Updated: Jun 16, 2019
It is well documented that in Sub-Saharan Africa professional education has not kept up to pace with health care challenges and that there is a need for an effective nursing education system for the achievement of sustainable development goals (BMC Nurs. 2018; 17: 3). This is the very reality that has been witnessed by the founder of One Woman At A Time Jean Anderson.
As a retired midwife Jean knows the importance of basic healthcare needs and the qualities that you need to be an effective healthcare professional. One such quality is evident immediately upon meeting Jean and that is the art of communicating. This is further compounded by the majority of nursing literature that advocates for strong communication skills to enable effective management of patients, symptoms and situations.
In line with this, One Woman At A Time spent considerable time building relationships with a small hospital in rural Kenya, Ortum Mission Hospital. The hospital serves the many local tribes people in the Pokot region, some of whom have travelled days by foot to receive health care. With very little resources or money a rural hospital may not have electricity, running water or sterile dressings and sometimes the only prescription that people receive is time and hope. Time will tell and hope that they will recover. The challenges seem overwhelming.
Once you have adjusted to the primitive conditions of a rural hospital One Woman At A Time noted other critical challenges:
There were not many nurses speaking the local tribal languages causing a significant disadvantage to both patient and nurse. This in turn reduces the quality of care and the risk of being exposed to diseases that cannot be communicated.
That there are young women with children from many of the tribes that are desperate to become nurses but simply cannot afford tuition fees
By addressing these challenges One Woman At A Time believe we can make a huge positive different to the wider community. By training more tribal women to become nurses would mean a better quality of care in hospitals, it would empower the women to better their lives and in turn would re-educate the tribal population in terms of how they perceive a woman’s role in the community. By offering a career as an alternative to FGM and marriage this should slowly aid in reducing the number of women and girls that are fleeing such acts and distribute more income back into the communities that need it most.
Currently OWAAT support 8 nurses in Kenya and we would like to tell you a little more about their journey so far…
Tuition fees for nursing stands at 153,050 Kenya Shillings a year (£1156 April 2019). All nurses have to complete 3.5 years of study.
3 of the nurses have children of their own to support
All agree that without our scholarship they would all have had to undergo FGM
“If I didn't have this chance I would have had to have FGM and get married” (Sheila).Sheila is 20 years old and talks about how her life would have been had she not received help from OWAAT. According to Sheila she would have been at home providing support for her siblings and mother until she was married. But in order to get married her husband would require her to carry the scar of FGM. “I will be very happy when I finish my studies, god willing. Then I will come back and support others and my dream would be to learn more… If I go and help other counties I will always remember my home”.
When asked about her younger sisters and the likelihood of them being exposed to undergoing FGM, Sheila is now hopeful and optimistic that she will be a role model to them and that her younger sisters will follow in her footsteps, “This is what I hope”. (Feb 2019)
Florence is one of our young mothers that we support with a nursing scholarship. She wells up with emotion as she tells us about her daughter and how she misses caring for her and taking her to school. At just 3 years old, her daughter has been raised by her Grandmother since she was born in order for Florence to train as a nurse. Being 65km away from home also means that Florence only gets to see her daughter once a month, something that clearly takes an emotional toll. But Florence wipes away her tears and you can see the grit and determination in her eyes as a big smile crosses her face. She is a mother on a mission to give her baby and her family a better life. Her strength of character and optimism are inspiring to us all.
“I stayed home for three years without having any hope of going to college” (Isabella).
Isabella is 22 and from a family suffering poverty. As the third child of six Isabella lost all hope of going to college when her father tried to force her to undergo FGM in order to be married off. Her 2 sisters before her were both married but Isabella didn't want to follow the same fate and flatly refused to be cut. With her mother working hard selling charcoal and vegetables to find school fees for her younger siblings and with a father that stayed away with a second wife, Isabella hoped for a miracle. With the help of all our supporters One Woman At A Time provided that miracle and allowed Isabella to join nursing school and now she has a future to look forward to.
“I myself I fight against Female Genital Mutilation since I once attended FGM camp at Ortum Girls Primary School in the year 2011” (Janet)
Janet is 19 years old, is the third born of 5 siblings and is supported solely by her single mother. After her father left the family her mum tries to make money through selling firewood and vegetables in order to pay school fees for all the children. Sometimes this means that we go without food but it has made me realise that I am the only one who can help my family and also the needy.
Janet is a testament to the outreach work that has been done in the Ortum area, re-educating girls about FGM is going to help break the cycle.