Miriam Mbithe is a woman on a mission. Every day, the 50-year-old single mother of five braves the rugged terrain of her neighborhood in Isiolo, Kenya and treks for kilometers on end, shuffling between her work as a CHW, a matron at a girls’ secondary school, a women’s groups coordinator, and an entrepreneur. These roles, she says, bring together the causes she is most passionate about: the health, education and economic empowerment of girls and women.
“When I started volunteering as a CHW, I saw that women and girls needed better support to reverse high maternal and child death rates and to escape generational cycles of dependency and poverty,” says Miriam. “Enhancing women’s access to information, healthcare, education and capacity to meaningfully participate in economic activities not only changes their lives but transforms entire families.”
Two years ago, Miriam and all the nearly 700 CHWs in Isiolo started receiving more comprehensive support through a co-funded partnership between the Isiolo County government and Living Goods. Apart from receiving regular in-service training and enhanced supervision, Miriam is now also equipped with medicines and a mobile phone loaded with the Smart Health app, which has enhanced her ability to serve her clients.
19-year-old Susan feels lucky to have Miriam as her go-to healthcare provider and ally, and has received health education, personalized care, and emotional support through her pregnancy—as well as encouragement to resume her studies and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. Similarly, 18-year-old Freida credits Miriam for providing her with support that allowed her speedy return to school three months after delivering her son, John.
“Miriam has been a constant pillar of support enabling me to balance school and new motherhood,” says Freida.
Miriam has supported almost a dozen girls like Susan and Freida to have healthy pregnancies and find placement in local schools to finish their education—including rescuing some from early marriages or undergoing female genital mutilation. Miriam also mentors and encourages women of all ages to join local economic groups. “Miriam has not just helped me navigate motherhood, she’s also steered me towards both my formal and financial education,” offers Susan.
“We are no longer losing as many women and children due to preventable causes,” Miriam reports. Men are also increasingly joining the bandwagon in supporting women to have better health, plan their families, and attain better economic standing. Now, that’s a win!