“The key to everything I do is education. Being from such a small village, education gave me wings to fly.”
– Qabale Duba
Nurse, Epidemiologist, and Founder of Qabale Duba Foundation
Qabale Duba is the first at many things. She hails from Torbi, a rural pastoralist community in Marsabit County, Northern Kenya and is the first and only one of her 18 siblings to receive a full education. As is customary in her culture, she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of 12, which she described as the “ticket” to marriage for girls in her community. She was subsequently engaged to be married at just 14 years old. These events were supposed to mark the end of her education, but with the help of her mother, Qabale fought to stay in school. She escaped child marriage and went on to become the first female college graduate in her village. Qabale says, “the key to everything I do is education. Being from such a small village, education gave me wings to fly.”
At university, Qabale studied nursing and began her advocacy for gender equality, determined to use her voice to empower other women and girls from her community. From 2013-2014, Qabale entered and won two national beauty pageants, keenly leveraging the celebrity and recognition from these wins to build an audience for her advocacy and step into leadership roles. Shortly thereafter, she founded her organization, the Qabale Duba Foundation (QDF).
QDF’s mission is to promote the development of pastoralist communities through facilitating women’s access to education, health, social services, and economic empowerment. Among their myriad programs, they operate a school in Torbi that educates children by day and adults by night. They provide underwear and menstrual hygiene supplies to girls to ensure they aren’t missing school because they lack products with which to manage their periods. QDF’s maternal health initiative trains traditional birth attendants in safe deliveries and educates pastoralist women, the majority of whom give birth at home, to consider hospital deliveries in order to reduce their risk of maternal and infant mortality as a result of birthing complications. In addition, QDF also runs a mentorship program with a team of career and life coaches that include doctors, teachers, and other community leaders who provide girls with education and career assistance. And lastly, core to their mission is fierce advocacy against some of the most prevalent forms of gender-based violence in Northern Kenya, FGM and child marriage.
Qabale’s tireless efforts to promote gender equality have resulted in many prestigious awards, including the Global Citizens’ People’s Choice Award in 2019, 100 Most Influential Africans in 2020, and the inaugural Aster Guardian Global Nursing Award in 2022. Out of 24,000 nominees around the world, Qabale was one of nine finalists for this award. Just last month (October 2022), she was also named a National Hero by Kenyan President William Ruto.
Qabale shares that her life mantra is “dare to dream.” Her dreams have created life-saving education, health, and economic empowerment programs to revitalize pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya, and have inspired countless young girls that they too can succeed in whatever they dare to dream.