Fredah Khavai Shibonje chose to become a midwife after witnessing the death of her aunt during labour. After completing her training at Pumwani Maternity Hospital in 1958, she worked at the hospital for two years before transferring to The Aga Khan Hospital Nairobi before pursuing further studies in the UK. On returning to Kenya, she was posted to the then King George hospital (now known as Kenyatta National Hospital) but preferred to work in more rural areas with limited resources where she felt her services would add more value. She was posted to Kakamega Provincial General Hospital which only had one qualified registered midwife. Between 1970 and 1982, Shibonje was in charge of the maternity unit where she coached and mentored future nurses, midwives, and clinicians, and was particularly instrumental in training other nurses to care for post-cesarean section patients, a role which was previously carried out by surgeons. During her eight years as Matron/Nurse in charge of maternal child health and family planning, she initiated school health programmes that promoted immunizations in schools, screening of child illnesses treating, referrals, and promotion of hygiene and sanitation. An advocate of preconception care, in 1983, she became the lead trainer and coordinator for family planning services across the entire western province of Kenya under the Family Planning Association of Kenya. In 1990, Mrs. Shibonje was appointed by WHO as coordinator and trainer for HIV/AIDS prevention, health promotion, treatment, and rehabilitation for the same region. During this time, she played a key role in establishing HIV/AIDs stakeholder forums in Western and continues to fight HIV stigma today.
No woman should die while bringing forth life.
Together with her husband, the late Meshack Shibonje, she founded and donated land to Ikonyero Friends Church and founded Shibonje Community School for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, now known as Emasera orphan Community School, and where Shibonje continues to play a role as an elder, committee member and adviser on health and development matters. Today, she leads various groups for both male and female champions’ involvement in maternal, neonatal, child, and adolescent health and nutrition. She lends governance, management, leadership, and resource mobilization support to groups including Linda Afya ya Mama na Mtoto, Ejinja Obulala women group, Shitungu men’s group, and Nyumbani self-help group. She holds weekly health education sessions at her home to sensitize community members on a wide range of health issues, and recently joined a team of young nurses to establish the Community Family Workplace Health and Nutrition Foundation (CHANF). Her three daughters have followed in her footsteps and are also nurses.