Monica Ogutu, Executive Director, Kisumu Medical and Educational Trust
Who is Monica Ogutu?
Monica Ogutu is a reproductive health expert, gynecologist, former employee of Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). The director of a health organisation. A mother of five and above all I love God as my personal saviour.
What’s you take on unsafe abortion in Kenya?
Cases of unsafe abortions are still high. The cases are mostly caused by men who are not supportive of the use of family planning. Kenya should encourage safe abortion.
Why did you leave your well-paying job as a trained medic (gynaecologist) at KNH to start a community organisation?
I wanted an institution within the community to assist young girls lead normal life. I decided to form an organisation to deal with women’s issues within the community and with some of my friends, we met at KNH and decided to form the organisation that later matured and made me resign to take up management seriously. The most affected people are the girls at the community level and that is why I wanted to work with lowest level providers like the mid-wives that the girls go to first before they are referred to other specialised institutions.
Was you husband supportive of the idea?
My colleagues and husband thought I was crazy and were opposed to the whole idea. My husband was so annoyed and thought that something was wrong with me and even went to an extent of even engaging a counselor assuming that I had a mental problem.
He only gave in after a series of meetings but on agreement that the relocation to Kisumu would not interfere with the studies of our children.
When did you quit your job?
In 1995 after completing my studies on Maternal Health in Uppsala Sweden to embark on community service.
How much did you use in starting the organisation?
We rolled out the programme with Sh100,000 donations that was raised from the board members.
How was the start?
I started without an office and could go to the community to educate women on topics like the hypertension, sepsis infection that is experienced during pregnancy and even unsafe abortion.
After sometime I secured an office and later employed a community health worker who was in charge of the office when I went out to the field. We loaded medicines in bicycle and occasionally by public transport to reach people in far flung areas.
What inspired you to start the organisation?
I was inspired by the indigenous local brains, a voice for the local community and with this I 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 and I was given a go ahead and that’s how Kisumu Medical and Educational Trust (Kmet) was born.
Tells us more about Kmet?
Kmet is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and has no political, religious or governmental affiliation. It is committed to serving the underserved in their communities in the spheres of Maternal Child and Family Health; Livelihoods and Nutrition; Education and quality health care financing. Kmet has 17 projects that it supports at the community level. When we started, we had a total of Sh100,000 donations from the board members and now the value of Kmet projects stand at Sh100 million and the building is also worth Sh160 million. We have 82 employees.
Do you have children?
Yes I am a mother of three and two adopted girls.
For how long did you work at the KNH?
I worked at KNH as a gynaecologist in-charge of the labour wards for 10 years where I treated several young girls with different maternal and reproductive health problems.
What is this inspiring story that you experienced while working at KNH?
One morning, a 16 year old girl came to the hospital after she had procured an abortion but the quack had damaged her uterus. By the time the girl 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 is one of the reasons I wanted to work with girls at the community level.
You have been honoured for your role in fighting for the rights of women to obtain reproductive healthcare? How is the feeling?
I have gotten several awards but I thank God it has been a calling which I will still live to honour.
You have started an initiative of giving girls in school re-usable pads? Tell us more? Where do you get the funding?
Kmet in partnership with Stanbic Bank Kenya and other organisations make and distribute Comfort reusable sanitary pads to girls to help them stay in school. According to research, girls who cannot afford sanitary products miss approximately five days of school a month during their monthly cycles and this amounts to 60 missed school days annually.
What do you think about Reproductive Health Bill?
High maternal and infant mortality rates in the country is worrying. The Bill would have given the right direction for provision of quality reproductive health care.
What drives you?
Passion for fighting for women and girls.
What do you do for fun?
I watch movies, read books and attend seminars on how to help our girls.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I started an organisation helping girls and creating employment for our young ones.