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A Kenyan activist campaigning against female genital mutilation has been awarded the honour of “the best nurse in the world” at a prestigious ceremony in Dubai.

Anna Qabale Duba was selected from over 24,000 nominees to win the first-ever Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award and a total of £205,000 in prize money for her work in empowering women at risk of FGM.

Upon winning the award, Anna said: “I feel extremely happy and privileged to receive this prestigious award. My heartfelt gratitude to the jury members and Aster DM Healthcare for providing me with this opportunity to tell my story.”

The 31-year-old underwent FGM when she was 12, and escaped forced marriage at 14.

She now works as a nurse in the northern county of Marsabit and runs a school in her home village to teach young women and their parents about crucial sexual health issues.

The MA Epidemiology graduate was the first woman from her village to receive university education – an opportunity supported by her late brother Malicha, a soldier, to whom she dedicated the award.

“Her contribution to the field of nursing has been remarkable”

Azad Moopen, Aster Group founder

“He used every coin he had to take me to a private Kenya Methodist University to pursue my nursing career, but unfortunately he was killed while I was just in the first semester of my study,” she wrote in a Facebook post shortly after her victory.

“I couldn’t mention him in my winning speech because I could have broken down in tears. How I wish he is alive today to see how his younger sister is making him proud.”

Aster Group founder Azad Moopen gave his “heartiest congratulations” to Anna for her historic victory.

“Her contribution to the healthcare community and to the field of nursing has been remarkable,” he said. “We truly hope that her story continues to inspire many.”

He recalled that the decision to launch the Global Nursing Award was inspired by a conversation he had with a nurse he met during the pandemic, who told him: “Nurses are like curry leaves to food. We lend the essential flavour, but have no recognition beyond that.”

Anna in her nursing uniform (Credit: Aster Guardians)

Today, however, Kenya’s resilient nursing community certainly has a reason to feel seen.

Anna returned to her home country alongside fellow Kenyan finalist and MCRH colleague Dida Jirma Bulle, who was awarded £4,000 for his efforts in fighting Ebola and improving maternal and health outcomes in the country.

“I feel great to have reached this far because, at one point, I never expected this to happen,” Dida said. “But it happened because of our commitment and the sacrifices we made in service delivery at all levels.”

“My message to nurses is this,” he continued. “Nursing is a calling, and the services we normally give as nurses are services to humanity – and that supersedes everything. So, we have to serve and be encouraged – not fatigued – because at the end of the day, we are going to make it.”

Marsabit’s Governor, Mohamud M. Ali, was among the exuberant crowds that gave both of the winners a warm welcome upon their arrival back in Kenya.

“When you are writing your story, you are the best author”

Anna Qabale Duba

“As Marsabit, we feel a deep sense of accomplishment,” the Governor said, congratulating Anna and Dida.

“These are very dedicated staff – they’ve been working under very difficult conditions and some areas are very hard to reach, yet they have always been doing what is expected of them and whatever the circumstances, they have made it possible where many people may not have dared. I want to congratulate them and Kenya as a whole.”

Further praise for Anna came from Kenya’s Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe, who commended her “hard work and fearless spirit”, and MCRH Director Liban Wako, who said: “This award means so much to young girls in Marsabit – that they too can achieve their dreams.”

Quoting the Kenyan actress and Black Panther star Lupita Nyong’o, Anna said: “No matter where we come from, our dreams are valid.”

“So when we try something, let’s really give it a try,” she continued in her own words. “When you are writing your story, you are the best author.”


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