By Joy Zawadi
Legacy is the word that comes to mind when I think of 2017 Fellow Qabale Duba. And her legacy will be written into the history books of women folk in Marsabit County. I would describe her as a jack of all trades but unlike the saying goes she is indeed a master of women’s empowerment.
Qabale’s legacy is heavily influenced by her background. She comes from a humble background being the last born in her family. As we get into her home, we are greeted by a beautiful house that distinctly stands out from the manyattas that dot the neighborhood. ‘I built this for my mother’ she proudly notes. As we get into the conversation, she notes that she is the only one of her siblings that had access to education and the opportunities that have been afforded to her by virtue of being educated.
At the corner of her home we noticed a shiny mabati structure, she excitingly offers to give us a tour of what we come to understand is a newly constructed Early Childhood Learning Center that she built using a cash award she received from the McKinsey Next Generation Women’s Award. She’s fond of the saying ‘Charity begins at home and shares with us that her vision for the center is that as the children get to study in the morning the women in her village will access training around maternal, reproductive and women’s health information.
We sit down on three-legged stools and start having the conversation about the matters that brought us to Marsabit, the Papa project.
“So tell me, what progress have you ma
de in your project since joining the Akili Dada Fellowship program?”; I ask. The question really lights Qabale up. In typical Kenyan fashion, she takes me back to the problem and notes that since her tenure at the Miss Tourism Kenya days, her pet
project has been centered around the distribution of pads and panties in the Pads and Panties project. She noted, however, that one of the challenges she experiences was the fact that a number of girls she would encounter lacked the basic inner wear hence her desire to develop a product that would counter this challenge once and for all. Hence PAPA 2.0. TM.
With the Akili Dada seed grant, Qabale has invested time, energy and resources into researching the development of a Kenyan made period panty. She shows us some of the paperwork of downloads upon downloads of DIY tutorials of how to develop the reusable period pants. Working with 2 tailors she has since developed several versions of the prototype which she hopes to pilot early 2018. ‘I have girls who are ready and waiting to test the PAPA’.
Her biggest challenge at the moment has been the sourcing of suitable materials to improve the PAPA. ‘I also want the girls to feel comfortable and proud to own the PAPA’ Qabale says.
As she speaks I note that she has a true and genuine interest in the wellbeing of her beneficiaries, really putting herself in their shoes. And I too become excited as I imagine how many lives will completely be transformed with the launch of this product. As we carry on with the conversation, Qabale continues to impress me with the fact that all she does is clearly and strategically planned to secure sustainable progress for girls and women in Marsabit and indeed Kenya. She mentions in passing that she also works at the county government as the gender focal person. This position is as a result of her efforts that are clearly appreciated by residents of the county. Indeed, as we walk through the streets of the town she is stopped by relative strangers who fondly call her ‘Mrembo’ i.e. the beautiful one, a title she earned from her Miss Tourism days. She jokingly notes that she sometimes has to conceal herself as she will most likely be asked ‘Did you bring us pads?’
As I reflect on this visit, I realize the magnitude of gift that Qabale has given the women folk of her county and how many more lives are going to be changed by her project which will forever be attributed to her as her legacy.