Vineeta Gupta (VG): What drew you to the line of work?
Rahab Mwaniki (RM): My inspiration to engage in public health was drawn from continuous volunteering at the community level since an early age in church and in college with Rotary International and Commonwealth Presidential Award Scheme for young people. While growing up in the rural areas of eastern region in Kenya, community health workers would move from home to home doing health promotion on WASH and giving polio vaccines, and I thought this was great! During this early age, I was able to see that, through health interventions in polio and WASH, communities’ lives changed and there was a positive impact in their lives.
VG: What do you like most about your job?
RM: Being an extrovert, I like interacting with people. Engaging in campaigns focused on tuberculosis and seeing that TB patients have access to health services, including proper and timely diagnostic services and treatment, makes me feel that I have achieved a milestone in my life. I get to engage with my elected leaders and share the issues affecting my communities, including influencing budget spending in areas of crucial need. I really like that my job takes me to various places, and I get to meet others in the global health advocacy community.
VG: What is the most challenging part of your job?
RM: Engaging in advocacy work and a critical decision takes too long to be acted upon. It needs patience, persistence, and self-motivation. For example, with COVID-19, the need is enormous and money is less, but we need to keep going so that the COVID response, including vaccination, is available to everybody and we can defeat this pandemic.
VG: What’s your favorite childhood memory?
RM: Playing childhood games with other children in my neighborhood with homemade balls and rubber bands. It is the game of bladder, a Kenyan game played by girls that requires dexterity, precision, and the ability to jump high.
VG: Share with us what you were like as a teenager.
RM: Experimenter. While in a chemistry laboratory in high school, I applied hydrogen peroxide on my hair for a [bleached look], and my mother was not amused by that. Somebody said you can dye your hair, so I put hydrogen peroxide on a patch of my hair, which turned a patch of hair brown in the middle of the back of my hair.
VG: What do you like to do for fun?
RM: Travelling, if time and finances allow, and while at home, walking around the farm to sit down under the trees to listen to the birds humming. My farm is 5 acres and slopes down to a river. We have grown a few trees. We have some wild animals — Columbian monks and bats. What is so interesting is that the bats come to peck on the window every morning. That is how I wake up every morning at 6am.
VG: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
RM: Supergirl of the [Marvel] movie series.