Wanjiru Kihusa is a maternal and newborn health champion. She is the founder and CEO of Still A Mum – an organization that supports parents who have gone through child loss. She is a huge believer in using social media for social change and as such she runs child loss awareness campaigns on radio, TV and social media platforms. She has a Master’s degree in Communication and PR and a Bachelor’s degree in IT.
- Describe the business – What do you do and where are you based?
Still A Mum is a non-profit whose vision is to create an Africa with lower child deaths and a society where bereaved parents receive outstanding support. We are based in Nairobi but we have supported parents from all over Kenya and even other countries such as Cameroon, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria.
Our work therefore involves:
- Providing psychosocial support to moms and das who have gone through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death
- Reducing maternal and new-born deaths through our Mama Zawadi Initiative. We bring together pregnant women and their partners and teach them on health pregnancy practices, safe delivery and new-born care.
- Creating awareness on child loss. There are a lot of myths surrounding the death of a baby and we are hear to provide factual information as well as teach society how to support bereaved parents.
- Marking the Pregnancy & Infant Loss Week every year.
- Hospital partnerships – we are currently partnering with Kijabe hospital and Nairobi hospital to: Provide follow up counseling to parents after discharge, run in-house support groups, train counselors on grief and bereavement associated with child loss and Respectful Bereavement Care Training – how to treat parents immediately after a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death.
How did the business get started?
I started Still A Mum after losing my daughter in 2013. At the time, I was a client service manager in an IT firm. After the loss, I came face to face with the gaps that existed in the area of new-born death.
People did not know how to be there for me. Relatives spread rumors as to what must have caused the pregnancy to end. Counsellors knew in theory how to handle a bereaved person but none I encountered had walked with someone after the loss of a baby. So I went online and did a lot of research on organizations that did what I wanted to do. I saw some areas I could borrow ideas from but a lot of things I started from scratch.
Is there a set of skills you need to run a business like this? Which ones do you have?
Yes. Running a non-profit requires a lot of heart and passion. You need to desperately want to fix a problem in society, otherwise you will give up almost immediately. You also need great managerial skills – and not what we talk about in school per se. You need to know how to hire, how to develop a good organization culture. I have had to go back to school and also take online courses to learn these skills.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced? Lessons learned?
The first challenge was burn out. I realized I was running the organization by myself and so I have now put a team together so I delegate more. I also have board members which has enriched our work greatly.
Our organization still faces a few challenges:
- Funding – we have not received any grants yet. We have encountered stringent requirements for grants such as you should have 3 years audited accounts among other things. We hare laying the foundations – for instance we have a bank account, paybill number, we have done our first year KRA returns and looking forward to our 1st year of audited accounts. I am also looking into more sustainable options for Still A Mum.
- Perception on counseling and therapy in Africa – people still see counseling as a thing rich people do.
- Reaching men – macho man syndrome. A lot of dads are grieving but they don’t think they need any help. We are exploring ways to engage the men.
What has been your proudest moment/achievement so far?
- I won the World Summit Youth Award in 2016 for my work with SDG 3 (health and well-being)
- Still A Mum has been nominated twice for BAKE Awards (2016 and 2017). In 2017 we were nominated in two categories – Women Empowerment and Blog of the Year.
- We recently hit the 1,000 mark! This means we have supported 1,000 moms and dads who have gone through child loss. This is a huge milestone for me.
- Our Mama Zawadi initiative has had 90 healthy babies born to it.
- We are the only African organization that is a member of the International Stillbirth Alliance.
Where would you like to see the business go over the next 3 years?
We recently did our 2018 -2022 strategic plan and our commitment for 2022 are:
- Reduce child loss cases in Kenya by at least 20%.
- Have at least 2 medical professionals per facility trained in Respectful Bereavement Care (RBC) in at least 5 countries in Africa.
- Mark Pregnancy and Infant Loss Week (Oct 9th-15th) every year in Kenya.
- Collaborate with health facilities to establish psychosocial support centers for bereaved parents in at least 5 countries in Africa.
- Empower pregnant women and their partners on healthy pregnancy practices in at least 10 counties in Kenya.
- Influence policy pertaining to how bereaved parents are treated in Kenya.
- Raise awareness of the issues surrounding child loss and reduce the taboo associated with it.
7. What advice would you give anyone looking to take the leap into running their own business?
Running an organization of any kind is hard. Go in prepared. Don’t over romanticize entrepreneurship.
Specifically, on running a non-profit – treat it the way you would a for-profit business. Too much heart with no head is not good for growth. So, put a board together, write a business plan, set down organization policies and definitely figure out a sustainability model Thiis last part is where I am at.
What would you do with a capital injection of Ksh 5,000,000?
My first priority would be training medical staff on respectful bereavement care. I would also strengthen our psychosocial support operations.
Most non-profits spend the capital (donations, grants) but I would get a fund manager and invest the money then spend the interest on the above projects. I don’t want to fundraise forever.
To get in touch with Wanjiru or to get more information on Still A Mum, see their contacts and social media accounts below.
Physical Address: 4th Floor, Room 435 Agip House, Haile Selassie Avenue Nairobi.
Website: Still A Mum
Facebook: Still A Mum