Mwanaidi Lokeno moved to the United States from Kenya six years ago. Her husband—also from Kenya—had gone to college at Oregon State University and wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest. “He said Washington is good because of the diversity of people,” said Lokeno.
Mwanaidi had been trained as a nurse in Kenya and got a position with Western State Hospital. She wanted to go to school to further her training and applied to University of Washington Tacoma. “When I received the letter for admission I was a bit scared,” said Lokeno. “I didn’t know if there were any people from other places or cultures. When I joined here I was really surprised. There are so many people from all over the world.”
Lokeno graduates this month with a degree in nursing. She’s planning on continuing her education at UW Tacoma in the Nursing and Healthcare Leadership graduate program. “Where I come from there’s no equality for women,” she said. “Without education I know nobody would really listen to me.”
Recently, Lokeno and her husband started a nonprofit, called Health Initiatives Mission, with the goal of eliminating female genital mutilation. Lokeno herself is a victim of this practice and she got into healthcare after witnessing her cousin die from excessive bleeding as a result of the procedure.
Lokeno—a mother of three small children—wants to go back to Kenya after getting her master’s degree. She wants to educate members of her Pokot tribe about genital mutilation and other health issues centered on women. “I want to make a difference,” she said. “I didn’t have plans to start a nonprofit when I came to the US because, you know, when you’re oppressed it’s like normal. You don’t even see that you’re being oppressed.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or email@example.com