‘I want to be an ambassador for the voiceless’

By Time of article published Nov 2, 2021

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Michael Kaloki

When she was 11-years-old, Jane Kubai ran away from home after learning that her father was planning to get her to undergo female genital mutilation and then get married.

Later, Kubai developed a passion for medicine while working as a hospital security guard in Kenya’s Nyeri country. A guard by day, and a mother of one, Kubai took theatre technician classes at night — sometimes giving up sleep so that she could watch hours-long surgeries being performed in the operating room.

Now a theatre technologist, Kubai, 27, says her father has changed his views on child marriage. And in an interview at her new hospital in Nakuru, Kubai tells SciDev.Net that she has her sights set on becoming a surgeon.

She was recently named a Heroine of Health by the Women in Global Health network for her perseverance and efforts to educate communities and patients on preventing the spread of Covid-19.

“It has been a long journey. It was an amazing thing to happen to me. I had not imagined that one day I could be called a heroine. I thank God for everything. The award has been like a candle that has been lit in my life. I will not keep that candle under the table.

Instead, I will make it shine in my life and the lives of young girls in our country. I will make sure that as I continue getting more educated, I will become an ambassador for the voiceless in the world,” she said.

Kubai comes from Meru County in Kenya. She ran away from home, aged eleven. “In my community, when you reach the age of ten to 12, you get circumcised — FGM (female genital mutilation) — then you get married. It’s a forced marriage.

When my father and mother explained to me about the FGM procedure that would be done, I decided to disappear.

I wanted to get an education. I wanted to go back to school to have a future. I met with a priest, who took me to his sister’s house where I worked as a maid. I later met another priest who paid my school fees, which enabled me to finish primary school.

He also paid part of my secondary school fees. After secondary school, I got a job as a security guard at a hospital. I was dealing with patients at the hospital gate. This inspired me to join a medical college so that, instead of guarding the gates, I can be guarding the patients on the operating table.”

She went back home after ten years and told them that she was alive. “My parents begged for forgiveness and were sorry about trying to force me to undergo FGM and also get married at an early age. My younger sisters did not undergo FGM because my father was scared that they might run away too, just as I did. My father now advises other families in the village against FGM and early marriage.”

Kubai said she wants to continue with her studies and do a diploma. “Maybe a good Samaritan somewhere will be able to support me to do the diploma. Then I plan to do a degree, then a Master’s in theatre technology. One day in the future, I will pursue my dream of becoming a surgeon,” she said.

Asked what would be her advice to young women who might be keen to work in surgery?

Kubai said she never gave up in her own life. “I just hoped that one day I would be somebody. I would advise them to face the challenge and come out to the medical field. For those interested in working in the operating theatre, I encourage them to pay keen attention to the patients and assist the surgeons in enabling them to save the patient’s life.

I would also advise them not to give up when they face many challenges. If I have made it, why not them? I encourage them that one day, one time, their dreams will come true.”

 SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk produced this piece. The story can be found at https://www.scidev.net/global/role-models/qa-i-want-to-be-an-ambassador-for-the-voiceless/

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