Benda N. Kithaka - Health Advocacy Specialist & All Round Super Woman!

Benda Kithaka ́s work includes drafting the Kenya Cancer Control Strategy (2017 – 2022) and working as a Technical Advisor to Women 4 Cancer Early Detection and Treatment

That is only part of what Benda does. Her life is dedicated to erasing cervical cancer from the face of the earth.

Find out why.

What was it that made you start Women4Cancer?

We are 4 co-founders, all with a story about how cancer has affected each of us.

We wanted to make our cancer stories matter by starting an organisation that would influence others to view cancer differently, and take measures to prevent it – at least when it came to cervical cancer which we all knew was preventable.

In February 2010, my younger sister called with the devastating news she had just been diagnosed with cancer, a diagnosis made by a GP in a village hospital. With the support of my husband, we asked her to come to Nairobi for a second opinion. My gynaecologist ordered a number of tests with results indicating “suspicious cancerous cells.” He performed a minor procedure, gave my sister some pain-relieving medicines and requested she come back in June 2010 for a second pap smear. These second results came back negative.

Her experience brought out in me a desperate need to educate the public about cervical cancer and specifically help educate women to take steps to ensure early detection.

When did you start it and how long has it been?

We formed Women4Cancer in 2012, an NGO focused on cervical cancer prevention and control across the continuum of care. Our vision is actually one of a cervical cancer free Kenya. It has been over 7 years of working with dedicated volunteers addressing the stigma associated with cervical cancer.

What is it, exactly, that Women4Cancer does?

We do policy advocacy, community education, cancer screenings, help with patient navigation, and when it comes to survivors, we reintroduce them to society. We are actively engaged when it comes to creating awareness, screenings, and helping with access to treatment for women in rural areas.

You must share with us some of your success stories. And there must be a few.

  • We have reached over 45,000 Kenyans with one-on-one cancer awareness talks held at community meetings, and corporate health talks in the urban areas. We work with over 40 medical camps reaching over 7,500 women in rural Kenya with free screening for cervical breast and cancer;
  • We have at least 300 women who have either been treated for precancerous conditions of the cervix, or invasive cancers. The youngest, 21, reached through our programme, was under our care since 2018. Our oldest survivor is 78 years old, treated in 2015.

Let ́s switch and talk about you. Are there little yous and what are their ages?

I am blessed with three children – two girls and a boy. My eldest is a girl aged 19, I have a son who is 9 and my daughter just turned 7.

Is there a Mr?

I have been married for over 20 years now. But I can hardly say that it feels as long as it sounds. That's because in my marriage, just like every other aspect of my life, I like to take one day at a time.

What would you say you and your husband have taught each other in over two decades?

I can’t authoritatively speak into what my husband has learnt from me - I can tell you what I have learnt from being married for over 20 years.

  • Communication! I have learnt not to expect my partner to read my mind; if I want something done, I have to make it known.
  • Marriage is not a competition with a finishing line to be crossed, it is companionship with commonality of goals.

One last thing. You lead with the feminine, and not just how you dress, but also your energy, that inner joy, down to how you communicate. How and where did you learn to do that?

My style and character are still a work in progress. But there are a few things I know for sure.

  • Most of who I am today has been influenced by people I have interacted with and situations I have been in.
  • Being feminine is something that comes naturally to me. I love being comfortable in my own skin. I love that I am a woman!
  • I have learnt to shop and wear only that which fits, feels good, and will last long, as opposed to going for what is trending and fashionable.
  • In working with others, I am learning to be present and sensitive to others - correcting others with gentleness, empathy, and care.

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