Benda Kithaka, founder Kilele Health Organisation awarded for efforts in cancer advocacy

Benda Kithaka, the Founder and Executive Director of Kilele Health Association, has been honoured with the 2024 Rachel Pearline Award.

The US National Cancer Institute Centre for Global Health, recognized her contributions in leading cancer control and prevention initiatives at Kilele Health Association.

“We are pleased to announce the Rachel Pearline Award Winner 2024, Benda N. Kithaka! Benda is a health advocate and communications specialist dedicated to cancer control and education using innovative and collaborative methods. She embodies the virtue of a Pearline Awardee as a champion for positive change to address barriers in access to cancer care,” announced the National Cancer Institute Centre for Global Health in a Statement.

The Rachel Pearline Award, annually recognizes one outstanding professional who excels in cancer research, practice, and training in a low- and middle-income country (LMIC) setting.

Kithaka will join the ranks of a select few, as she becomes the eighth individual and second Kenyan, following in the footsteps of Fredrick Chite, to receive the award.

Kithaka took to her social media to celebrate the award.

“Humbling to have this recognition. I dedicate it in honour of all women that we serve, & accept it on behalf of my team who are with me in the trenches advocating for cervical cancer elimination in Africa,” commented Kithaka on her X (formerly Twitter).

Her Kilele initiative centres on enhancing survivorship and improving quality of life, which serves as a crucial aspect of advocating for the prevention and management of cancer. Through the Kilele Challenge, the group hosts an annual empowerment summit for cancer survivors that involves climbing Mt. Kenya to signify that there is indeed life beyond cancer.

In addition to being the Kilele founder, Kithaka also serves on different global, regional, and local Technical Working Groups in an advocacy advisory capacity.

These groups include the UICC Cancer Advocates Program and the Africa Cancer Research and Control (ECHO) Steering Committee, among others.

Her advocacy efforts have earned her several other awards, such as the 2019 International Gynecologic Cancer Society (IGCS) Distinguished Advocacy Award, the 2018 AACE Selma Morris Travel Award for Outstanding Advocacy, and the 2016 Cancer Ambassador of the Year in Kenya.

The Pearline Award honours Dr. Rachel Pearline, a revered oncology after her passing in November 2015, from gastric cancer.

And as part of the recognition, Kithaka is expected to give a keynote address at the Award Ceremony on Thursday, May 9.

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