May | 2015 |

Monthly Archives: May 2015

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Step Up Public Participation in Budget Making Process

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

The budget making process has for a long time been thought to be a technical process of numbers where only technocrats and numbers guru could be part of. Indeed, in the former dispensation, the first time Kenyans came into contact with the budgets was when the Finance Minister, in a nice suit complete with a boutonnière, stepped into parliament and read it. And even then majority of Kenyans did not understand still what the numbers meant. A financial analyst had to explain what the budget meant for the farmer and for the price of milk, who were the biggest losers and gainers.

However, the promulgation of the new constitution and the onset of devolution provided unprecedented opportunity for Kenyans to interrogate the budgets before they are passed, make meaningful recommendations and participate in accountability mechanisms.

However three budget cycles later, public participation in budget making processes is still bogged down by limited public interest, disillusionment and deliberate hurdles by the executive despite legal provisions. Whereas the excuse in the previous cycles has been on weak systems and structures to ensure meaningful public participation, the narrative cannot stand now.

County governments must open their doors for the public to interrogate their plans, and not merely to be seen but with the genuine desire to collect their ideas and integrate them into their development plans. Whereas not all ideas are feasible and practical, county governments must explain their criteria for accepting or rejecting submissions that have been made.

In the proposed budgets for the next financial year, counties have planned to spend heavily on administration especially in the governor’s office and travels as opposed to development.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But In line with program based budgeting, a requirement of the Public Finance Management Act 2012, there should be a story behind the numbers. Like why for example the county feel that it is prudent to spend more on an office more than it spends on people. It should be clear to any Kenyan who doesn’t have much knowledge on the budgets the rationale behind reducing the budgetary allocation to a sector while increasing allocation to another sector.

But most urgently, we need to prevent the ailing healthcare system, a key devolved function of the county governments, from crumbling down right on our watch. That the cancer had already gotten into the sector before devolution isn’t in doubt. However, counties cannot afford to do nothing as the malady spread furiously.

One key area of concern is preventive and promotive medicine. A quick analysis of most county budgets reveal that most have not allocated significant resources into youth and adolescent health, reproductive health, community health systems, family planning among other essential services preferring to wait for water from the donor’s taps.

If we are to harness demographic dividend and realize Vision 2030, we cannot afford to neglect this key population that is critical to making this happen. Family Planning, for example, is a program that must be adequately funded. Before devolution, the national government had a deliberate budget line for family planning. However, after devolution, this budget line was dropped by most counties despite bold evidence of its usefulness.

A study by National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and Population Reference Bureau (2012) estimates that by investing 5.3 billion Kenya Shillings on contraception, The government will be able to save 8.6 billion Shillings on education, 5.6 billion Kenya Shillings on maternal health, 2.8 billion in immunization, 2.7 billion shillings on water and sanitation and 600 million shillings on malaria. This translates to a saving of 20.3 billion shillings by 2015, much more than the initial investment.

But most importantly, this discussion on budgets and prioritization must be taken at mama mboga’s doorstep including with budgetary allocation for civic education and public trainings on the budget making process.

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This Article was Published in The Standard Newspaper, 26th May 2015

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Counties Need To Engage More with the Public Through Information Sharing

By Vincent Ogaya,  (@OgayaOgaya)

The recently released survey by the International Budget Partnership on how much information on their budgets counties avail online could not have come at a better time. It is a call to the devolved units to exploit the ICT revolution to connect with their citizens especially the youth who have embraced the new revolution with vigour.

As rightly suggested by the IBP, if such information is not available on the counties’ websites, chances are they may not be available elsewhere. Indeed the public has always complained that counties are doing little, if any, in terms of availing information and engaging them especially on financial matters. In the last financial year for instance, a county had different sets of Proposed Estimates for the year thereby creating confusion that was worsened by the fact that very few people had access to the final Approved Estimates.

Forging partnership with the public on financial matters is not a favour, rather it is a requirement that is anchored in law with numerous benefits both to the citizens and their leaders. Many will agree that even with responsible fiscal policies, lack of public input in their preparation is likely to make the public skeptical about them. Citizens therefore need to feel connected to their governments and this can only happen when those governments become open to the public’s input and participation.

The Kenyan constitution came with a promise of freedom of access to information held by the state and public participation on financial matters. Subsequent legislations have even done better to entrench this by outlining the criteria on how to go about it.

The County Governments Act, 2012 in Article 187 sets out the principles upon which citizen participation at the county level shall be based on among them “timely access to information, data, documents and other information relevant or related to policy formulation and implementation.”

The Public Finance Management Act creates in each county a Budget and Economic Forum whose responsibility is to provide a means for consultation between county governments and the public on all matters of economic and financial management at the counties including budgeting. These are non-existent in most counties and even where they do, they are ineffectual.

Leaders may view full public participation as a Pandora’s Box that is potentially full of popular and unrealistic expectations. That is why they do everything possible to ensure limited access to information by the public hence limited involvement. There have been complaints in the counties that where public participation is called for, short notices are normally given and in limited media such that the information doesn’t reach everyone.

A county once put a notice in a local daily in requiring members of the public to attend sector hearings on its budget process. The notice put on a Wednesday required citizens to attend submissions beginning Thursday of the same week and ending on Tuesday of the following week.

In other instances, public forums are normally rushed, with county leaders arriving late and giving the excuse of limited time. They then rush through the bulky documents thereby leaving the public much more at sea. Such superficially designed methods of engaging the public only increases cynicism and does little to elicit public enthusiasm in attending them.

As was rightly put by the Commission on Revenue Allocation in its guidelines on public participation through the County Budget and Economic Forums, any document availed to the public should be a version that is simplified and friendly, and if possible also be in Swahili and local languages. They should also be made widely available to the public. The Commission also advised that public consultations should be made known two weeks in advance and a calendar of events be availed always at the beginning of every financial year.

It would therefore be in the interest of the public if county governments informed and educated people on their rights under the constitution; budget dates and timelines; and opportunities for public participation as enshrined in the laws. Quarterly implementation reports must be availed in the widest means possible for follow up and engagement at each step of the budgetary cycle.

To also encourage and build confidence on participation, citizens should be informed of the criteria for accepting some proposals and rejecting others as submitted in the public hearings. The public needs to be assured, both in words and deeds, that their input is important even if not incorporated.

It is the therefore the onus of the county governments to tune attitudes and mindsets of the public to the budget making process through proper sensitisation and engagement. Only then will citizens have interest in general county affairs. Otherwise the blame game will always continue with leaders being viewed as greedy and enjoying luxuriously at the expense of wananchi even when they do not.

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Family Planning Use-Who Decides?

By Praxides Mavale

For the longest time, the debate on whether and when to use family planning has gone on; never reaching its natural conclusion.

“What is worse, telling him to wait or telling him you are late?”

Traditionally, women have borne the brunt of chauvinistic male dominated societies. This has manifested itself clearly in the social and economic circles.

The thought of family planning as a women’s agenda, is one way this has been clearly shown.

Why should it be that women are the ones who should be concerned about family planning?

Why not men too? Aren’t they part of the act?

Take for instance the overuse the hazardous emergency pills? Why should the woman be the one to suffer because he didn’t feel like using a condom?

We need to keep our partners healthy and uninfected, be concerned about your partner’s sexual lives!

As we approach the POST 2015 Agenda, young people need to make informed decisions in getting to zero HIV infections.

As young people we can play a bigger role in making this happen.

When young people make a healthy transition from adolescence into adulthood, options expand for the future.

However, for us to fully realize the fruits of demographic dividend, we cannot task just one gender with such key responsibilities as family planning.

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Life Is Sometimes All about Choices

By Mike Okunson

For every action force applied there is always a reaction force as the outcome, that’s what scientist have long held on to.

Social scientists have on other hand said that for every choice that we make there will always be consequences for the choices you have made.

These choices could either be negative or positive. So here is my message and advice to the youths, please let us make good choices and not bad choices on matters to do with reproductive health that we will never ever regret in life.

For example if you make a choice of having unprotected sex with your partner then the consequences for this action or choice you have made could be great.

To begin with you risk getting infected with HIV virus and other sexual transmitted diseases which could make your life here on earth to be very miserable. Secondly you risk getting unwanted and unplanned pregnancies which could make you drop out of school and make you a laughing stock in the village. These are the kind of bad choices we the youth make and end up regretting for the rest of our lives.

This has to stop.

It will not cost you a single penny to make a good and right choice in your life, in fact you benefit living a healthier and stress free life. On the other hand, it will cost you a lot if you make a bad choice in your life it could even cost you your life. So whoever has ears please!

Please! Please! Please! Listen. For you to heave a better future, you have to make good and better choices now on matters to do with reproductive health.


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The Youth Gospel

Category : Naya Blog

By Robert Aseda

Every Saturdays the sacred pews at Ongon’ga Seventh Day Adventist Church pays homage to men and women waiting to quench their thirst from the water of life.

But today, thanks to Elder Joel Otieno, the church has opened its doors for NAYA Youth Advocates to spread the reproductive health gospel.

The congregation isn’t just the regular faithfuls of the church. Muslim women covering their head in hijabs are here. So are village elders. So are young people. So are the elderly. Each with a story to tell. Each seeking a lasting solution to the epidemic facing young people.

One of them is Mama Priscah Ranga. She prefers though to be called Mrs Obongo. Thing is, Mama Prisca isn’t somebody you would meet in your typical forum.

She can’t really remember the year she was born but going by the seasons and her life story she is about eighty year old.

Asked why she attended the forum despite her advanced age and obvious trouble with mobility, she says she wants to learn how to help her community and the young people who continue to post poor reproductive health indicators.

At her age she has known real sorrow. She has buried sons and daughters due to the HIV scourge in Homa Bay County which stands in the top counties in Kenya HIV List.

Her feeble hands have had to work harder to provide for her early orphaned granddaughters who have known no parent but her.

“I may not be sexually active anymore but I can’t be at peace when my grandchild’s child is at risk of these things”

According to Priscah, the society is not as it was when she was a young girl getting into adolescence.

Priscah says she was lucky to live in a time when the society provided sexual and reproductive health information to their children.

‘My grandmother taught us everything we needed to know…..why it’s important to delay sexual debut till marriage…..the consequences of unprotected sex…..how to protect ourselves“

She blames rural-urban migration and disruption of the society chain as the reasons for the explosion of early sexual debut, teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortion among other reproductive health issues.

But this problems will not go away when the young and the old can’t talk freely about what they need to be talking about. Mama Priscah knows that. And she’s not waiting for anybody. She will start it herself.

James Otieno is in the forum as well. He likes to refer to himself as oke kadero meaning his mother is from Kadero.

He too knows only too well what communication breakdown can do.

Today he came to the forum carrying Anyango, his granddaughter, a living reminder of his daughter’s sexual activities.

“Look at me,’ he asks the crowd, “Do you think I am old enough to be a grandfather?”

“I saw the madness of all these girls. I thought my daughter was different. She couldn’t possibly be having sex! I mean, she was still my little girl.

“So you can imagine how surprised I was when her stomach started swelling.”

“Surely, she couldn’t be pregnant…………….but she was……..”

“Maybe I should have talked to her……….be more open……….listened more.”

Elder Joel on his part though feels religion has an important role to play.

He tells us that his church, the Seventh Day Adventist organizes age-appropriate life, relationships and sexuality education to help their young people.

“During camp meetings, we put children in a group, youths in a different group and the married brethren in another to spark honest conversations.

We cannot hide our heads in the sand that these things are not happening, yet the evidence is just overwhelming, sometimes even at the very door of the church”

Elder Joel insists that a church that continues to close their eyes in the belief that the danger will go away by itself has no moral authority in this modern world.

“As a father, I am open with my kids at home. I know if I don’t provide the right information then they’ll fall to all those misinformation and half-truths out there. ”

“My daughter knows she can ask me about sanitary towels and I will not cringe”

He quotes Proverbs 22:6 which insists on parental training,

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

But Elder Joel wasn’t the only church leader with a message.

Faraji Hamisi is a local leader at the Ongong’a Mosque.

Even though his religion doesn’t approve of use of modern methods of family planning, he feels that there’s more that religion can do to facilitate provision of appropriate sexuality education.

But Mama Priscah, Elder Joel and Faraji aren’t the only ones willing to go the extra mile in this community. Many stand with them.

NAYA remains grateful to all champions who continue to stand out in their communities and make their world a better place.

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What We Ask of our Community

By Michael Okun Oliech, Youth Advocate, Kisumu County

We belong to a community. We are an integral part of our community. As young people living in our communities, we have a prayer. We have a wish. We have a request.

The community has a major role to play in making sure that reproductive health services are being accessed by youths in the community. This can be done through various ways discussed below.

The community can support the youths by encouraging the youths to go and access the reproductive health services without fear of being mocked or despised by the community members. This will help a lot in the development of young people in the community.

The community also can champion for the creation of youth friendly services in the community which will give the youth easy and ample time to access these services with much confidentiality and without hesitation.

The community can also influence the budget making process and ensure that more funds are set aside for reproductive health services in the community to help the youths, mothers, and children in the community to achieve the highest standard of health care services.

The community also need to abolish these myths that they spread about reproductive health services such as contraceptives and their negative ideology about contraceptives. Instead they should educate young people on the importance of contraceptives and family planning. This will help a lot in the creating of awareness among the youths.

The community through its smallest organ which is the family should be open to the young people and be ready to listen to them when they have issues on reproductive health and should be willing to help them solve their problems.

The community also needs to monitor the youth activities in the community and where they go wrong or when they see them about to make a mistake on reproductive health matters they should come in and correct them and put them in track. They should not neglect the youths when they do wrong.

It is well said that prevention is better than cure so let’s not sit back and wait for situation to worsen then we start to act. Let us act now and ensure that reproductive health services are being accessed by the young people in the society.

A healthy nation is a rich nation.         

 

Follow Mike on twitter @MikeOkunson

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SAVE SEX OR SAFE SEX??

Category : Naya Blog

BY MACKICHE VICTOR, Youth Advocate, Homa Bay County

Early sexual debut has been taunted as one of the top reasons for problems bedeviling young people.

So how early is early?

It is commonly defined as having had first sexual intercourse at or before a person’s fifteenth birthday.

Even as most parents still stick to the old gospel of abstinence, one just wonders how practical and how practical and effective that is.

According to young people and community members from Arujo sub location, Homa Bay Town constituency whose views were sort by NAYA Youth Advocates during a community forum held at Kochungo Primary school, it was found that early sexual debut is a real problem with eight out of ten having had sex on turning nine!

Whereas this statistic hasn’t been authenticated yet, it remain a major source of concern.

The most affected being the girl child, as it could be clearly seen most of them were out of school due to unintended pregnancy, who knows may be even with STIs…

Parents should know that whereas abstinence is the unblemished dream they want for their children, sometimes the reality isn’t that pleasing.

That’s why healthy parent youth communication remains significant in addressing issues around early sexual debut and its unappealing effects.

It is high time parents started openly discussing with their teenagers abut boys and girls, safe sex and even family planning, including the double protection and even long term family planning methods.

Which parent would be happy when their ten year old daughter is out of school due to unintended pregnancy or their young son is affected by a deadly STI just because they considered it a taboo to talk to them about sex, thus pushing them to consume tainted information from dark sources?

Parents should be the first people to talk to their children about sex; the more knowledgeable they are the less likely they will have an unforeseen pregnancies and STIs.

If they can’t SAVE SEX let them SAFE SEX.

 


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Let’s Condomize Today

By Michael Oliech , (Youth Advocate, Kisumu County)

 

Let’s talk about condoms today, shall we?

Ummh, Men, are we there? No, yes?

It is high time that we men start to embrace the use of condoms. Condoms play a big role in the prevention of HIV/AIDS infection and other STDs and unwanted pregnancies. One of the leading causes of HIV/AIDS is through having unprotected sex with an infected partner.

This can be prevented if we men use condoms and hence many lives will be saved.

We need to come out of this cocoon and mentality that sex without a condom is ‘sweet’ and it proves that you love your partner, that the use of condoms promotes infidelity and unfaithfulness that condoms bring about cancer. All these are all myths. If you truly love your partner and care about her health then you have to use a condom .That proves that you care for your partner and her future.

Condoms may not be hundred per cent effective but scientists have proven that the use of latex condoms can hold the HIV virus inside it hence preventing infection to take place.

We also must note that if not properly used condoms cannot prevent HIV and other STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

So we must use condoms correctly by the following ways:

  • Use one condom for each and every session to prevent it from tear.
  • Don’t use a condom that has expired, it can easily burst
  • Wear the condom well before having sex
  • Don’t use sharp nails to hold the condom it can easily prick holes to the condom making it useless in preventing HIV
  • Make sure you hold the tip of the condom to prevent air from filling the tip which could make the condom break
  • Use condom that is made of latex

So men let’s condomise and not compromise.

Condoms do save lives.


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Homophobia has no place in today’s world.

Category : Naya Blog

BY Robert Aseda

Deputy President William Ruto yesterday made a terse statement that Kenya has no place for gays. This was partly in reference to a court ruling that ordered the NGO Board to register a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex and Queer (LGBI &Q) organization.

Issues of sexual orientation and gender identity have plagued discussions not just at the national level but also regional and even at the United Nations Level. In fact the forty eighth session of the United Nations Commission on population and development held a fortnight ago disagreed so much on the broader subject of sexual rights that there was no outcome document at all.

But is gayism such a controversial topic as opponents would want us to believe? Is gayism responsible for the current problems bedeviling the world? Is terrorism, slow economic growth rate, unemployment, poverty among others troubling us because somewhere in Githurai there’s a man in love with another man?

Most definitely not.

The Deputy President went ahead to state that Kenya is a God-fearing nation. Religion has always been used as the justification for abetting discrimination and spewing hatred on what the majority do not agree with. Isn’t it funny how people are suddenly righteous when it comes to gayism and not as holy when addressing crimes such as corruption, burglary, immorality among other ‘lesser’ sins?

Throughout history religion has been used as an excuse, or driving force, for some of the worst atrocities imaginable. From the recent terrorist attacks sparked by Islamic jihadists to human sacrifices by Aztecs and Buddhists, to medieval inquisitions that thrived on terror, to the Roman persecution of Christians, the good name of the religion has been tainted by the innocent blood of the defenseless.

Last year during the synod of Bishops, the Catholic Church, on the paragraph on pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation, agreed that men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity. Whereas this did not mean that the church endorsed homosexuality, the document was clear that homosexuals should not suffer from discrimination.

The pope himself will be most remembered for this pastoral statement, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?

But this conversation should be even bigger than religious acceptance and focus on human rights. Are certain people less deserving of human rights just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity? Do others rights cease to be important when they are not in agreement with our beliefs?

We need to ask ourselves how somebody else’s sexual preference affects us, especially if they don’t publicly engage in indecent acts.

But most importantly we need to ask ourselves who this gay people are? Are they people from another planet or are they people who live amongst us. What if they were our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, friends and relatives? Will we stop loving them and cast them away? Will we wish them harm with the same villainy we cast on others?

Am not saying we embrace homosexuality as the new ‘thing’ in town, all am saying is that we coexist peacefully with each other and focus on important issues worth our time.

Homophobia has no place in today’s world.

(Published in Nation and Standard Newspapers, 7th May 2015)


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Lessons from the 48th session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD48)

Category : Naya Blog

By Robert Aseda, Delegate Kenya

So a fortnight ago nations of the world trooped to the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the forty eight session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development. Since the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, the globe has been implementing its twenty year Program of Action that was to end last year.

This process realized major strides in poverty reduction, literacy levels, fertility and maternal mortality reduction, human rights among others.

However, as is synonymous with many visions and development plans, there were a lot of targets that were not achieved. This formed the rationale behind extending the Program of Action and the ICPD process indefinitely.

I was honored to be among the delegates from different nations attending this conference this year. It was a particular a huge honor for me to be part of the official government of Kenya delegation as a youth representative. This was only made possible by the progressive nature of the National Council for population and Development and her Director General. Benin too had a youth representative and so did Netherlands and a few other countries.

The Netherlands is one country that has always entrenched meaningful youth participation by enlisting youths in their official delegation. Their youth ambassador, Lotte Djkistra had the opportunity of making a statement on behalf of the country. The involvement of young people in policy making process was one of the best moments of the conference. It was an admission that the world is beginning to trust their young people with key decisions. It was also a moment that reemphasized the need for more meaningful adult-youth partnerships.

Meeting youths from other backgrounds and cultures, realities and expectations, history and dreams was particularly a learning moment and provided an immense opportunity to understand where we are all coming from.

However, it was disappointing not to have an outcome document from the session after over one week of hard negotiations and bargains. Whereas nations have different realities, we cannot afford to behave as if carbon gas emissions from China doesn’t affect Alaska or that high HIV prevalence in Kenya does not affect America or that Ebola in Sierra Leone doesn’t affect New Zealand.

The reality of our world as a global village demands that we have common positions against common threats and take advantage of global opportunities to boost peace and security, technology, trade among other shared interests.

Whereas we must acknowledge our different cultural and religious backgrounds we must never behave like the proverbial ostrich who continued to hide the head in the sand and hoped the danger will go away.

 

More important though, we need to ensure we don’t repeat the same ills that impeded realization of previous goals as we prepare to embark on the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. As such we need we need stronger accountability and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to keep on telling us where we are and what we need to do to measure progress and achieve the plethora of targets.

 

But this international declarations and processes including the POST 2015 Agenda will not yield any fruits unless their impact can be felt by the ‘mama mboga’ in Migori Town or the cane cutter in Muhoroni.

That’s why it is important that the commitments made at the international and regions levels be domesticated and integrated into national planning and local development programs.

Despite the heart ache of failing to agree on our population and development priorities at CPD48, the young people of the world have a reason to keep dreaming.

 


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