During International Nurses Day in May 2022, Qabale Duba was announced as the World’s Best Nurse, making her the winner of the first-ever Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award.
From a small village in Marsabit County, the 32-year-old through her organisation, Qabale Foundation, fights harmful cultural practices like FGM and early marriages, champions women empowerment and she has a school for both the young and the old.
Are you happy and contented with your life right now?
Yes, because I have achieved most of my dreams.
I imagine that your life must have changed after bagging the First-Ever Aster Guardian Global Nursing Award in May last year. Tell us about it
My phone buzzes more than ever! The award meant so much to me as a person, to my county of Marsabit, Kenya and to the entire continent of Africa. It was a very tough competition that attracted more than 24,000 applications globally. What made me stand out was my community work through Qabale Duba Foundation of girls’/women empowerment, championing against harmful cultural practices like FGM and early marriages and the unique school that I started in my village that serves children in the morning and parents in the evening for adult learning.
In the past, I have received many awards and recognitions both locally and internationally.
Among these, there were two major awards that really changed my life. In 2019, I won Global Citizen’s Choice Award of Sh6.2 million (USD50,000) in New York.
And the Aster Guardians Global Nursing Award of Sh31 million(USD250,000) last year.
What plans you had for the money?
At the beginning of the competition, we were asked to clearly state how we would use the award money. Since I have a school in my village called Torbi Pioneer Academy, I said I would use the funds to expand it so we can have more permanent classrooms and be able to accommodate more deserving pastoralists children to get quality education.
As a reward for putting my village name on a global map on many occasions, the community gave me 18 acres of land, where I am currently finalising the construction of the entire school in Turbi, Marsabit.
You are also a former Miss Tourism Marsabit County, another first for you actually….
Yes. I won this in 2013 and won another title, Miss Tourism Kenya Peace and Investment the same year.
Interestingly, I had not modelled before, but when the opportunity came up, I gave it a try and won the county title and two national titles. Winning these titles gave me wings to fly because it was that time when I founded my organisation.
Notably, I have been a student leader throughout my education life.
What kind of a child were you?
If you ask my mother, she will tell you that I was very a talkative and friendly child. Also, hardworking. This irked the boys in my class and they would often write mean things about me on the blackboard. But with the encouragement of one of my teachers, I continued climbing my educational ladder. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, Masters of science in Field Epidemiology and will soon be travelling to Atlanta, US to further my studies.
You come from a big family of 19 siblings yet you are the only girl who made it to school. How did that happen for you?
I am from a polygamous family— my father had many wives. We are nine children from my mum, 10 from my two stepmothers and we have recently found out that we have another brother out there so we could be more than 20 siblings.
I was lucky to be the last born and being born to the family at a time when my parents had realised the importance of educating a girl.
What space does spirituality take in your life?
I am a Christian but most members of my family are Muslims. Religion is not an issue for me as far as we are all praying to one God. I believe in humanity and serving people equally no matter their background and religion.
If you were to send a message to your younger self, what would you tell her?
I would encourage her to keep working hard because there is no shortcut in life. To never forget where she came from no matter what she achieves in life.
To remember that family is the best gift; so to help in whatever ways. Also, there are many opportunities, so spread your wings to achieve all your unimaginable dreams.
What are you struggling with right now?
February 6 is International Day for Zero Tolerance for FGM. FGM is a vice that continues in some parts of the country even after multiple campaigns against it. What are we missing?
FGM and early marriages are a deep-rooted culture, especially among the pastoralists communities, so we do not expect for an abrupt change in behaviour towards it. It’s a journey and hopefully our people will understand that we better get rid of these harmful cultures.
What is more important than money in this season of your life?
Money comes and goes! Humility and treating everyone with respect is my everyday mantra. Another important thing is to always remember where I have come from and proudly associate myself with Turbi, the small village that made me a global icon.
From where do you tap your greatest strengths?
From the challenges that I faced as a child growing up. Being a nomadic pastoralist child, I was disadvantaged on many fronts. I couldn’t get access to quality education or basic necessities such as sanitary pads.
Then came the Turbi Massacre in 2005 and I lost many of my loved ones. At 12 years, I underwent FGM and narrowly escaped early forced marriage barely two years later.
Through the support of my brother who was an administration officer, Malicha Duba, I enrolled at Kenya Methodist University. While in my first year of study, he was killed in the line of duty.