Maternal Health Champion Gladys Nasirumbi: Making a Difference in Busia, Kenya

Community health worker (CHW) Gladys Nasirumbi considers herself a primary healthcare champion. “What I enjoy most about my job is working together with communities to raise a healthy generation,” she says. She believes most maternal and child health complications can be prevented at the community level, and that inspires her.

During a significant homestead visit, we find Gladys Nasirumbi, a dedicated Community Health Volunteer (CHV) from Nakhumaki Location, Matayos Sub-County, Busia County, engaging with Susan Mercy Bwire and her two daughters, Rayner Promise and Yovela Peace.

Gladys lost her husband, leaving her with three children – one barely two years old. When she saw an opportunity, she decided to become a CHW to teach the members of her community to practice healthy habits. “I was lucky enough to be among the first CHWs to be recruited and trained by Living Goods to offer community health services in Busia County,” says the 44-year-old.

With the support of the Busia County government and Living Goods, Gladys conducts health education and offers services in Nahomaki village. In particular, she is a keen advocate for family planning. “I educate women on the various family planning products, how they work and any associated side effects to ensure they make an informed choice. In some instances, I accompany clients to get free family planning services in public health facilities,” Gladys says. With the support of Living Goods, communitylevel family planning services are currently offered in six out of seven sub-counties in Busia.

 Thanks to efforts by different actors, including CHWs, about 55% of the women in Busia between the ages of 15 and 49 years have embraced modern contraceptives (2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey/KDHS).

“Initially the uptake was at 25%, but now we are seeing an increase in the number of eligible women taking up family planning products,” remarks Emmanuel Luvai, Busia County’s Community Health Services focal person. This success has not been without challenges and social barriers; many people shun contraceptives because of myths and misconceptions.

Yet CHWs like Gladys have been able to overcome these obstacles by leveraging the community’s trust in them and their personal skills. “My job requires me to be informative, patient and friendly. It is my role to share the right information with my clients to ensure they make informed choices,” says Gladys.

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