In the heart of Kenya, two remarkable women are making waves in their communities, challenging societal norms, and advocating for the rights of those often overlooked. Josephine Mwende and Amina Guyo have dedicated their lives to championing the causes of people with disabilities and menstrual hygiene, respectively. Their inspiring stories highlight the power of resilience and the impact of grassroots activism.

Josephine Mwende: A Beacon for Mothers with Disabilities

Josephine Mwende, the founder of AbleRise Africa Society, has made it her mission to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. Her journey is both personal and poignant. As a woman with cerebral palsy, Josephine faced numerous challenges during her pregnancy and delivery. “It is every woman’s great desire to have a child and enjoy the exciting journey of motherhood. Despite having cerebral palsy, I was over the moon when I learned that I was expecting a baby,” she recalls. However, her joy was overshadowed by rejection and discrimination from multiple hospitals, with one doctor callously stating, “We don’t handle such people.”

Her ordeal took a positive turn when Kenyatta National Hospital finally accepted her, allowing her to deliver her baby safely. “Every time I look at my son, Gift, I tell myself that no woman should go through the pain, rejection, and humiliation that I went through,” Josephine says. This experience fueled her determination to ensure equal health rights for expectant mothers with cerebral palsy.

Josephine’s petition calls for the establishment of a toll-free hotline for reporting discrimination in public hospitals, special consultation rooms for women with cerebral palsy, and awareness programs for hospital staff. Her advocacy is backed by findings from the Nguvu Collective OBV Survey, which highlights the urgent need for policies protecting the rights of women with disabilities during childbirth.

Amina Guyo: Transforming Menstrual Hygiene in ASAL Areas

Amina Guyo Abdi, a nurse, leads the Sitiri Campaign, which trains women and girls in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) to create their own businesses and safe spaces. Amina’s inspiration stems from her personal experience with menstrual hygiene challenges. “I still vividly remember the day I started my first period. I was alone, scared, and had no idea what was happening to my body,” she shares.

In ASAL areas, access to menstrual products, clean water, and waste management is extremely limited. Disposable pads, while intermittently provided, are impractical and environmentally harmful. Amina advocates for the distribution of reusable sanitary pads, which offer a sustainable and cost-effective solution. “Reusable sanitary pads provide a sustainable, cost-effective solution that aligns with the unique challenges of ASAL communities,” she explains.

The Sitiri Campaign not only distributes these pads but also offers training for women and girls to create their own businesses and safe spaces. By addressing cultural and social stigmas surrounding menstruation, Amina’s initiative has garnered positive responses from the community. One success story highlights a young girl who, after receiving reusable pads and training, started her own small business, significantly improving her family’s financial situation.

Driving Change and Seeking Support

Both Josephine and Amina’s initiatives underscore the need for systemic change and community support. Josephine hopes to see a healthcare system that respects and supports women with disabilities, while Amina envisions a future where menstrual hygiene is no longer a barrier for girls in ASAL areas. Their calls to action are clear: support their petitions, raise awareness, and join them in their fight for equal rights and opportunities.