Women championing health rights in Kenya
Whatever their chosen issue, from cancer, reproductive health, female genital mutilation, maternal health you name it, inspirational women have been leaving a mark as far as health is concerned. In celebration of these trailblazers and to mark International Women’s Day today, Betty Muindi writes on women who have impacted life, some in their own little way
1. Margaret Kenyatta
The First Lady has been championing for maternal and child health, especially through her Beyond Zero initiative. The initiative has seen millions of shillings raised to equip health facilities across the country, specifically in areas that have a hard time accessing medical services.
Counties have received fully kitted mobile trucks, which comprise three consultation rooms, a laboratory and a pharmacy. Her efforts saw her recognised as UN in Kenya Person of the Year 2014.
2. Lucy Kapkirwok
Lucy is a socialpreneur providing an innovative, low-cost solution to menstrual management in poor communities. SANPAD is a sanitary pad-pant business, an innovative low-cost initiative aimed at manufacturing affordable and accessible sanitary pads-cum pants to address the needs of women and girls in resource poor settings.
It aims at improving access of women and girls to safe and hygienic menstrual management practices and simultaneously addressing women’s reproductive health needs.
3. Elizabeth Njeri
Elizabeth Njeri was 50 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In order to stop the cancer from spreading, she had to have one of her breasts removed. As a result, she was mocked for her appearance. But she came out stronger and eight years later, she offers help to others who are experiencing the same humiliation and devastation that she once felt.
She uses her tailoring skills to make breast foams and wigs, which she gives to survivors. She and 12 other breast cancer survivors from Kenya formed an organisation Slopes Cancer Awareness Network (Scan) to educate both men and women about the disease that claims so many lives each year.
4. Maureen Anyango
Born and bred in Dandora slums, Maureen witnessed firsthand how teen girls engage in pre-marital sex to put food on the table. Young girls fell pregnant and threw their babies in latrines as they could not take care of them. Also, many of her friends became pregnant and had to abort using crude methods.
These experiences made her a bitter child, and she is glad she did not succumb. A Good Samaritan rescued her from the poverty situation and saw her through school. After she graduated from campus, she started a rescue centre for teen mothers, Rehema House. The centre gives young mothers and children a chance to continue with their education as well as teach them life skills.
5. Carolyne Ng’ang’a
She worked for an international non governmental organisation, Mercy Corps, as a Youth Empowerment officer in charge of Kiambu county before she resigned to form her own organisation.
A cervical cancer survivor, Caroline founded Held Every Lady in Distress (Held Sister) organisation. Held helps cancer survivors and patients get their lives back on track as well as educating women on sexual and reproductive health. She also enlightens people on access to proper medical care.
6. Nice Nailantei
A project officer under Amref Health Africa in Kenya, Nailantei champions for alternative rite of passage, a project that plays a key role in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to ensure girls and women in her Maasai community transition to womanhood without undergoing the cut.
Having escaped from the forceful cut at the age of eight, Nailantei has been educating her community on the effects of FGM. In 2016, she was selected to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit hosted by the US President Barack Obama. She also received the Ministry of Devolution Inspiration Woman Awards in 2015 for her effort at the grassroots level.
7. Roseline Orwa
Through her organisation Rona Foundation, Roseline provides relief to widows by helping them find a sense of belonging and empowering them socially and economically. Her foundation has several programmes such as Widow Host A Widow, Sauti Ya Wajane, and Sponsor a House for a Widow as well as a centre, Wagoma Orphans and Widows Centre, which are aimed at empowering widows.
She is passionate about supporting widows because she has also experienced childlessness, divorce, widowhood and the stigma that comes with these situations.
8. Wanjiru Kihusa
After experiencing two miscarriages and suffering the emotional trauma that came with it, Wanjiru founded Still a Mum, a charity that supports women and families dealing with the agony of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, still birth or demise of their infants, an experience, which is devastating to mothers and would-be mothers. Through her charity, she helps break myths, religious and cultural beliefs brought about by infant loss.
9. Valentine Nyakiere
Valentine Nyakiere is taking the front seat in teaching women how to keep their reproductive system healthy. Through her various forums she talks to women about how to live a clean and healthy lifestyle.
Among the issues she addresses are ways to avoid stress, which threaten to disrupt the body’s equilibrium, eating, safe hygiene products to use and so on. Last year, she successfully ran a campaign to raise money to help acquire sanitary materials to be distributed for free for use by girls and women in vulnerable communities.
10 Jane Mukami
In the past months, there has been a wave of Kenyan, especially women struggling to lose weight. According to the latest Demographic and Health Survey, 41 per cent of women were either overweight or obese.
Jane Mukami, through her fitness and nutrition programmes, has created big change in helping women lose weight in a healthy way. Last year, she broke the Internet when she introduced the Jane Mukami 10 Day-Detox-Programme.