up and challenge racism at all levels. I never mix my personal life with professional life. I still have my father’s name, purely African and I am so much aware of this and know very well regardless of whom I know or live with. There are people out there who still hold strong racist attitudes and deep-rooted prejudices, but there are also good and open-minded people. I therefore do not want to be treated favourably.”


Aside from her new role with the IHREC, Salome is also in her third year of a doctorate at Trinity College, following a Master’s degree in equality studies at UCD. Always striving to better herself, Salome’s story continues to be one that shows how migration isn’t just about finding a new home.


“I believe I am a woman who is intelligent, competent and with a beautiful soul, and people should respect me for whom I am and what I can offer this country that I now call home.”

- Princess Pamela Toyin is a journalist, author and TV presenter who has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0) 87 417 9640 or email

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