In commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism, my Views on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.
Understanding health as a human right creates a legal obligation on states to ensure access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality as well as to provide for the underlying determinants of health, such as safe and potable water, sanitation, food, housing, health-related information and education, and gender equality. The WHO Constitution (1946) envisages. the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.
Stakeholders have a role to play in the matters of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The government plays a major role in ensuring all the policies are implemented for the impact to be felt. I must say several community-based organizations are on the rise on advocacy for SRHR.with the eruption of covid -19, training on youth champions advocates has been on the rise in my locality. I know change is a process. As we take steps to disseminate the knowledge and information to our community, I hope that among the 17 commitments of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) mostly tackling health, Kenya could have made steps and the impact of the implementation will be felt.
I just completed 8 weeks of training on Youth Champions on ASRH programming and their roles in enhancing access to ASRHR. The key component that I acknowledge that was missing, was the message youths often receive is majorly about the biological aspects of reproductive health and not basically about sexual rights, pleasurable experiences, and happy relationships. Often this salient information comes too late and is given after puberty or sexual activity has already started. While the Kenya National AIDS and STI Control Programme in 2020 confirmed the fact on the ground remains that women aged 20-34 are three times more likely to be infected and affected by HIV and AIDS than men, that’s where a new strategy needs to be applied. Highlighting autonomy, right to life, equality of human rights, policy, and legal framework are the key components concerning SRHR that need to be disseminated to the grassroots level in the community with a clear comprehension of what exactly it entails.
With 75% of the Kenyan population under the age of 35years according to 2019 census statistics, 24.5% are adolescents between the age of 10-19 years.in addition,90% of these adolescents use social media. As youth champions and organizations in the frontier to address sexual reproductive matters, messaging in such media has to be well packed and engaging with the right information to reach the target audience with the information they are seeking. as a matter of advance in terms of the health sector, the information shared in terms of reproductive health should be known by both sexes. Stereotypes and myths associated with reproductive health have led to the majority of particular sex being victims of their rights being violated.in Kenya for instance there is still some community that practice female genital mutilation. Being commitment 13 0n ICDP25, having a clear comprehension of the practices from the community helps on address the matter by understanding the role the acts played within the community culture and the explain the health implication the victims’ experiences. The older members in the community need to be enlightened since a majority of them are the culprits of performing the practice.
Women's menstrual hygiene is also a pandemic that hasn't received as much attention as it should. Girls have borne the brunt of this issue. The other sexes need to understand what girls miss during their periods as well as the implications and opportunities they miss. With advanced technology on various products that girls can use, from pads, menstrual cups, reusable pads, and tampons, a sustainable model has to be adapted that will ensure the availability and accessibility of the product by every girl. When it comes to creating awareness on menstrual hygiene both sexes must be involved. As much as is a biological change in girls, boys and men need to understand what is involved in the process. It’s my thought that girls should not be missing school due to responding to body biological changes. Missed classes are never compensated for these girls. Its state that discriminates against them and a concrete solution has never been fully upheld. It’s a daily challenge to a girl that ends up draining individual self-esteem and confidence. Sanitary towels to be provided free. The provision is adequate and timely. With modern advances in technology, such products should be least cheap if it has to be purchased. Most of the teenage pregnancies experienced in my locality is due to the unavailability of this precious commodity.
The majority of the girls turn to their male counterparts for that support, the option that turns out to be the nightmare that changed their lives forever. With such an unfortunate turn of events, the cycle of poverty repeats itself as most are unable to go back to school. Moreover, circumstances force some to get married as a leeway of support. The highest percentage of this relationship turns to soar domestic abuse leading to death in some cases. As per the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25), I hope that commitment 9 among all the 17 commitments, that aim to eliminate by 2030, all the forms of Gender-Based Violence including a child and forced marriage by addressing social and cultural norms that propagate the practice while providing support to women and girls who have been affected will have made visible milestones. These young adolescents, for me they are not fully developed mothers. They are being viewed as irresponsible, lack morals thus them getting pregnant is by their wish. I happened to have had a dialogue with such girls and have a clear understanding of what led to that.
The issue starts with the family. For some, being in the teenage, their parents see them as independent personas. They neglect their duty of providing basic needs and tend to consider the younger siblings. They expect you to figure out and sort yourself. In the informal settlement, for instance, economic challenges are the mother of all. Am not blaming the parents either. It’s the dissemination of information to them that they lack. Without understanding the repercussion of their actions, little will change.
The Kenya Government is committed to ensuring universal availability and security of contraceptive methods, to meet the demands of Kenyans of reproductive age in managing and attaining their desired family sizes. The survey, conducted by Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA), shows that the use of family planning services increased from 56% in 2019 to 61% in 2020 in married women and from 40% to 46% in all women, despite curfews and lockdowns. With the target of youths all the platforms disseminating the information, they need to know as to make a choice. As per the health facilities, youths tend to get unfair treatment in accessing the service as compared to married women. They also get a lot of judgment that sometimes pushes them to the chemist which sometimes their services are compromised.
Due to the Violations or lack of attention to human rights serious health consequences incur, for instance, a high mortality rate due to abortion. Overt or implicit discrimination in the delivery of health services – both within the health workforce and between health workers and service users – acts as a powerful barrier to health services, and contributes to poor quality care. Being the voice in our community, we can create an umbrella backed up by the community and push it up to the decision and policymaker to ensure SRHR implementation is enacted fully.
As a project officer for U-Tena Youth Organization, Muthoni is passionate about health advocacy. Serving the community in the informal settlements is what started it all.