March 8, 2020

Women who inspire us: International Women’s Day 2020

At CHAI, our staff is our greatest asset. Our efforts are driven by the talent, creativity, and hard work of our people. This year, for International Women’s Day, we are highlighting several of the women who work at CHAI. Their stories are pulled from the personal reflections that are shared every year in our annual reports. CHAI has challenged each of them from the start: whether to consider a new career path, to tackle seemingly insurmountable health barriers, or to overcome the many other challenges that so often accompany the work we do.

 Dr. Mobumo Kiromat
Country Director
Papua New Guinea

“My journey with CHAI began during Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) HIV and AIDS epidemic. I returned home after four years of postgraduate training abroad. By then the epidemic was in its twelfth year [but the] public health program was in its infancy. I joined the country’s only third level referral hospital as a pediatrician and was assigned to manage the children’s HIV clinic.

I had neither prior training nor experience in HIV medicine and neither did my superiors. My learning curve was steep and very sad, and I received little support. All I could do for these families was test them for HIV, wait for weeks to get their results back, and then offer them antibiotics for infection. The number of children I treated increased every year. Many of them did not survive to celebrate their first birthday.

When antiretroviral therapy (ART) became available in Papua New Guinea in February 2004, I started the first child on treatment by breaking up, measuring, and adjusting an adult dosage to make it suitable for a child.

I was introduced to CHAI in 2006, soon after the organization opened its office in PNG. It was a huge relief. After eight years of struggling, help was now available to manage the disease. Since then, ART for children has become available through Unitaid, early infant diagnosis and rapid tests have replaced months of waiting for HIV test results, and pregnant women are tested at antenatal clinics in order to prevent babies from acquiring HIV.

Being supported in my work has been an invaluable experience.

CHAI has been my bank of knowledge and experience since 2006. I joined [the organization] in 2009 [and] I continue to draw from this bank. I have joined a group of like-minded people who have become family – where urgency, humility, results, government partnership, and saving lives are our values.”

Read more of Mobumo’s reflection in the 2017 Annual Report.

Chizoba Fashanu
Deputy program director, Malaria and Essential Medicines

“I joined CHAI in 2012 at the height of insecurity in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria where I lived with my family. CHAI was one of the few organizations working the Niger Delta at the time, stepping up efforts to in response to the increasing health challenges of the region. After an insightful meeting with Dr. Owens Wiwa, CHAI’s country director in Nigeria, my mind was made up. I was convinced that a career in public health was absolutely what I wanted and where I need to be.

I have not looked back.

From my early days as a volunteer, to my current role as the Deputy Director for CHAI Nigeria’s Malaria and Essential Medicines programs, I have grown in many ways. I have left my comfort zone behind; I have confronted issues of social inequity and poverty and have heard deeply touching human stories that have shaped my current values. There have been rewarding moments with remarkable accomplishments, [and] while it is has been disheartening to see child health indicators in Nigeria worsen over the past years, I have hope that there are opportunities to do more meaningful work.”

Read more of Chizoba’s reflection in the 2018 Annual Report.

Dr. Khin San Tint
Country Director

“I joined CHAI in 2013 as an independent consultant hired to navigate the opening of the new office in Myanmar. I was born and grew up in Burma (now Myanmar). I left in 1993 to join my husband who was working as a medical officer in the homeland of Setswana, now part of South Africa.

Being part of the democratic transition of South Africa and the consciousness of equity in life made it easier to be brave to do the right things. When I had an opportunity to return home to Myanmar and work with the government, my dream came true. But it took all of my strength and humility to take the risk of going back and leaving my family.

Working for CHAI in Myanmar makes me feel that I am part of rebuilding the nation. I am driven by the knowledge that CHAI’s mission of saving lives is not only about the clinical aspect, but more about having equitable access to diagnosis and care. Even while governments spend increasingly more on health budgets each year, there often is no or slow progress on health outcomes. CHAI’s view is that most wasted health spending is due to inefficient management of health systems. That is why our work in Myanmar focuses on sustainable health systems strengthening. I am happy that I can work in a meaningful way to help my government to improve the health of our people and contribute to rebuilding our country.”

Read more of Khin’s reflection in the 2016 Annual Report.

Hilda Shakwelele
Country Director

“I was with CHAI for only a few months when I was asked to fill in for a colleague on the then Drug Access program, responsible for the procurement of HIV commodities under a grant with Unitaid. I knew nothing about antiretroviral medications and had to learn the names of the drugs overnight. I vividly remember writing the names on a flip chart which I stuck on my office wall so that I could practice their pronunciation every morning I reported for work. And the acronyms were simply out of this world!

True to the values of entrepreneurial and action-oriented staff being CHAI’s most important asset, the organization believed in me and gave me the latitude I needed to carve a new career path.

What struck me the most when I joined CHAI was the importance of working with the government to build capacity and ownership of the programs, along with the sense of urgency to save lives. As CHAI has expanded its mission, I am grateful that it believed in me to make my little contribution and continues to do so 10 years on. It has been a life fulfilling experience.”

Read more of Hilda’s reflection in the 2017 Annual Report.

Alice Kang’ethe
Chief Operating Officer

“I joined CHAI as a volunteer in February 2003. I had just graduated with a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics and returned home to Kenya. While on the job hunt, a friend of mine volunteering with CHAI from McKinsey and Company asked if I would be interested in joining CHAI’s team in Tanzania.

Within a day of joining, I was asked to plan a conference that would bring together key stakeholders in the country to present and review the draft for Tanzania’s first ever HIV/AIDS care and treatment plan. I had no office, no title, no money, no team members co-located, and only a phone and a laptop in a hotel room in Dar es Salaam.

My parents could not understand how I had taken up a volunteer position in health, having paid a lot of money for my postgraduate degree in economics.

I managed to pull together the meeting and, with the help of international experts CHAI assembled, in three months we presented the first national care and treatment plan to the president of Tanzania. It was then that I met our CEO, Ira Magaziner. I was planning on going back to Kenya, but Ira asked me to join our team in South Africa. I took up the challenge, this time with even more intensity.

Now, as the Chief Operating Officer at CHAI, I manage the CHAI matrix of country, program, and operations teams with a focus on excellence in program performance. I have had the opportunity to deliver bottom lines for corporations, but nothing compares to saving a life – especially someone who is less fortunate.”

Read more of Alice’s reflection in the 2016 Annual Report.

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