Monday, 06 May 2013 00:00

Serving the community lays foundation for medic’s inspiration

Written by Valentine Atieno

In Kenya it is not common for people to resign from well paying jobs to try their hands in politics. However, for Dr Monica Ogutu, a trained medic, left a well-paying job at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) to start working for her community.

 In 1995 Ogutu quit her job after completing her studies on Maternal Health in Uppsala Sweden to embark on community service. She then founded the Kisumu Medical Education Trust (KMET).

“I wanted an institution within the community to assist young girls lead normal life,” she explains.

However, not many people around her welcomed the move. Her colleagues and husband thought she was crazy and were opposed to the whole idea as they thought she had risen to a good position.

“My husband was so annoyed and thought that something was wrong with me,” says Ogutu adding that “he even engaged a counsellor assuming that I had a mental problem”.

Inception

Her husband only gave in after a  series of meetings but on agreement that the relocation will not interfere with the studies of their children.

“I decided to form an NGO to deal with women’s issues within the community and with some of my friends, we met at Kenyatta national Hospital and decided to form an organisation that later matured and made me resign and take up management seriously,” she explains.

They rolled out the programme with KSh100,000 donations that was raised from the board members.

She started without an office and could go to the community to educate them on the management of most stigmatized topics which are easy to prevent and manage like the hypertension, sepsis infection that is experienced during pregnancy and even unsafe abortion.

Inspiration

“After sometime I secured an office in Migosi area in Kisumu and later on employed a community health worker who was in charge of the office when I went out to the field,” she explains.

Ogutu was inspired by the indigenous local brains, a voice from the non-governmental organisation for the local community and with this she engaged the chiefs and ended up addressing young girls at chiefs’ meetings.

“I went ahead and met with the Ministry of Health officials and told them about what I was doing with regards to maternal health problems in Nyanza Province,” says Ogutu.

She notes that she started operating  at a time when it was so difficult to get a donor because they needed to fund an NGO with a history but this was one just a newly formed.

After six months in 1995, the first donor, Planned Parenthood Foundation of Africa (PPFA) came knocking  and they gave the organisation money for buying contraceptives that they took to the communities.

The organisation loaded the medicines in the bicycle and occasionally by public transport to reach people in far flung areas.

“Then came a time for appraisal and the donor needed to know how the money had been used when they came to assess us. She was so surprised that we used bicycles to transport contraceptives and was so touched and promised to be back,” Ogutu recalls.

The donor later bought the organisation a vehicle to help in transporting the drugs to the community and this brought on board a third employee.

“The most affected people are the girls at the community level and that is why I needed to work with lowest level providers like the mid-wives and clinical officers that the girls go to first before they are referred to other specialised institutions,” she notes.

The organisation later on engaged in writing proposals in search of money to enable it expand services.

They organised the first training to equip the mid-wives with knowledge on comprehensive post-abortion care and how to deal with it.

“Given that the girls are sexually active, we addressed abstinence and negotiation for safe sex to prevent unsafe abortion and HIV infection,” Ogutu explains.

From a humble background in Got Osimbo in Siaya County, Ogutu recalls that during her formative years she was purely consigned to fetching firewood, water and house cleaning as education for the girl child was a privilege.

The thought of becoming a successful founder of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) was unthinkable then.

A mother of three and two adopted girls, Ogutu started her primary school at Got Osimbo Primary School. She did so well and got admission to Ngiya Girls’ Secondary School for her secondary education in 1977.

“After my fourth form I was admitted to Kenya Science to train as a teacher, something that was not my wish but that of my parents,” she says.

Unknown to her parents and for her love for nursing, she secretly applied for a nursing course at the Kenya Medical Training College in Nairobi.

True to her passion, she excelled in her career upon completion of the course. She worked at Kenyatta National Hospital and specialized on maternal health just to ensure that all the women got deserved attention.

She later on advanced her studies by doing midwifery at the same college and also proceeded to do her degree in nursing at the University of Nairobi.

Specialist

She was later posted to Kenyatta National Hospital as a Gynaecologist in-charge of the labour wards where she treated several young girls with different maternal and reproductive health problems.

“One morning, a 16 year old girl came to the hospital after she had procured an abortion but the quack had damaged her uterus,” recalls Ogutu.

She notes that by the time the girls was leaving the hospital, she had no uterus and her anus was destroyed because the quack messed up with vital organs in her body.

“This experience inspired me to start working within communities to help de-stigmatize abortion,” she says.

KMET has 10 organisations that they support at the community level. They plan to expand support to 20 other organisations.

“When we started the organisation we had a total of KSh100,000 donations from the board members and now the value of K-MET as per the projects  stands at KSh100 million and the building is also worth KSh160 million,” she reveals.

To date the organisation has 82 employees with a total of 17 projects on going.

 

 


This article was originally published in the Reject Online Issue 81

 

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