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Implement Comprehensive Sexuality Education To Tackle Teenage Pregnancy

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Nyalenda slums in Kisumu County houses a lot of teenage mothers. Achieng was brave enough to share her story with me.

 

“I wanted to finish school and become a hair dresser but my wishes never came true. I got pregnant at the age of 13 and I was forced to drop out of school to look after my baby. 5 minutes of unprotected sex had ruined my life and dreams completely. I wish I could reverse time to that moment. I could have asked him to use a condom. I wish I had the information on sexual reproductive health and rights, I could have made the right decision. Right now I could be in school working hard to achieve my dreams but all that is gone. I usually feel so bad when I see my friends going to school and reading books that I can’t even read.”

 

She is not alone. According to the Kenya Demographic health survey 2014, teenage pregnancy is highest in Nyanza region followed by Rift valley and the Coast. They say number don’t lie. According to the KDHS 2014 15% of women age 15-19 have already had a birth while 18% have begun child bearing.

There is a need to stop teenage pregnancy before the situation gets out of hand. Teenage pregnancy is not just a health issue but it is a developmental issue too. The price of teenage pregnancy is characterized with lost potential, foreshortened education, lack of opportunities, poverty, and constrained life options.

I believe that every young person must be empowered to decide how many children to have and when to have them. This can be done by introducing Comprehensive sexuality education in schools. Evidence has shown that where young people’s lack of access to critical information about their sexual and reproductive health, we are more likely to see increased cases of teenage pregnancy.

Comprehensive sexuality education provides young people with opportunities to explore their values and attitudes and build skills so they can make safe decisions and reduce their risk of getting diseases such as ‪HIV and getting pregnant

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Sexual Violence against Children Rising in Kisii

Category : Naya Blog

Image Courtesy new.devon.gov.uk

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson) and Brenda Mageka

While great awareness has been raised about sexual violence against women in Kenya, much less is known about the problem of sexual abuse of children. Studies suggest that more than 7,200 children, including infants, are defiled, molested and sodomised every year.  Experts further believe that many more cases go unreported.

Just recently an 8 year old boy from Kisii County was molested by his own father who is 39 years old. (The pictures are too graphic to share). He molested his own flesh and blood. How wicked and evil people can be at times!

Cases of child sex abuse in Kisii County are on the rise. When you visit Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital and ask about how many cases of child sex abuse they handle in a single day, you will be shocked. The hospital usually receives three cases of child molestation every day. Most of these children are usually between the age bracket of 7-12 years. It is estimated that over 30% of children in Kisii County face sexual abuse of some kind at least once in their lives. This means that 3 out of 10 children in Kisii County have either been molested, defiled or sodomised. Wrap your mind around that and tell me if this is right.

The most disgusting thing about child sex abuse in Kisii County is that in most cases the perpetrator is known to the victim and has no criminal records. It could either be the father, relative or even the neighbor.

Most children who have been molested tend to hide it from others because they are usually threatened and when they speak out their parents cover it up for the fear of social stigma and lack of trust to the government. You can only imagine how many cases go unreported. What is more heartbreaking is that when these cases are reported and taken to court it is usually difficult to get justice for these young children. Corruption at the judiciary and at the police department is a hindrance to justice. Once the brown envelope is handed to them, no justice will ever be found

This has to stop. The sexual victimization of children is ethically and morally wrong. We have to protect the children of Kisii County. In order to stop and prevent child molestation from happening to children in Kisii county, residents of Kisii County and the county government of Kisii must unite and declare war on child sex abuse. This shouldn’t be treated as a favour but as a right protected by the  constitution of Kenya and other legal and policy provisions including the Children’s Act.

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Let’s Talk about Unsafe Abortion

Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

On 27 march in Kuoyo Kaila Kisumu County I saw the consequences of unsafe abortion first hand when a young lady screamed desperately to get help for her 16 year old sister. Immediately I ran towards her house to find her sister in a bad state. I was horrified by what I saw. Anyango was in pain and agony. She had inserted a sharp stick into her cervix in an attempt to terminate her pregnancy but she wasn’t lucky, the stick had broken inside her uterus. Anyango was bleeding profusely and time was not on her side. Sadly she lost a lot of blood and could not endure the pain anymore.  She died when help was on its way.

Anyango’s sister explained to me that Anyango was prepared to take the risk with her health so that she could finish her high school education and go to the university to study nursing and after that get a job and help her family and community. She was their only hope. Now they were left hopeless. “I don’t want what has happened to my sister to happen to any other girl here in Kuoyo Kaila. Tell other girls that they should not be in the habit of doing unsafe abortion because it’s not good. My sister was only afraid” Anyango’s sister whispered to me as tears rolled down her cheeks.

Unfortunately cases of deaths caused by unsafe abortion in Kuoyo Kaila aren’t unusual. In Kisumu county unsafe abortion do happen a lot but women hide it because of the so much stigma associated with abortion. They worry that people will say nasty things about them. In Kenya abortion is not permitted so young girls and women often turn to quacks or midwives or other dangerous option. As a result some women die after the procedure while others suffer complications that haunt them for the rest of their lives.

It is estimated that over 40,000 women die every year because of unsafe abortion. This accounts to 13% of all maternal deaths. Most women in Kenya use extreme measures to end their pregnancy simply because the law doesn’t allow it and they don’t know where to turn to for help and support.

I talked to a senior nurse in Kisumu County and what he revealed to me was shocking. For every ten women who give birth at their medical facility, another woman is treated for complications after an unsafe abortion.  He says unsafe abortion is still a problem in our society and most of his client who are teenagers end up in death or in complications that lead to lifelong problems such as infertility.

The constitution of Kenya under article 43 states that. (1) Every person has the right— (a) to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care. Safe Abortion services falls under reproductive health care. The county government of Kisumu should train its health workers on how to address unsafe abortion and how to offer safe abortion services. The county government of Kisumu should also offer civic education on the dangers of unsafe abortion and also arrest the all quacks.

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Child Marriage Is a Violation of Human Rights

Category : Naya Blog

Image Courtesy: SOS Children’s Villages

 

By Mackiche Mackiche (@mackiche_victor )

A forced marriage is a marriage that is performed under duress and without the full and informed consent or free will of both parties, in this case the final decisions are usually made by the parents.

In most of our communities in Kenya some parents still believe that they are the ones who know who is best for their children when it comes to marriage.

Forgetting all that these forced marriages come with, sexual abuse. Rape and sexual abuse is common in these marriages because women right to consent is likely to be ignored. In fact, evidence suggests that over 45% all rape is committed in marriages and these incidents are likely not to come the attention of the relevant authorities than those committed by strangers.

Husbands in these cases do not know that any situation in which an individual is forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse.

In addition, these women whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are thought to be at a higher risk of experiencing multiple and escalating assaults. Research also indicates that women who are raped by their husbands or partners are likely to suffer severe psychological effects because of the prolonged level of fear they are likely to experience.

Government should formulate strong policies against forced marriages and even domestic violence against women to avoid such cases.

Parents should also never force their children to get married to someone they don’t want simply because these men are able raise some amounts in name of dowry. This gives these men power to use and walk all over their children.

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Let’s Talk about Shisha

Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Lifestyle trends and styles tend to change every year. Some of them have become an integral part of the local culture like going to a local pub for a pint or two. Shisha smoking has been here for a long time but it has quickly become the first choice leisure activity for young people.

We often see young people gathered for shisha smoking sessions at certain cafes and bars in the name of having fun but do these young people really know the true effects of the habit on their health? It’s really strange to me when everyone knows about extremely harmful nature of cigarettes but smoking shisha is somehow considered to be completely safe and risk free practice.

There is a misconception that shisha is not as bad as cigarettes because the tobacco in it is flavored and passes through water first. The truth of the matter is shisha smoking can be as damaging, addictive, and dangerous as cigarettes. It actually contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead.

According to a research carried out by the World Health Organization, the volume of smoke inhaled in an hour-long shisha session is estimated to be the equivalent of smoking between 100 and 200 cigarettes. The research also revealed that shisha smoking can cause a wide range of long-term health risks such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.

Young people should understand that even if you use tobacco-free shisha, you’re still at risk from the carbon monoxide and any toxins in the coal or charcoal used to burn the shisha. Inhaling tobacco smoke, whether it’s from shisha or cigarettes, is never going to be good for your health.

But ending non communicable diseases is  not just a choice that young people have to make, policy makers must do their part in ensuring a conducive environment for fighting non communicable diseases in Kenya.

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Meaningfully Involve Young People in Policy Processes

Category : Naya Blog

Image Courtesy: youthhealthparticipation.com

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

For us to bring tremendous social and economic benefits in this country, we need to involve all young people in matters that touch around governance, voice, accountability and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Youth participation means better decisions and increased efficiency.

Young people are both tomorrow’s leaders, parents, professionals and workers and today’s assets. If properly supported and given the right opportunities, girls and boys, young women and young men can play a significant part in lifting themselves, their families, communities and the country out of all problems that they face.

Effective youth participation is all about creating opportunities for young people to be involved mostly in influencing, shaping, designing and contributing to policy and the development of services and programmes. These opportunities are usually created through developing a range of formal and informal mechanisms for youth participation from youth advisory groups to focus groups, from on-going consultation work to supporting youth-led projects.

There are many reasons for including young people in decision-making. Evidence shows that all policies and programmes designed after consultation with young people are more likely to be effective. By involving young people you are more likely to get it right the first time and avoid wasting time and money on services young people don’t want to use.

Involving young people in decision-making also strengthens community capacity. It builds a broader base of citizen involvement and creates stronger and more inclusive communities. Youth participation is necessary in the development of active citizenship because it balances young people’s social rights with their responsibilities.

Research has shown that young people who are given a chance to take part in decision-making activities are more likely to increase their confidence and self-belief, exercise positive career choices and have greater involvement and responsibility in the future. It has basically contributed to positive youth development

Lastly, youth participation challenges negative stereotypes of young people and help break down barriers between adults and young people. Involving young people in decision-making can improve attitudes towards understanding about young people and create a greater awareness of youth issues in an in any institution.

Youth participation is a right every young person is entitled to. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all young people under the age of 18 have the right to participate in decision-making. It recognizes their rights to express their opinions, to have their opinions considered in decisions that affect them and to receive and give information and ideas.

If we want to have a better future then we need to involve young people in all decision making activities. We need to equip them will skills and tools to propel this country ahead. Young people are valuable assets and we need to invest in them

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Child Marriage is a Killer of Dreams

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Category : Naya Blog

Image Courtesy: Voice of America

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Adhiambo Monica’s marriage at age 15 in East seme ward Kisumu County destroyed her hopes of becoming a lawyer. “I wanted to work hard and become a lawyer but now I have no more hopes.” All is lost. It hurts when I see lawyers on TV. I wish it was me acting as the defense council of the accused in the court of law.”

“I faced a lot of problems in my marriage. I was young and didn’t know what being a good wife entailed. Life became more difficult especially when I was pregnant as I had to care for my husband, do the house chores, work in the farm, and walk to the clinic under the scorching sun”

Globally, marriage is often idealized as ushering in love, happiness and joy. However it’s not the same case for Adhiambo Monica and many other girls in rural Kenya who are often married off at a very young age. According to them marriage is among the worst things that could ever happen to them. It is estimated that one in three girls in developing countries Kenya included is married before age 18 and one in nine before turning age 15.

Early marriage/child marriage has dire lifelong consequences. It leads to school dropout, marital rape, risk of experiencing domestic violence, risk of HIV transmission, and a range of health problems due to early childbearing

For Kenya to achieve the UN sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015 which includes eliminating child marriage as the key target by 2030 for advancing gender equality, the government should; Empower young girls with information and choices; Ensure girls access quality education; Engage and educate parents and community members about child marriage; Establish and implement stronger legal framework against child marriage and lastly Ensure true coordination across various sectors including education, health, justice and economic development to fight child marriage.

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Family Planning Programs Need to Focus on Vulnerable Groups Including Street Children

Category : Naya Blog

A NAYA Forum in Kisumu

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

The number of street children in urban centers in Kenya is on the rise. Most of these children end up in streets due to societal neglect. Whereas some can only trace their roots as far as to the next street in town, some actually do have and know their homes and parents with most of them come from nearby slums.

One of the main reason why we have children on the streets is because of poor family planning. Sex is usually an entertainment tool for a poor man. They are always idle so they have plenty of time to mate. Most of the poor people do give birth to plenty of children because they lack hope. They don’t know if their kids will survive in the harsh environment that surrounds them. Poor hygiene and lack of health care services reproductive health included, makes their children prone to being attacked by diseases so they end up trying their luck by having many kids in case one dies there will be another to replace the dead one. Through this process they end up having many kids that they are unable to take care of and provide for which forces the children to the street to look for ways to survive.

We need to empower slum dwellers when it comes to reproductive health matters. They are one of the forgotten population here in Kenya. Family planning is not known by many men and women in the slums. There is a need in creating awareness in these areas on the importance of using family planning methods. This can be achieved by working with their local leaders and other local entities. After creating awareness we should then avail family planning services to them. These services should be of high quality and free of charge due to their social status.

Also in the streets we do have children of reproductive age. They are also human being so we should approach them and give them the information about family planning and offer these services to them for free.

If we consider these measures I think the issues off street families will be contained and we will be able to deal with the existing street children and get rid of them once and for all. I believe that every child has a right to shelter, food, clothing, security and care. No child should be on the street.

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Why Men In Nyanza Fear Getting Involved In Family Planning

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Category : Naya Blog

PHOTO Mr Okello, FP Male Champion, Migori

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Male involvement in family planning has been met with great resistance in Nyanza region more so in rural areas. Most men in this region are totally opposed to family planning because of the following reasons.

Majority of men in Nyanza believe that family planning threatens their gender roles in the family. In Nyanza a man is expected to be dominant, authoritarian and capable to provide for his family. Men involved in family planning are usually seen as overpowered and controlled by their wives and unable to provide for the family and to function sexually. They are usually gossiped about all the time. If a man is seen accompanying his wife to the clinic or hospital, people will gossip that he has been over powered by the wife No man would want that so it forces them not to be involved in family planning.

Men in this region desire to have large families. Many of them desire to have a lot of male children to continue with their legacy when they are dead. Majority of them argue that if they have few children, they are afraid that they will be seen as avoiding their male tribal duties to have many children and embracing the western culture. Others fear that death could rob them their children so there is need to have many children to replace the dead ones so there is no need of family planning since it controls birth.

Apart from that men also believe that family planning use causes low libido in women. This will force them to find other partners exposing them and the family to the risk of HIV infections. Others believe that family planning increases libido and promiscuity in women. They argue that since a woman knows she cannot get pregnant and get HIV she can go out and sleep with other men. Some men also associate family planning with diseases such as cancer and blood pressure. Other say that family planning causes early menopause, infertility, child defects and miscarriages

Men in this region fear family planning providers. They fear family planning providers would coerce them to use vasectomy, abandon polygamy and to disclose their HIV status and extra marital sexual activities to their wives. They are usually uncomfortable with discussing sexuality with wives. A lot of traditions in Nyanza communities are not open to discussing issues of sex especially between spouses.

Overt male family planning acceptance is highly stigmatized in Nyanza. Men in rural Nyanza need more family planning education. Male outreach workers and village elders can be used to promote family planning among men and help to correct misconceptions and reduce stigma.

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The article was also published in the Standard Digital Portal, 2/2/2016

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Let’s Remember Bali

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Category : Naya Blog

Photo Courtesy:

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Three years ago hundreds of youth, civil society organizations and member states, descended into Bali, Indonesia for the Global Youth Forum to identify and discuss issues and priorities facing today and tomorrow’s generation of young people within the context of population and development so as to influence global agenda going forward.

The question that lingers however is whether we have realized the strides that we committed to?

On creating enabling environment for adolescents and youths, the government has actually done very little. A lot of young people still lack access to comprehensive affordable health services that are free from stigma, violence, coercion and discrimination. The sexual rights of young people are not fully protected. Young people are still forced into early marriages and female genital mutilation. Cases of gender based violence in the country is on the rise. We still have LGBTQI discriminated in the country and attacked. Minors and teenagers are being defiled and raped and the perpetrators walk scot free. The killings of sex workers is on the rise in the country. Youth participation in the country is not taken so seriously. Top down development approach is the order of the day. Youths voices are never heard.

Health education to adolescents and young people in the country is not actually reaching all the young people. Majority of the adolescents and young people don’t know their rights to staying healthy and yet It was agreed that the government was to provide non-discriminatory, non-judgmental, rights-based, age appropriate, gender-sensitive health education including youth-friendly, evidence based comprehensive sexuality education that is context specific.

We have less youth friendly services in the country more so in rural areas. In the conference it was agreed that Governments must provide, monitor and evaluate universal access to a basic package of youth-friendly health services (including mental healthcare and sexual and reproductive health services) that are high quality, integrated, equitable, comprehensive, affordable, needs and rights based, accessible, acceptable, confidential and free of stigma and discrimination for all young people but this is not happening at all.

On universal education, quality education, relevant education and inclusive education, we are still lagging behind. We still have young people still learning under a tree and in the burning sun. Education is not actually completely free in the country. We still have a lot of persons living with disability not going to school.

The financing of sexual and reproductive and health rights policies and programs in the country are not usually prioritized for budgetary allocation. Most of the county governments have not implemented the SRHR policies and programs due to the lack of political and financial commitment.

Although we have made some gains on gender equality in the country, Gender inequality is still rampant in the country. Women in the same profession as men are being paid less than men. This is rampant in the informal sector which is a hotbed of many women here in Kenya. We still have not yet achieved the one third gender rule. We can see men fighting women in making sure that this bill is eliminated. We still have women not going to school at all.

I call upon the government to be accountable and when it comes to matters that concern young people. We are the future of this country and we need to be treated with care.

Young people you need to get up and speak out now for a better tomorrow. We have a right to quality education and health care services. Reproductive health is a human right and we deserve to have it. We have a right to take part In public participation, ask questions and access information.we have a right to be protected from harmful practices. Stand up and speak out for a better tomorrow.

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