“My childhood was quite turbulent, but it mounded me in to the current empowered woman I am.” Began our conversation…
Qabale Duba, youngest of her eight siblings; 6 girls, 3 boys, was born in Turbi, a small village along Marsabit-Moyale Highway. Coming from a humble pastoralists background, and from a community that had less regard for girl child education then, Qabale considers herself quite lucky to have successfully maneuvered through the struggles. She greatly thanks her head teacher (Turbi Primary) and her late brother who both saved her from the negotiated marriage when she was twelve; after almost over bleeding to death after undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) a year prior.
How could she have survived the merciless sharp jaws of child marriage that had engulfed all her sisters? Really, who was she to be spared? In Turbi, FGM and child marriage are normal practices, opposing them is like asking to be ousted!
After months of pulling and pushing, Qabale finally found refuge in her brothers arms. Additionally her performance in school was quite impressive! She too was an excellent class prefect in class six, an amazing deputy head girl in class seven and a tough headgirl in class eight! Her commitment and discipline made her top pupil in the entire constituency, compelling the school fraternity to join hands to put her through secondary education. She was enrolled at Moi girls Marsabit where again she emerged top among the best performing girls.
Her hard work and leadership skills in high school motivated her brother to put her through university. She joined Kenya Methodist University (KEMU) and pursued Bachelors Degree in Nursing.
Her charisma and outspoken abilities saw her win elections for Secretary General position KEMU University where she represented 5 universities. While in campus, Qabale’s passion for girl child could be noticed. She mentored and participated in Open day meetings and career talks where she majorly targeted girls. Still, she did not forget about her fellow girls back at home who were at high risk of dropping out of school due to FGM and Child Marriage. She convinced the KEMU peer club members and dean to visit her home, Marsabit, and talk to school going girls, teachers and parents. Off they went.
Still , while in university, she contested for a first ever reality show -(Expedition Challenge) that aired on NTV prime time. Among the 48 student leaders (24boys and 24 girls from 12 universities) Qabale clinched position 3 as the symbolic leader. Again, a chance to contest for beauty pageant came by, Qabale had never considered the exercise worthwhile besides her community deemed beauty pageants in bad light-‘mannerless girls’. She however went ahead and contested for Miss Tourism Marsabit 2013. She was the only contestant from North Eastern Kenya so yes she made through as Miss Marsabit and Miss confidence 2013/2014.
She vividly recalls that at that time, Marsabit was experiencing inter tribal clashes and that there was unrest alongside deaths of innocent people. Qabale can be remembered for asking for peace from her people instead of asking for votes. ‘Who would have voted for me if my people were fighting and killing each other?’She said. Well, she clinched both investment and peace titles out of six available titles spiraling her to position 2 country wide and earning the title Queen of Marsabit, biggest county in Kenya.
Growing up in the village, Qabale experienced various challenges. ‘My first menses were the most shameful day in my life’ she recalls. ‘I had to do something to help my girls.’ Using her newly acquired title, she went back to the county with her dream; to alleviate shame from young girls. In 2017, she started her program:Pads and Panties famously know as PaPa; a name that has become her street nick name in Marsabit.
Under the county department of tourism and department of education, she distributes reusable Pads and Panties to keep girls in school. To tackle the issue of FGM, Qabale works closely with the Kenya Anti–FGM Board . She has managed to invite the board to her village Turbi and her neighboring village Maikona to hold awareness and sensitization events. Under her own capacity, she moves from village to village sensitizing the community on the health, social and economic effects of the practice. Being a nurse she best knows the health effects of FGM. Additionally, she does local radio talk shows and Television interviews on effects of FGM where she reaches a large geographical region in Marsabit.
Qabale now runs her foundation called Qabale Duba Foundation. She advocates for peace, girl child empowerment , eradication of harmful traditional practices. She also mentors with Akili Dada Fellowship– a regional mentoring program.
Who would have known a village girl so innocent would end up graduating from Syracuse University in NY-through a six month Mandela Washington Fellowship Program. Who would have known her otherwise agonizing tale would be the story read out during the Presidential Summit dinner in Washington DC, as the most inspiring story of the 1000 young African leaders present” Who would have known a girl cut at 11 would be a guest speaker at the 1st African Youth Summit in Kenya, Junior Chambers International; and a guest guest speaker on the same in Cape Town, South Africa.
And guess what?!, Qabale is the only Young African Leaders Initiative, (YALI) allumni to have received a hand written letter mailed all the way from the White House by the US Former President Barack Obama to her mailbox in Marsabit congratulating her on her unending commitment to make the world a better place!
Three weeks ago, she won an award by Next Generation Women Leaders alongside 54 applicants all over the world. She was the top out of the East Africa applicants.
Qabale is a go getter, nothing stops her, nothing discourages her. She is a role model to many young girls.
During this interview, Qabale was in high spirit, high gear preparing for her wedding celebrations with the rightful person; a man of her dreams, a man of her choice , a man after her heart, a man that she is in love with and most importantly at the right time! As I publish this article, I am so happy for her and sincerely wish her the best of luck on her marriage that took place in Marsabit two weeks ago.