In Mombasa County, Kenya, the Sisi Kwa Sisi program supports local governments to scale up high-impact best practices in family planning. The innovative peer-to-peer learning strategy uses counterpart coaching and mentoring to impart workplace knowledge and skill.
Shali Mwanyumba is a health care provider trained to mentor her peers in Health Systems Management in Mombasa County, Eastern Province, Kenya. She is also a Sisi Kwa Sisi coach for The Challenge Initiative. The program supports local governments in Kenya to rapidly scale up sustainable high-impact best practices in family planning and adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health (AYSRH). “Sisi Kwa Sisi” is a Swahili term that, loosely translated, means “from us by us.”
Sisi Kwa Sisi coaching is an innovative peer-to-peer learning strategy. It uses counterpart coaching and mentoring to impart workplace knowledge and skills to meet a given objective. Trained city-level health care providers mentor peers to implement a particular best practice. Various studies show that most people learn better when they relate to their instructor. This makes the transfer of knowledge more effective.
The process is structured so that the coachee observes the coach as they implement an intervention over a period of time. The coach then observes the coachee as they take up the task, only stepping in to assist when necessary. This is followed by supportive supervision until the coachee gains confidence to independently perform a given task.
As a Sisi Kwa Sisi coach, Mwanyumba regularly meets with her peers to coach and mentor them in family planning best practices.
“Having a suitable, accessible, and qualified human resource that meets the health care needs of the people in the county has been at the forefront of our health care provision strategy,” Mwanyumba shares.
According to the county’s Second Health Strategic and Investment Plan, Mombasa County continues to experience a shortage of health workers, hindering the delivery of health care at all levels. The plan supports the implementation of innovative ways to establish human resource practices. This will ensure that the county adopts a high-impact model that will maximize the capacity of available health care providers.
Mwanyumba recalls that when the county expressed interest in working with The Challenge Initiative (TCI) to strengthen their family planning programs, one of the gaps was the inadequate ability of health care providers to provide quality services.
“Sisi Kwa Sisi coaching has made it easier for us to coach our peers and build on the existing capacity of the health care workforce. The good thing is that the coaches are volunteers,” explains Mwanyumba.
Mwanyumba attributes her enthusiasm for coaching to the flexible nature of coaching sessions. This allows health care providers to learn and gain new skills without leaving their jobs. She adds that these sessions are tailored to the coach’s level of competency in the subject matter.
“Learning by practicing what is taught increases our knowledge and builds our confidence in providing services to our clients,” says Mwanyumba. “We continually coach health care providers so that there are more service providers offering quality services at our facilities. And not just in family planning, but our coaching approach has also been adapted to other health care areas such as immunization.”
Rose Muli, the facility in charge of Mwembe Tayari Dispensary in Mombasa, says that the successes of Sisi Kwa Sisi coaching were adapted to their immunization and HIV programs.
As a result of these TCI interventions, Mombasa County has allocated part of its adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health budget to build health care providers’ capacity to offer youth-friendly services.
“Since the county’s health budget is increasing, we can only hope that more monies will go into supporting innovations that strengthen the capacity of health care providers,” remarked Mwanyumba.