Issue Number 41 • October 2013
Rising above physical disability on a journey to success …By Anita Chepkoech
enny Akoth is a jack of many trades and a master of all. This has enabled her to rise way above her physical disability. If she is not busy practicing volleyball for upcoming tournaments, she is rushing to beat deadlines imposed by schools that have given her tender to sew school uniforms. Akoth is also engaged in crocheting hand baskets or making liquid soap from her house in Corner Maji, within Kisumu’s Manyatta Estate which all earns her income. Growing up as an orphan and being physically handicapped, her education and career path faced myriad challenges but being positive and aggressive, she did not let the predicament define her life. Akoth’s parents died when she was a baby leaving her to older siblings who struggled to bring her up. They even dragged her to Nyamonye Primary School in Bondo quite early. Akoth recalls that she was only eight years old when she suffered a polio attack which left her paralyzed her. “I was perhaps too young to understand my predicament but at that tender age I started questioning what would become of my future,” she says. She routinely attended school which to her was just a formality as physical education lessons and games was a factor that kept her going. She participated as far as her ability could allow and grew into a sports maniac without particular inclination to any game.
Support “I call it unparalleled passion since I loved every game. I played netball, volleyball; I would participate in paralympics and even throw shot-put. I often watched football and thought I could be a striker if I had the ability,” she says fondly remembering her favourite times when her school would
bring her to Joy-lands Kisumu for various sporting activities, something she says shaped her path. In 2002 and with the support of a relative, she managed to purchase a sewing machine even though she did not have tailoring skills. “I really wanted a fruitful venture that would give me instant independence. I pushed myself to acquire a machine because I thought it the only driving force to getting tailoring skills faster,” Akoth says adding that she looked forward to helping other people who had a similar problem. Fortunately, she met Grace, an old friend and a graduate of the Sisterhood for Change beauty therapy and hairdressing (SFC) who referred her to Kisumu Medical Education Trust (KMET) where she was introduced to tailoring classes, crocheting and other home science skills including making soaps. Thanks to the training she received, Akoth now earns an average of KSh12,000 monthly from her tailoring business which she does from her house. She says this amount is little since she has to divide the time and effort to attend to her other ventures. Her clientele are majorly private owned early childhood education centres who award her tenders to make pupils’ uniforms. This she says has been possible owing to her reputation of being prompt and production of quality garments. She has a long-term tender with Elyon Nursery school where the children fondly refer to her as a ‘teacher’. She perceived a market gap in tailoring babies’ uniform which she said had an opportunity compared to those of older children in primary and secondary. “I am happy that I got the opportunity to be at Sisterhood for Change, they offered me a friendly environment without discrimination, I was taught a lot of life and entrepreneurial skills. We even got fed at the centre,’’ beams Akoth, who is 25 year old. She traces her success to the training she re-
Fenny Akoth throws shot-put during a competition at the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani, Nairobi ceived and expresses gratitude to the tutors who were understanding, patient and gave the best insight on how to earn from the garment making industry. Akoth also makes an average of 25 bags every month which can fetch up to KSh500 each depending on the size and design. The young entrepreneur is also a sports enthusiast and earns supplementary income from allowances she gets from being a centre-six- player in the national girls’ volleyball team for the physically handicapped, a position she says is the backbone of the team. She joined the team in the year 2002 drawn by fellow players who exuded beaming passion for games like she did. “I train in volleyball every day from 4.00pm to 6:00pm at the Kisumu Social Hall and this has helped horn my skills and emerge as the best
player for the group,” she says, with her sentiments being backed by Kisumu City Volleyball chairman, Anthony Oriwo Riako. As any business person would attest, Akoth faces challenges that come with handling many responsibilities. These include rescheduling her tailoring business when practicing for volleyball, an issue she says disrupts her deadlines. However, she opted to employ an assistant to help speed up the work and stand in during her absence. She also believes that in the next five years she will be an employer of more than five girls from Sisterhood For Change and a major distributor of garment material within town. Akoth is also taking care of her niece who is a pupil at Nyamonye Primary School in Bondo. She pays her tuition fees, tailors her clothes and avails other provisions. She is also saving for her secondary education.
Christine Mawia Feted for exemplary service in nursing care
…By Nzinga Muasya
er dedication to care for new-born children has won her the coveted International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award. The award was a major boost to Christine Mawia, who three years ago won two local nursing awards for her remarkable nursing skills. Mawia who is the nurse in-charge of the neonatal care unit at the Kitui District Hospital received the award at a ceremony held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on September 6, 2013 where nurses from around the world congregated for the eighth International Neonatal Nursing Conference. Together with Anila Ali Bardai, a counterpart from Pakistan, Mawia received the top award from Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots. Netsayi Gowero from Malawi was the runners-up. Mawia was not only feted for her excellent work but also for her teaching and mentoring skills to mothers to curb infant mortality. Her efforts saw infant mortality rate at the hospital reduce from 50 per cent in 2010 to below 10 per cent last year. “When I was a school girl I dreamt of becoming a nurse someday to help mothers and new-borns. I am happy this dream has come true,” she said on returning back to her workstation. In 2010, Mawia was crowned the district nurse of the year before winning the Eastern Province nurse of the year in the same year. “I was also feted by the National Championship in New Born Health in December last year,”
she said with a beaming face. Mawia started the new-borns unit at the district hospital from scratch in 2010 but little did she know that it would be transform into an independent nursery, which would make her a proud health worker few years later. The International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award was established in 2009 by the Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN) and Save the Children to recognise nurses for their commitment to saving mothers and new-borns during childbirth in some of the harshest places to work in the world.
Beginning Mawia and the other two nurses were selected for their exemplary leadership and passion for ensuring every new-born has a chance to survive and thrive. Speaking at the ceremony, COINN President Karen New said: “All the three women work in newborn care units in busy referral hospitals to provide health care to under-served populations. In such settings, the health care has to be developed and defended by committed professionals.” According to Celestine Mwaburi, Deputy Nursing Officer-in-charge at Kitui District Hospital, Mawia is an aggressive and self-driven nurse who works without supervision. Her drive was enhanced when she received training at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital newborns unit and Kenyatta National Hospital. She learnt that most new-born deaths are preventable
and it depends on the skills and commitment of those looking after the infants. “I vowed to use all means at my disposal to prevent such deaths. It is unfortunate that very few nurses dedicate themselves to care for newborns,” said Mawia, a mother of two daughters who is married to Sammy Kasyima from Mwingi area of Kitui County.
Interventions Save the Children Country Director Duncan Harvey congratulated Mawia for employing basic but effective interventions to curb child mortality in Kenya. COINN’s aim is to recognise nurses who exhibit commitment in saving mothers and newborns during delivery, especially in developing countries. Neonatal nursing involves caring for infants up to 28 days after birth.
Christine Mawia, a nurse at Kitui District Hospital displays some of her certificate and trophy. Below:she attends to a new born baby at the hospital's neonatal care unit. Pictures: Nzinga Muasya
Each year, three million new-born die during the first month of life, exclusive of the additional 2.6 million babies who are stillborn.