Amujae Leader Umra Omar has been at the forefront of community service in her home county of Lamu in Kenya, offering medical services to hard-to-reach rural communities through Safari Doctors – a community-based social enterprise she founded in 2015.
The EJS Center recently spoke with her about the current challenges faced by rural women and girls in the Lamu Archipelago, and how, through her work with Safari Doctors, she is responding to their most pressing needs.
Ms. Omar noted that rural women and girls are often unable to access essential healthcare services due to the cost and travel constraints associated with traditional healthcare services. Safari Doctors had to “reimagine healthcare” in order to offer primary and preventive services that would allow them to address their health issues early on and prevent emergency situations.
Asked about the repercussion of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work of Safari Doctors, Ms. Omar said that the organization was able to adapt its activities to the pandemic’s constraints and, consequently, alleviate its impact on women in Lamu:
“There was a unanimous decision to continue with the outreach activities and use them as an opportunity to around the pandemic.”
She added that their pandemic response allowed them to focus on developing their medical teams and expanding their healthcare outreach activities.
In her response to a question about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on women in Lamu, Ms. Omar highlighted the lack of public services available to them compared to those in urban areas. A rethinking of the management of public resources is needed in order to alleviate the burden of the crisis on rural women who are often the primary caregivers, she added.
Discussing the most prominent challenges that women and girls in rural areas have to grapple with, Ms. Omar said that poverty and having to be the family’s main caregivers from a very young age are undermining the prospects for many of them.
She added that women and girls living in remote rural areas must enjoy “access to education, healthcare, and financial infrastructures.”
Addressing the role of women leaders in creating positive change for rural women, Ms. Omar said that the focus should be on embedding gender in all aspects of their leadership work.
Urgent conversations need to be had among women leaders around the basic issues that define what it means to be a woman in today’s societies, she noted.
Read the full interview here.