Suhaila Aboud | Kenya
What do you do in your home country and what do you hope to do upon your return? In particular, with the integration of your experiences here?
I was employed by United Nations Populations fund as a Rape Specialist in the clinical management of rape. I used to belong to a global team, supporting different countries in rape management. It involves capacity building of health workers, conducting health facility assessments and mapping of health services. I've been doing that for the last two years, prior to that I used to work for Doctors Without Borders for 10 years. For MSF I used to give direct service deliveries to rape survivors. The full circle. Treatment, going to court, recording the event, testing. That's my professional work, what I do. In 2015, I founded my firm called Gender Health Africa. With Gender Health Africa I started by volunteering in my country to teach health workers how to deal with rape cases. It all started when working for MSF. People were often redirected from health facilities that were very far away or it was mismanaged so I thought that health workers needed the knowledge of how to deal with rape cases. It was difficult for me to be everywhere. I and my friend started this firm so we can provide the same services at a fee. It was also difficult to get other people to volunteer in terms of training or other health professionals. We started to approach facilities and tell them of the services we offer.
My main dream is to increase access to justice for survivors. This can be done by providing quality care. For health workers to collect forensic evidence. There is a huge gap within this. I have not yet created that network yet. I am hoping to have a connection that will help me find the kits needed, and ensuring that these kits are available to all health facilities. Right now we are only able to train in areas where people can pay for the service. I am aware that there are many other regions we still need to access. There is no one to pay for that service. The government has not included the budget for GDB. I am looking for a partner who will be able to fund these regions to provide these trainings that are really needed.
So far, I visited the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response center. I was so impressed by how highly organized the center was. The services were both police and medical, a one stop center. They can collect forensic evidence and also report to the police. So far we don't have that in my country. A lot of times it is assumed that if the police are involved then there is no autonomy as to whether the survivor wants to report or not. But here the survivor will always have the option as to whether they want to report or not. It's exciting to share experiences and knowledge with people who are in the same field as me. Because I am part of a global team, I can share it with professionals working in the countries surrounding mine. I've always wanted to do some work in prevention, I wait for things to happen and respond, all my work was always about response. I had an opportunity to meet with someone who works in inclusion and prevention. She does those kind of trainings in universities and workplaces. We shared training materials. I am excited to introduce something in the same line. Working with college students. Tomorrow I am visiting the women's organization against rape and interested in finding out the work they do and to seek out areas of collaboration.
What is your favorite thing about your home country? How about Philadelphia?
I think Kenyans are very outgoing people. They are kind. I love Kenya because my family is there. Kenyans are go-getters. They try to make things work, to find solutions, we have a lot of innovators doing different things in Kenya. Even the fellows in Kenya are really doing amazing stuff.
My favorite thing about Philadelphia is the murals. I keep saying that a lot. I looove the murals. And I love the thing behind it. They keep the history, their values, the memories, they express their culture through their murals. Today, after learning that the whole community gets involved in the murals even made it more special.
Do you have any hobbies or an interesting fact you wish to share about yourself?
Spending time with my family, and my dog.
If I were to come to your home country, what is the first thing I should eat?
In Kenya I come from the coastal region. You should eat some seafood, some pillau. Fish calamari, shrimp.