Youth Feature: Meet Agnes Kilemba, community nurse and and education activist from Kenya
A volunteer, mentor, community nurse, peer educator and education ambassador working with communities on Kenya's margins, Agnes' passion is improving understandings of sexual reproductive health and access to health services among Kenya's rural youth.
Through her involvement in different programmes Agnes works to provide accurate health information and clarify misconceptions surrounding sexual health, in spite of challenges such as long distances and difficult working environments.
What is a community nurse, and how did you become one?
"After I finished my undergraduate (Clark International University, Uganda) I came back to Kenya, and following my internship I became licensed as a nurse. I could either practice in a private setting or start working in a community setting, like in public hospitals or in schools. But I'm a licensed, practicing nurse in Kenya.
"How I got started; after completing my internship I realised my passion is not only for offering services in a hospital or in a private setting; I am more liable to offer my services to the community and with a focus on youths."
"That's when I applied for the national volunteering programme, after the internship, and I got in. I got to volunteer with the programme, known as Greatness United. After my 7 months volunteering, in a county far away from where I live, I started engaging with youths in various schools."
At what point in that process did you realise that sexual reproductive health was something you were interested in?
"During my internship I realised that most youths that were coming to access services were either shunned or turned away. Coming from an African background, most people are judged when they are going to hospital to seek services relating to sexual reproductive health. That's when I realised that I need to put my focus on that."
"Youths would come to hospitals and talk to their fellow youths about their sexual reproductive health issues, but not to the personnel who are key there. That's when I said that it's time for me to move out to the schools and engage the students and everyone in the community so that they understand what sexual reproductive health is and what it entails, and in case they need any help they can come and seek those services."
Since the time that you have made this your focus, who have you been working with?
"When I came back to Kenya I first worked with Greatness United. The responsibilities I had was to go into rural schools in Kisumu and give them educational talks about sexual reproductive health. The topics were teenage pregnancies, abortions and sexual relationships. I also spoke about HIV/AIDS, because their is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Kisumu and that part of the country."
"After that I became a Youth Advocate at the Centre for the Study of Adolescents. We were picked and we went through training on harnessing demographic dividends within the country, and when we came back I was involved in the formation of policies, national health policies, and also adolescent sexual reproductive health policy in 2015 with the county of Mombasa so that it can be passed on to the national government."
"I just completed my volunteering with Safari Doctors in Lamu. I was there since July and I volunteered at the islands of Lamu. The focus was on matters of sexual reproductive health for youths, issues such as sex education and teenage pregnancy. Then I gave educational talks; Safari Doctors had a project where during monthly football games they would promote awareness of condom use. I was there to teach use of the male and female condom. "
"Currently I am also working with the Africa Youth Trust training youths in employability skills."
"All the organisations I work with, Safari Doctors, the Africa Youth Trust, the Centre for the Studies of Adolescents, are all organisations for which I just I applied and was chosen to go work with them. I am not employed anywhere else as a full-time nurse, but I offer my services when I see an opportunity, I apply and just go for it."