Kenya’s Jane Kubai, Theatre Assistant Recognized as a Heroine of Health at Women in Global Health Gala

by Amref Health Africa

Beyond Applause: Heroines of Health 2021

17:00 – 18:45 EAT, October 5th 2021: Jane Kubai (26) Hospital Theatre Assistant, will be recognized as a Heroine of Health at the Women in Global Health Beyond the Applause: Heroines of Health digital gala. For her exceptional efforts on the frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic, tackling fears and giving life-saving information.

At the age of 11 Jane Kubai’s father told her it was time to leave school, be circumcised (FGM) and get married. So she ran away from home and a priest helped her find a job as a maid. ‘I told him please, I want to go back to school and achieve my dream to become a doctor, so he sponsored me until I reached secondary school.’

After a few years Jane had to drop out, to get a job and support her elderly parents and siblings. Yet she never gave up her dream. Working for five years as a security guard at Consolata Hospital in Nyeri County, her empathy and intelligence shone through: ‘I know the pain of the patients and their visitors,’ she says. ‘We talk, we pray, I encourage and console them.’

Amref colleagues spotted her talents and trained her in COVID-19 prevention and management. She began to educate communities and patients on how to prevent COVID-19, tackling fears about the vaccine and giving them life-saving information.

Jane took a Basic Life Support certificate and – in her lunch break – started working on the wards. ‘But I was most interested in Theatre’ she says. ‘I wanted to care for the patients after their operations.’ With her savings she became a part-time student at Mary Lonela Consolata Medical College to pursue a Certificate in Theatre Technology.

Jane has now graduated and works at Nakuru Rongai Hospital as a Theatre Assistant. But she still aims to continue with education so that she can achieve her lifelong dream and become a surgeon. As well as the Heroines of Health, gala attendees will hear from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO Honorable Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General, UN and Lauren Moore, Vice President of Global Community Impact, Johnson & Johnson and entertainment comes in the form of a specially commissioned spoken word poem by award winning Kenyan spoken word artist Mumbi Macharia, who is known for her shining a light on harsh realities faced by women and girls across Africa.

Jane and her fellow distinguished Heroines of Health (below) will be given a platform to discuss what they want and the solutions needed to reach global health equity, end the pandemic and address the most challenging issues facing women in global health:

● Greisy Trejo Nurse and Mental Health Champion, Panama; ensuing that more across the Americas can access mental health services, especially indigenous, migrant, LGBTQ+ people, and those who are victims of violence or have suffered the most from the onslaught of isolation.
● Dr Myrna Abi Abdallah Doumit, Nurse Lebanon; led an extraordinary response to the Beirut blast in August 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up the crisis, all while continuing the fight to improve nurses’ rights and working conditions
● Neha Mankani Midwife, Pakistan; Improving access to services for women, increased confidence and technical skills of midwife graduates, and financial support for midwife-led community services, whilst also advocating for women and midwives and the issues they face during the pandemic
● Ramatu Jalloh Community Health Worker, Sierra Leone; mobilized the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa, that has so far raised nearly $USD 20 million to provide over 100 million pieces of PPE to hundreds of thousands of frontline health workers worldwide
● Dr Ruth Diriba GP, Ethiopia; leading gender mainstreaming and social inclusion work in Ethiopia, working in partnerships with the Ministry of Health to close the gender gap in digital literacy
● Dr. Vandana Gopikumar, Mental Health Champion, India; tackling the taboo of mental health and mobilizing to support vulnerable women during the COVID-19 crisis.

Read their remarkable stories in full here.

The Issue

Women health and care workers have been characterized as heroines for remaining on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic but the pandemic has shone a harsh light on the gender inequities in the health and care workforce that disadvantage women workers and at the same time, undermine health systems and global health security.

At a glance:

● Women comprise 70% of health workers but only 25% of senior roles (WHO)
● $1.5 Trillion of women’s healthcare work is unpaid. The equivalent of the GDP of Australia (UN Women)
● 18 million more health workers are needed in low- and middle-income countries (WHO)
● By 2030, there will be a global shortage of 40 million health workers (WHO)
● Many women healthcare workers are considering leaving their jobs due to harassment, low pay and low status. Recent studies found 43% of nurses in the US and 33% of nurses in the UK are considering leaving the profession.

It is time to build a new social contract for women health workers. A new report by Women In Global Health on the impact of Covid-19 on women in healthcare, out later this month (October 2021), concludes:

It has been a punishing 2 years for health workers. The last official figure on health workers deaths from Covid is 115k but the true figure may turn out to be 500k. In addition, millions of health workers may be left with long Covid and mental trauma. Deaths and long Covid will continue to rise in lower to mid income countries (LMICs) due to lack of vaccinations (double vaccination rates are less than 1% adult population in many LMICs) leaving health at high risk. Health workers are both demoralized and angry. They have been on strike in over 90 countries. In high income countries such as the UK and Australia health workers are coming under online and physical attack from anti-vaxxers and large numbers are planning to leave the – one third of nurses in the UK (Royal College of Nursing). The world cannot afford to lose one trained health worker. The COVID-19 pandemic and related health crises are far from over. A new social contract is needed now to retain women in the health workforce and attract more women to fill the millions of vacant jobs in the sector.

Women want the means – decent work, safety, dignity, fair pay and equal leadership – to do their jobs better and deliver stronger health outcomes for everyone. That new social contract will form the solid foundation for vaccinating the world, saving lives now and building back better and achieving global health security.

“We all lose, when women are not leading in equal numbers. Women are sidelined in decision-making, making our health systems weaker. The pandemic has shown us that global health security depends on women. Now, more than ever, we must celebrate the achievements and leadership of women in health to elevate the status of women leaders and call on decisive action for gender equity in global health. Women in Global Health will continue to advocate for a new, gender equal social contract for women in the health and care sector until it becomes a reality.” Dr Roopa Dhatt Women in Global Health Executive Director.

Sponsored by The Johnson & Johnson Foundation the gala is aimed at global health leaders, governments, policy makers and all women working in global health and is free to join. In addition, Women in Global Health is inviting everyone to share Historical female leaders in health using the hashtag ‘#HeroinesofHealth’


Notes to Editors

Spokespeople available to interview:

● Dr Roopa Dhatt, Women in Global Health Executive Director
● Jane Njeri Kagwiria Kubai, Theatre Assistant Kenya Heroines of Health Assets folder
● Illustration of each of the winning Heroines of Health by Nikita Abuya
● Bio and 1st person stories available
● Audio and footage of Beyond Applause, the specially commissioned piece by spoken word poet Mumbi Macharia
● Images of women working in global health

About Women in Global Health

Women in Global Health (WGH) is the largest network of women and allies working to challenge power and privilege for gender equity in health. Founded in 2015, it now includes over 50,000 supporters in over 90 countries with 25 official chapters. The global team and its network of chapters drive change by mobilizing a diverse group of emerging women health leaders, by advocating to existing global health leaders to commit to transforming their own institutions, and by holding these leaders accountable.

Women in Global Health has an MOU with WHO to work on gender equality, specifically in the health workforce and Universal Health Coverage. Visit the Women in Global Health’s Gender Equity Hub on Health and Social Care Workforce, co-chaired with WHO for more materials.

In July 2021 Women in Global Health, the Government of France, and the World Health Organization secured historic high level commitments from the Governments of USA; Pakistan; Mexico, Liberia; Guinea-Bissau; Costa Rica as well as ILO and GAVI for their Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative.

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