Grace Ikirimat, Hawa Abdillahi, and Elizabeth Imbo: Advocating for Family Planning

Sarah McKee

Project Associate

Hawa Abdillahi, Grace Odeke, and Elizabeth Imbo at the Learning Collaborative Forum. (Photo: MSH Staff)

This blog is the second in a series featuring the stories of the mentors and mentees in the East Africa Women’s Mentoring Network. An online network, the East Africa Women's Mentoring Network provides emerging women leaders in East Africa with access to experienced mentors for active support in professional and personal development related to family planning and reproductive health. The Mentoring Network's results will be presented next month at the International Conference on Family Planning. Leading up the conference, this blog series will share one mentor/mentee pair’s story each week. This week features mentor Grace Odeke of Uganda, and her two mentees Hawa Abdillahi of Kenya and Elizabeth Imbo of Kenya.

Grace Ikirimat mentors two young women in the East Africa Women’s Mentoring Network. With more than 15 years of experience in the population and reproductive health field with a focus on advocacy, Grace believes that “reproductive health issues are mainly affecting women, so having women in leadership positions will go a long way in having policy change to address the existing problems and making governments understand and address these pressing issues.”

One of Grace’s mentees is Hawa Abdillahi, who joined the mentoring network because, “I feel that there is always some information out there that I can learn from. I want to improve on my advocacy skills and service delivery. I wish to learn more on how to be an effective leader, it is continuous, but I want to keep on improving myself.” 

Grace has helped Hawa learn new skills in reproductive health advocacy and policy. Hawa is also assessing her leadership style with the help of Grace to increase her skills in leadership development and team management.

Elizabeth Imbo is the second mentee that Grace is working with in the network. Elizabeth, recently promoted at work, wanted to learn more about leadership skills and how she can be “the manager and not the colleague.”

At the beginning, Elizabeth was not sure of the impact that this mentorship could have on her. “When we started our sessions, I asked myself ‘How is this going to work? What am I going to show for it in the end?’ But I realized that the nature of the mentoring is not necessarily like a project where you have some tangible output at the end. I knew that my skills were going to be sharpened in a way that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.”

Elizabeth worked with Grace on reproductive health advocacy. “My objective was to gain skills in advocacy. I am doing my thesis in maternal and child health and this [mentorship] opened my eyes to other reproductive health issues. I want to be able to go out to the communities where I work and ensure that they do proper sensitization and create awareness in reproductive health,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth has made progress in her goals with the guidance of Grace. “I work with a Faith Action Group outside of my job and once a month, we have a discussion for women living with HIV and family planning knowledge is very vital to these discussions. There are so many myths about family planning, such as linking family planning to cancer, but family planning is so important to them living healthy lives and ensuring HIV-free babies. It is vital to integrate family planning into HIV knowledge sharing and services. We have forums where we discuss these fears and learn more about available family planning choices. Grace helps me with her knowledge of family planning and reproductive health and links me with materials to help inform these meetings.”