A 42 year old woman from Bomet County has been making her unique contribution to help fight the war against HIV/AIDS in her community by using a bodaboda.
Beatrice Soi, a trained public health officer, has been using her bodaboda for the last five years.
Mama Soi’s work is more specific and vital as being the HIV/AIDS coordinator Konoin sub-county she distributes condoms, an essential commodity in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, to her clients notably bodaboda operators, restaurant, tea factory workers and youth groups in the area.
She also conducts sex education talks both in primary and secondary schools, to women merry go-rounds groups and even to those handling initiates before the onset of circumcision ceremonies.
Growing up, Beatrice Soi was not afraid of riding a motorcycle and she has made it as a lifeline to make her own unique contribution in her community.
While riding her motor cycle she is able to reach her clienteles with ease on a daily basis. In a week she gives out 15 boxes of the product for free which she gets from health centres across the County.
“Majority of people are still shy about buying condoms from shops and supermarkets and sex talk is still a taboo. I give out 144 free condoms per week to my clients most of whom would not be seen anywhere close to a health centre or shop purchasing the much sought after lifesaving commodity.
There is still a lot of awkwardness and discomfort about matters touching on sex. I used to give talks on HIV/AIDS to residents I find at trading centres or even at their homes but having acquired a bodaboda motorcycle from my employer in 2016 has done much to boost my mission,” she added.
Famously known as “Mama wa boda” by her clients, Soi says she learnt how to ride a motorcycle by borrowing from bodaboda operators who would teach her how to ride until she stabilized. She has had to learn to remove skirts and dresses from her wardrobe to make riding easier and faster.
She acquired the motorbike riding skills in 2010 a skill she says she has perfected and acquired to assist her with her job having acquired a license in 2011.
Soi works from 8.30am and closes her activity at 4pm but sadly this is not the case as she can extend up to 9pm to serve her clients before going back to her house to engage in domestic chores.
The mother of three states that she is happy with her work and feels a mix of relief and pride each day she rides back home having decided to focus on making a positive difference to community lives despite wanting to pursue a career in nursing a selection she did not attain after completing her secondary school education in 1995.
Her main focus is Konoin trading centre where Mama Soi is spotted on a daily basis but extends her work in homesteads which include making home visits to those living with HIV and non-communicable diseases.
Speaking to KNA at Boito dispensary Soi narrates her numerous experiences in life before realizing that she ought to pursue her lifelong dream of helping others and making a difference in her community and leave a lasting impact.
She states that she did volunteer work for five years as a public health officer and decided to go back to her village to venture into farming which failed to work as the urge towards lifting humanity grew stronger.
“I took on a certificate course in environmental health sciences two years after completing my secondary school education the year was 1997. I did not find a job so I took up farming but this too came with challenges and I did not see myself going anywhere with it.
Inside me I had a burning desire to work for my people, to impact them positively and come 2003 an opportunity arose and I was employed, though as a volunteer, for five years in the Ministry of health in the department of health Bomet County where I worked in the department of prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
In 2013 I was employed in Bomet county and I opted to upgrade and went back to pursue a diploma at Karuri KMTC for two years. Currently I am the Constituency AIDS Control Council CACC for Konoin constituency a position I still hold to date,” recounted Soi.
The third born in a family of six, Soi acknowledges that working a job associated with men comes with numerous challenges that need a lot of discipline and principles to survive.
“I get discouraging remarks from both men and women who still think I ought to stop what I do owing to the fact that the bodaboda motor cycle is male dominated and what I do is still a taboo subject but I do not let this distract me because this is my passion,” said Soi.
When KNA visited the homestead of retired senior chief John Cheruiyot at Kapchekole village, he was full of accolades for Soi whom he said was God sent as she regularly visited him now that he was undergoing dialysis for his ailing kidneys.
“I worked for 28 years serving as a chief in this village. I retired just last year and I am grateful to God for Beatrice who comes to check on me to see how I am fairing on with my dialysis treatment which I do on a weekly basis in Nakuru County,” said Cheruiyot.
She decided to make a huge impact on promoting condom use after some of her clients succumbing to the disease for failing to take protection out of ignorance and much reluctance. She believes that availability of free condoms at public avenues could reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
“This is what I love doing every day. I believe as long as my work changes a life for better then things fall in place in their own time and you live a fulfilled life knowing you did not just stand back and watch as people suffer. We can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world. Your life is your message to the world see to it that it is inspiring,” said Soi.
Her advice to women is that they should not let anything or anyone hinder them in pursuing their dreams and bear in mind that one’s efforts and hard work always pays off in the end.
by Sarah Njagi