June | 2015 |

Monthly Archives: June 2015

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Why Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are Human Rights

Category : Naya Blog

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

The Supreme Court in the United States last week declared that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry. This ruling that came during June Pride celebrations for the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Intersex and Queer has once again revived the debate on sexual rights and on the broader aspect of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

To most, sexual and reproductive health and rights is all about advocating for homosexuality, a fact that have made most governments take hardline stance in negotiations at the global level, key in point the recent United Nations Commission on Population and Development that ended with no outcome document based on the fear that some nations wanted to ‘sneak’ in sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Last year during discussions on the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2014, there was still no love lost for this ‘controversial’ issue.

But what exactly is sexual and reproductive health and rights? And why is it such a big issue?

Allow me to unpackage it and explain just how central they are in realizing our domestic and global development dreams.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights is just the concept of human rights applied to sexuality and reproduction.

In 1994 nations of the world gathered in Cairo for the International Conference on Population and Development and agreed to approach population and development issues from a human rights perspective. The 179 nations agreed to reduce maternal mortality, fight HIV/AIDS, and increase access to family planning among others.

However twenty years after that commitment, men and women, especially young people still succumb to morbidity and mortality from limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.

A nation that stands with Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights stands for youth friendly services. Young people require services that are provided in the right place, at the right time, at the right price (free when necessary) and delivered in the right style to be acceptable to young people. Young people need services whereby they feel accepted and not condemned by the pious eye of the society. The government, in 2005, developed the National Guidelines on Provision of Youth Friendly Services. Over a decade later though, only ten percent of facilities are providing youth friendly services.

A nation that stands for sexual and reproductive health and right stands for comprehensive sexuality education. According to Google zeitgeist results, ‘what is sex?’ has consistently featured in the most asked questions by Kenyans online. This means that whereas young people are increasingly looking for information regarding their sexuality, they lack a credible center where they can get this information. Again, our government, alongside other Ministers of Education from Eastern and Southern Africa developed and assented to the Ministerial Commitment on Provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Locally, there’s the Education Sector Policy on HIV/AIDS that’s very explicit on the need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education to manage the HIV/AIDS scourge.

According to the African Population Health Research Center, there are almost half a million abortion cases annually in Kenya. Over 70% of those who went for post abortion care were not using any methods of family planning. Would it not just be better to ensure access to family planning by all those who are already sexually active?

Doesn’t it make just make sense to invest in family planning and help curb the issue of unintended pregnancies and the ensuing incidences of unsafe abortions that result in damage to body organs, sometimes permanent, disabilities and or death? Does it escape our conscience that in the same year there was almost half a million abortions the most asked question online was how to abort?

There is no hidden theme in Sexual and reproductive health and rights. These rights just seeks to ensure the complete state of physical, emotional and mental wellbeing in all matters of sexual systems and reproductive health parts. These rights simply means that a person needs to have the right to choice of partners and or when and if to have children, right to sexual pleasure, integrity, freedom from violence, right to expression and health care.

The idea of sexual and reproductive health and rights as a western agenda therefore needs to cease. There is nothing western in our own local statistics that boldly glares at us.

Most importantly our statements at global level including at the United Nations need to reflect the true position of our policy and legal environment in Kenya.

As the Reproductive Health Care Bill makes another appearance before our lawmakers, my hope is that we shall discuss it from an informed point of view and embrace the reality that this is a local solution to our local challenges.

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This Article was originally Published by @Rural_Reporters  on  30th June 2015

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Why we need to stand up for SRHR in Kenya

(Image Courtesy of @dance4lifeke)

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

The term Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) was not familiar to me until when I joined NAYA Kenya and I got to learn about SRHR.

SRHR is actually about people having the right to have safe sex, enjoyable sex in life and to decide for themselves when and if to have children. It is actually like a roof which shelters a lot of issues that affect both men and women in their daily life like lack of access to health care services, early child and teenage marriage, unsafe abortion, unwanted and early pregnancies, child mortality, maternal deaths, domestic violence, HIV and STDs and rape among others.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and RIGHTS mainly touches on four areas which consist of: Reproductive health that actually ensures healthy reproductive system to men and women by accessing healthcare services, reproductive rights which consist of freedom and rights to control your sexual life like when to have a baby or not, sexual health which main concern is the mental, physical and social well-being of a person in terms of their sexuality in absence of sexual illness, sexual rights which consist of the ability to make decisions on your sexuality about your sexual privacy, sexual partner and sexual pleasure.

To me SRHR is very essential for the country because it will help and contribute a lot in reducing maternal and child mortality rates, prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions among teenagers and prevent the spread of HIV virus. By doing this you find that it will benefit the people a lot.

When people are healthy their productivity increases and this will boost their economic progress and the country`s too.

That’s why we owe it to ourselves to champion for SRHR in KENYA.

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Beasts of Kisumu

Category : Naya Blog

(NAYA Kisumu Advocates Forum)

12 year old Anyango* talked to Youth Advocate Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson) during a NAYA Youth Forum.

Here’s her heart wrenching story.

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My name is Anyango*. I am 12 years old. And this is my story.

I am a standard five pupil at Bonde Primary School.

Did I tell you I live with my grandmother?

See, I am an orphan. I lost my parents last year. Life has been so unfair to me.

‘You see Mike, I have a problem. Am in pain. Real Pain”

My grandmother usually leaves me at home to go and look for food at the market. I am a big girl now and nothing ever happened around here, really. Until it happened.

It was just like any other day. Grandma had just left for the market when two bully men came in. I hadn’t seen them before. I just hoped they had come to ask for drinking water and would be on their way.

But they hadn’t come for water. And they didn’t leave either.

They started touching me here (her breasts). They were smiling. Smiling at me. Smiling as if what they were doing was natural. Smiling like they hadn’t had better chests to touch.

I thought they were playing. Like this was just a new game, I hadn’t known yet.

Bored of touching my chest, one of them pulled my pants down and took me inside.

He pulled his pants down too and hurriedly and without any warning started doing something bad to me.

The pain was terrible. It was nothing like I had ever felt before. It was aching. Unending. Unbearable. I felt like I was going to die. I let out a sharp scream. He grabbed my mouth and told me he would kill me. I believe he would. There was nothing this beast of a man was incapable of.

After what seemed like a life time. He was finally done.

It wasn’t over yet. His partner in crime had to have his time too.

Only then did they disappear into the woods.

I just wanted to die. I couldn’t even walk properly. I was bleeding profusely and in excruciating pain.

My grandmother would walk in and rush me to the hospital. The bleeding and the physical pain may have stopped, but the scar hasn’t healed yet. I can’t sleep at night without seeing them come in and squeeze their things between my tiny legs. Sometimes I let out a huge scream at night. Sometimes I just sit there and ask why me? What did I ever do to them? What did I ever do to be parent-less and unprotected at eleven years?

People in my village do not what to associate with me. They think I bring bad luck.

Life no longer has meaning to me. Yet, I have to stay on and fake smiles. I have to assure my grandmother that I am okay. Even when am not. I don’t want to make her sad. She’s been through a lot herself.

I am not telling you this story to feel bad for me. I am telling you to tell those cowards that they stole something very important to me. And even though there’s nothing I can do now, I don’t want other little girls to have to go through what I went through.

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Our team has referred Anyango* for psychosocial support.

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Gender Based Violence No Laughing Matter

Category : Naya Blog

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

(Image: Gado Catoons)

Have we stopped laughing yet?

Great. Now let’s have a sober conversation about gender based violence in Kenya that has metastasized so much that it no longer shocks us, it provides a basket of laughter.

Last week the nation woke up to the ‘humorous’ news that a man had had his penis chopped off after alleged night of drinking. But this wasn’t the first reported cause of a crime so horrifying. In the usual Kenyan way we tried falling over ourselves with creative hashtags and memes on social media while exchanging pictures of the severed organ on our WhatsApp groups. They would have passed as funny had this incidence not been so grave.

Even Google has not been left behind. Try googling Nyeri man and see the suggestion that the search agenda puts forward. Nyeri man beaten by wife, Nyeri man battered, Nyeri man chicken among others. The converse is true when you search Nyeri women. The suggestions are of battery and now most recently bobbiting.

Gender based violence, especially against men isn’t treated with the same ire and scorn that perpetrators of gender based violence against women are forced to. Why? Is it because our men are strong and thus can protect themselves against such ‘little’ crimes? Or is it because we are still stuck in a society that has given the man the ‘makmende’ status while seeing ladies as frail and weak beings who are harmless and thus need our assistance.

Am not saying gender based violence against women isn’t happening. In fact, according to a UNFPA report, three out of ten ladies have experienced some form of gender based violence. The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health survey puts it at four out of ten women. But, regardless of the gender of the victim, gender based violence is uncouth, barbaric, outdated and should be castigated with the same glee we rush to create ‘funny’ #Nyerification hashtags.

While striving to rid our nation and our world of this practice, we need to stop limiting gender based violence to just a man beating a wife or in the context of a Nyeri man being beaten by his wife. Gender based violence is bigger than that.

Whereas physical violence is the most observed form of gender based violence, other subtle forms of these violence are equally harmful if not more disastrous.

Many people experience emotional and psychological violence without even realizing it. Sometimes their value is demeaned, or they are forced to accept certain behavior as cool or their choices and opinions are restricted in relationships. Others experience economic violence where they are prevented from accessing fundamental resources including food, shelter and clothing in an attempt to control them.

The most known though is sexual violence. A day in Kenya is not complete until the news of a child defiled by the uncle or the teacher is out, an old woman taken advantage of by a young man or a young boy sodomised by the house help. But it doesn’t stop here. How many times have we heard of men and women withholding sex? How about marital rape? Is it happening or so long as two people are legally married then it stops being rape?

What of retrogressive cultural practices like forced marriages and female genital mutilation? What of threats of violence, abduction and trafficking of persons? Are they happening in our society?

Whereas the supreme law of our country and Several international and regional instruments strongly condemn gender based violence in all its forms, true liberation from this heinous practices will not stop unless we , from victim bashing to protection, from humor to empathy and from resignation to ire, from accepting and moving on to seeking justice for survivors.

Then and only then will we be able to cast this dark practice to the dark history where it truly belongs.

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This Article was Published in The Standard and Star Newspapers, 19th June 2015

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They Call Me Smelly Jane

Category : Naya Blog

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

She slowly climbs into the matatu and firmly plants herself into the ‘sambaza’ (the wooden boards that matatu crew put on aisles as seats for extra passengers). The other passengers heave a collective sigh of relief. The last passenger in, it means that the matatu can surely be on its way now.

The excitement is however short-lived.

They twitch their noses in severe discomfort and reach for the windows.

The new passenger smells like a burst pipe of raw sewage.

The man next to her can’t hide his disappointment in her hygiene.

“Yawa, Lake Victoria imejaa maji mingi, si uoge hata siku moja. Watu kama nyinyi ndo maana baba haezi shinda kura”

(Go take a shower in Lake Victoria)

If the words stung, you couldn’t tell it from her expressionless face.

She remained impassive. Like a deaf. Like she wasn’t the one being talked to.

Jane* has endured more taunts in her lifetime than you can probably imagine. She’s just in her late thirties but you would be forgiven for thinking she’s an old grandmother.

She is among the three thousand women who succumb to obstetric fistulas every year in Kenya.

The condition may not have killed her, but it has drained her of all the life within.

She says society has cast her aside like a spent car.

Despite the high numbers of women who continue to curse every day of their lives due to this conditions that makes them unable to control their piss and stool, this disease hasn’t been addressed with the same vigor victims have been ostracized.

But women with fistulas require more than acts of kindness. They need more than just our indifference.

They require attention.

They need to be restored back to full health. They need to experience right to dignity as enshrined in our supreme laws.

However, this remains a mirage if Jane isn’t aware that her condition is treatable or that Kenyatta National Hospital has the powers to restore her smile back.

But increasing fistulas are just a manifestation of a leaking healthcare system. She probably underwent a prolonged, obstructed labour without timely medical intervention probably due to inaccessibility to health facility during childbirth.

Now, she has to survive eight hours of taunts as she travels to Nairobi for a corrective surgery.

County governments must now step up and ensure universal access to healthcare. They have unprecedented opportunity to reign in on their local endemic and emerging challenges.

This however goes deeper than treating the sick. It needs to go beyond ensuring access to services and information.

Tackling fistulas require taking care of underneath issues like teenage pregnancy, high fertility rates, non-youth friendly reproductive health services among others.

Now more than ever, we need to take care of adolescents and youths, not just to reduce the burden of disease now and later in life ,to ensure a healthy generation ,to  harness demographic dividend but also as an inalienable human right.

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Kenyatta National Hospital, Royal Media Services, Freedom from Fistulas and others are hosting a free fistula treatment camp at KNHfrom Thursday 11th June.

Tell somebody to tell somebody.

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Call For Youth Advocates- Siaya County

Category : Naya Blog

By Admin

Background

The Network of Adolescent and Youth of Africa (NAYA) is a youth led advocacy network founded in 2001. NAYA aims at enhancing the capacity of youth leaders to advocate for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRH&R) advocacy by enlisting the support of policy makers, opinion leaders, development partners, the media and like-minded organizations and individuals. NAYA also advocates for reforms and implementation of national policies and legislation to improve the quality and availability of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (AS&RH&R) information and services.

NAYA is recruiting a new pool of youth advocates that will help in championing for sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in Siaya County. The core mandate of selected advocates will be organize/participate/conduct advocacy campaigns targeting various stakeholders (including Members of the County Assembly (MCAs), County Health Management Team (CHMT), youths etc.) in the reproductive health sector through targeted activities.

Qualifications

  • Must be of the age of 18-24 years
  • Must have completed form four
  • Should have a background on sexual and reproductive health and rights policy environment of young people in their county and Kenya.

Requirements

  •  Should be a resident of Siaya County
  • Two most recent passport size photos
  • An application letter

Interviews will be on Monday 8th June 2015  at Simenya in Ugunja.

N/B: Applicants are advised to carry original identity card (ID),  current curriculum vitae (CV), School leaving certificates and/or any other credentials deemed necessary by the applicant.

For any inquiries contact: 0739128168