Good words to a catchy tune will be remembered for ages.
And this is what has kept Rhumba music going even after the composers are gone.

Like Rhumba music, Winnie Barawa, Director of Washindi Africa has mastered the art of drumming messages to her target audience, messages that sink deeper into the recipient.

She has a creative way to engage the audience while disseminating vital health messages so that school children can change their hygiene practices and improve their health status.

I met her during a debate competition in Kilifi County.
It is at this point that she grabbed my attention with her unique voice and well-selected words that keep you attentive.

The audience also feels glued to her and at no time do they left out.
In an exclusive interview with the Coast Woman Magazine at the historical Uhuru garden, Barawa said her passion for community service led her to start Washindi Africa; a community-based organization in Kilifi County.

She says her aim is to help students overcome the health-related challenges that make them not to perform well in school.

As a youthful Senator, she spearheads and coordinates County level initiatives around advocacy, education, human rights, leadership, and governance in Kilifi County.

 "I started Washindi Africa in March 2015 while in my third year of university, then I used to do academic mentorship programs after my graduation in 2017, I took a key interest in health matters." She narrates.
To reach her target audience she uses drama and poetry to package health information as a creative way of communicating to empower young people on health matters.

 “I realized when we do the mentorship programs in schools, we notice that some students are not performing well in Kilifi County. Not because of academic challenges, but some are related to health issues that are depressing them and a quiet major contributor to their academic performance” she added.

‘Be better be the change’ her training and her passion positively impacts the society.

When I asked what these health challenges that these student's face? She was quick to point out that malnutrition has been one of them adding that children commonly suffer recurrent episodes of opportunistic infections.
And according to Kenya Demographic and Health Survey shows Kilifi is third in malnutrition and stunting.

Other health challenges include drug abuse and substances, teen pregnancy, infections, hygiene and sanitation, sexual and reproductive health.
Barawa is also  determined to change the narrative by empowering youth in Kilifi County  to join institutions for higher learning that will enable them to gain  skills,  to get jobs  or entrepreneur's and be independent in a manner that will empower the economic system of Kilifi.

 By empowering youth, currently working on mentorships programs in Kilifi County dubbed Kilifi County for Higher Education Programme (KCHEP) where she targets graduates and high school drop out to empower and link them back to academics so that they can join colleges, universities, and polytechnics.  

Kilifi County records the lowest academic performance according to national statistics and the situation is contributed by various factors such as the rate of poverty and early marriage. And this highlights the low rate of youth in institutions enrollments.

"We assist them in identifying courses that they are interested in. Through their interests, they communicate to us and are able to identify polytechnics offering such courses and help them enroll for the courses, and so far we had 300 youths that we have reached out a few into scholarships" she added.

But that’s not enough being naïve and determined to assist youth in Kilifi County Barawa realized the high rate of teenage pregnancy that most of the time impacts negatively to the affected individuals and family.

‘Mentor Mama’ program was born under Washindi Africa‘Mentor Mama’s program guiding teen mothers into adapting to post-pregnancy and ensure they stay in school, mentorship on family planning and education. These mothers range from 14 to 24 years old.

“Mentorship done to these mothers will help them adapt to their new status as they face challenges such as stigma and segregation and to complete their education”. She said.

Barawa, a holder of BSc, Nursing from Moi University, a registered nurse and currently lecturing at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) with the help of friends, they do community assessment and conduct medical camps in the community through a partnership with local facilities and organization by providing free health checkups. And book drive program that brings together primary schools in Kilifi to participate in reading competitions for reading culture transformation.

Through school health clubs, a platform in sharing health messages and helping them to communicate health information by creating forums with the students, therefore, provides a suitable opportunity to introduce knowledge and skills at a younger age.

“We had a session with the children’s home last month where we taught them basic life support skills and how to take care of themselves during injury and so far we have managed to come up with 12 clubs in Kilifi South in each ward.

And the strategy that she uses is; she identifies one secondary and primary in each ward.

The five wards are represented in Kilifi: Vipingo, Chasimba, Mtepeni, Mwarakaya, and Shimo La Tewa.

“We do a health assessment in each school and find the area of weakness as far as health matter is concerned. Through drama and poetry, we have discovered that most schools love drama, working closely with media houses to feature and record our artwork. 

Monitoring and evaluation has been their main part during this major mentorship programs but they have some challenges in getting sponsorship, and also some resistance from the school because they feel Washindi Africa is an organization that is financially stable but the club is basic on volunteerism.


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