Violet Mathenge with colleagues, coordinating distribution of COVID-19 rapid response kits.

Volunteering as an African Woman Health Champion in Botswana

My name is Violet Mathenge. I am a medical doctor and epidemiologist, with more than seven years of experience in the clinical field, as well as in disease surveillance. I am a Kenyan national, currently serving as a UN Volunteer Surveillance and Emergency Risk Management Officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Botswana.

I joined WHO Botswana through the WHO/UNV Africa Women Health Champions programme.Under the leadership of WHO's country representative and with guidance from my supervisor, I have been providing technical support in different areas of country health emergency preparedness and response. This includes developing requisite plans, supporting risk assessments and critical core capacities for health emergencies.

I also provide technical assistance at country level on priority issues such as emergency preparedness, surveillance and response, operational readiness and essential public health functions. I support WHO’s efforts to enhance the government’s adherence to international health regulations. My day-to-day work involves working closely with WHO health emergencies and regional teams and government partners.  


Violet Mathenge at work at the WHO office in Botswana. ©UNV, 2021

Given my current role, I have been heavily involved in COVID-19 response efforts in the country. One of my greatest achievements has been strengthening data infrastructure and capacities for Botswana’s health sector. Information generated has been useful in informing response activities, such as guiding targeted case management and vaccination, particularly in the context of COVID-19 response. Health surveillance forms a key aspect of any response, and data forms a big piece of the pie. 

Health surveillance forms a key aspect of any response, and data forms a big piece of the pie. --UN Volunteer Violet Mathenge

I have consistently received excellent feedback and support from my colleagues, my supervisor and the WHO Representative in Botswana. This has really motivated me to put my best foot forward, to dream big and, as the WHO Botswana Representative often likes to say, 'to fly'. 


Violet Mathenge at the WHO office in Botswana. ©UNV, 2021

One of my greatest challenges in my work was travelling from a very familiar environment in my home country to a new environment. I had to take time to understand the health systems and quickly adapt to the local culture to facilitate my work and support the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Through my work here, I have learnt a lot about being persistent and patient.  

Serving as a female UN Volunteer and a health professional has been a very uniquely rewarding experience. It has has given me a lot of satisfaction and pushed me to want to be better. My greatest satisfaction comes from seeing the impact of my service and contribution to the society. To me, volunteerism means giving up my time, knowledge, energy and heart for the greater good. In giving my service, I have had a truly rewarding experience. 



*The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launched a new initiative in 2020: the Africa Women Health Champions. The partnership seeks to recruit 100 women to support WHO in improving people’s health and wellbeing in the region, while also promoting gender equality on the continent. Read more here.