Category Archives: Naya Blog

Where love is illegal

Category : Naya Blog

Image by bebee producer

Story by Martha

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

My name is Martha and I am a lesbian woman. I live in a community which is very homophobic. Despite me being born and raised in the community, I have always been treated as an outcast ever since I came out of the closet and identified myself as a lesbian woman publicly.

It takes a lot of courage to live an open life as a lesbian woman in a community which is so intolerant and violent towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

I really love my community and I just wish things could change. I wish my homeland was a safe place for people like me to be happy, live, laugh, love, and free to express ourselves and be who we are.


Evans: Now is the time to embrace sexual diversity in our country

Category : Naya Blog

Story by Evans

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

Coming out of the closet is not easy and it takes a lot of courage to do so. When I came out of the closet, I lost a lot of friends, friends who I grew up with, and went to school with. They stopped talking to me and avoided me completely. The main reason for their actions was that I was not normal in their eyes.

Looking back at the decision I made in past to come out of the closet, I feel I owe no one an apology for doing so and I don’t regret coming out as a bisexual. I feel I did the right thing. I am at peace with myself and I am free now. I no longer need to hide my sexual orientation or care about what people will say.  I am happy that I am living a life of truth despite the so much hate that people have towards bisexuals.

In my community, people are usually so negative about someone who identifies as a bisexual. We are often told to choose to be straight or risk being treated as outcast in the society.

Most people usually think that we bisexuals are never faithful. They believe that when a bisexual is in a relationship with a man or woman, they are probably cheating because they are attracted to both genders and would always want to experience the best of both worlds. However this is not true. As a bisexual I can and do remain faithful to one person when I am in a relationship. When I come out of one relationship, I cannot tell whether my next partner will be a woman or man because I am attracted to both genders. I cannot cheat on one gender with the other just because I want to experience the best of both worlds as people think.

As a nation we need to embrace sexuality and gender diversity if we believe in valuing people for who they are. Now is the time to spread love and understanding to everyone. We can never be the exact carbon copy of one another. Instead of hating people just because they different from us, we should instead embrace and celebrate how special and different we already are.  Now is the time to embrace sexual diversity in our country because it is a beautiful thing and it makes us stronger and more united as a nation.


Vivian: Homophobia is un-African

Category : Naya Blog

Image by inkanyiso

Author of the Story: Vivian

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

My name is Vivian. I am 20 years old. I am a lesbian woman and I am proud of who I am. During my early adolescence, I knew I was different. I never had feelings for men and I always had feelings for women. I wasn’t sure about myself until in my final year in high school when I realized that I was a lesbian woman. No one in school knew because I was afraid of being judged harshly and expelled out of school. I was in a National catholic school which had strict rules.

After high school I opened up to my family who supported me in all ways and eventually I came out of the closet despite so much homophobia being out there. My family has been protective always because they know homophobia still exists and I am not safe out there. I am in a healthy relationship and I’m happy to love the right person that I want to and not love someone who the society expects me to love just to please them..

Many people often think that lesbian women live in America and Europe. They usually think that in Africa, Lesbian women don’t exist but this is not true. There are so many lesbian women in Africa and it’s a matter of time that many will come out of the closet.

This idea that loving someone of the same sex is un-African, evil, satanic, wrong, and goes against our traditional beliefs is what fuels homophobia in Africa preventing lesbian women from coming out of the closet and express themselves freely without being judged or discriminated in public.

Our constitution under article 27 states that we should not discriminate anyone on any grounds. However due to our culture, traditional intolerance and negative attitude that we have towards lesbian women, this has not been realized.

Being a lesbian woman is not un-African and doesn’t go against our traditional beliefs. The African culture is all about, humanity, love, freedom, unity, togetherness, peace, tolerance, just to mention a few. The African culture is beautiful. Contrary, homophobia is un-African because it spreads hate, violence, and it denies people the opportunity to be African and express their humanity.


What if being gay was the norm

Category : Naya Blog

Image by passportmagazine

By Michael Okun Oliech

Picture this. What if the world evolved and being gay was the norm and being straight was a thing for the minority? Would we still want to be treated with respect and dignity? Would religious leaders come out publicly and fight straight people? Would gay people who are the majority see we straight people as sinners and sick? Would laws change and declare being straight illegal and being gay legal? Would being gay become natural and being straight become a choice?

Imagine being unable to marry the love of your life just because the law doesn’t permit you to do so. Imagine being denied health care services and other important services just because you are straight. Imagine being called bad names on all digital platforms, in public and in private spaces. Imagine being attacked and locked behind bars and eventually being subjected to a forceful inspection or examination of your sexual organs just to find evidence that you are straight in order to face prosecution and risk up to 20 years of imprisonment for being straight.  Imagine being denied education and job opportunities just because of you are straight. How would you feel? Bad?

If the answer is yes, then we need to change our negative attitudes and beliefs that we have towards gay men. We need to embrace sexual diversity that make us whole and stronger by acceptance of each other allowing us to focus on so many other important issues. Being straight does not give you the green light to be homophobic or discriminate against gay men. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Just like we would want others to treat us with respect and dignity, we must do the same to others because we are all human beings and have our rights.

In the 2010 constitution under the bill of rights, every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, to be free from all forms of discrimination and violence, right to privacy, to be treated with respect and dignity and to be free from beliefs and religion that is contrary to a person’s belief or religion. If all these laws were to be implemented to the letter, Kenya would be a better place.


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Non-Communicable Diseases Epidemic

Non-Communicable Diseases Epidemic

Category : Naya , Naya Blog

Kelvin Mokaya, Youth Advocate.

A number of factors, including rapid urbanization, globalization, and aging of the population all contribute to the growing NCD burden in Kenya, but many NCDs are largely preventable by changing unhealthy behaviors. The four major NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic lung diseases, and diabetes) share four key risk behaviors: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, lack of exercise, and an unhealthy diet.  These are all behaviors that are typically initiated or solidified during adolescence or young adulthood and set the stage for NCDs later in life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70% of premature deaths in adults worldwide are as a result of behaviors that begin in adolescence. While these risk behaviors are still relatively low among youths in Kenya as compared to youths in other regions, their prevalence is increasing.

Therefore, a window of opportunity exists for the Ministry of Health now to address the four key risk behaviors in its large and ever-growing youth population to reduce the NCD burden in the coming decades. Scaling up proven, cost-effective interventions that discourage unhealthy behaviors and promote healthy ones can significantly shift the course of the costly NCD epidemic in the near future. Doing so now will also help Kenya meet some of the Sustainable Development Goals and improve the chances of achieving greater economic growth and development.

 


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Strides Made by The Kenyan Government to Tackle Non-Communicable Diseases

Strides Made by The Kenyan Government to Tackle Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Category : Naya , Naya Blog

Kelvin Mokaya, NAYA Advocate.

Some significant gains have been made in Kenya towards reducing some risk factors for NCDs. The most commendable gains have been made in control of alcohol and cigarette consumption through an increase in taxes and enactment of legislation targeting to control the use of these products. Restriction of access to clubs and pubs as well as a strict implementation of the Traffic Act that controls driving while drunk has in the past reduced alcohol consumption in Kenya. In terms of cigarette smoking, warnings of the harmful effects of the practice on cigarette packets, and banning both smokings in public places and tobacco advertisements have been implemented.

Major gaps remain in control of unhealthy diets, environmental and household pollution and physical inactivity. In the Kenyan health sector, as in other low and middle-income countries, the approach to prevention and treatment of these chronic diseases is largely unstructured. A ‘global framework for action to improve the primary care response to chronic non-communicable diseases’ has been proposed with highlights on key areas to structure such as a discussion of policy options. These include identification and addressing modifiable risk factors, screening for common NCDs and diagnosing, treating and following-up patients with common NCDs using standard protocols. Some of the specific approaches recommended include case-finding in primary health care services attendees, standard diagnostic and treatment protocols, reliable drug supply, and a strong reliable monitoring and evaluation system.

Some challenges, however, still exist in the implementation framework and they have somewhat eroded some of these gains. These, if not addressed systematically, could result in an increase in the use of cheaper and more harmful alternative products. Regarding treatment of NCDs, investments in infrastructure such as modern equipment for screening and treating NCDs and training of health care workers to manage these conditions is ongoing. In a bid to improve data availability on NCDs, efforts are underway to define some key indicators to monitor the progress on control of NCDs, and a number of regional cancer registries have been established. This would include indicators to measure progress towards increasing the impact of primary care interventions on chronic NCDs.


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URBANIZATION ON NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES

Urbanisation on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Category : Naya , Naya Blog

Kelvin Mokaya, Youth Advocate

Rapid economic and social change, together with urbanization and globalization in Nairobi, are leading to a shift away from healthier, traditional diets to those filled with sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. Increased availability and consumption of commercially prepared and highly processed foods and sugary beverages contribute to overweight and obesity and to various NCDs. The food industry targets children and youth in an effort to influence their taste preferences and encourage brand loyalty that can continue into adulthood.

Aside from poor diets, a lack of sufficient exercise is also increasing the risk of developing NCDs. According to the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and Environment conducted in Nairobi in 2012, among 9-11-year-old students in primary schools, less than 10 percent of girls and less than 20 percent of boys got sufficient levels of physical activity. This has been defined as engaging in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day. Over half of the students reported using motorized transportation to and from school every day.

Rapid urbanization in Kenya has significantly reduced the levels of physical activity required for work or transportation. It has also given rise to environmental factors such as heavy traffic, poor air quality, and crime that can make it difficult to be active outside. Lack of access to safe, well-lit sidewalks and parks and other spaces for recreation can also prevent youth from getting enough exercise.

Exercise has multiple other benefits including reducing the risk of developing mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression that are common among young people. Physical activity among youth is also typically associated with lower levels of other NCD risk behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use. Appropriate physical activity is a valuable tool in therapeutic regimens for the control and rehabilitation of cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, hypertension, congenital heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, musculoskeletal disorders, end-stage renal disease, stress, anxiety, and depression, etc.

Regular physical activity, independent of other factors, reduces the probability of coronary artery disease and early death. The Ministry of Health should endorse fitness programs in all sectors, which will result in decreased health-care costs.


Address the unmet need for family planning in Siaya County

Category : Naya , Naya Blog

By: Michael Okunson Oliech

Meet Anyango, 23-year-old mother of six from Siaya County. She is the second born and the only girl in their family of five. She experienced what so many girls in Siaya County go through while growing up in rural areas. Due to scarcity of money in their family and considering the fact that boys are given first priority when it comes to education, she was forced to drop out of school, went on to marry and have six kids with a boda boda operator aged 28 in the first five years of their marriage. Anyango was only 17 when she got married.

As her family started to grow larger, Anyango started to worry about providing food, good health and education for her family. She didn’t want to see her children suffer. She wanted the best for her children.

“I saw that the children were becoming more, and I could not afford to take care of them. This is when I decided to visit the hospital where I was introduced to intrauterine device to help me plan for my family.” She says

Anyango was so moved on how the family planning method of her choice helped her take control of her body, her future and life.

“Without family planning I would have had eight children by now and I would be languishing in poverty with my family.” She says. Anyango adds that her husband has been supportive throughout this process and has never looked back.

“Family planning has helped us to plan for our six children. Even though we have a large family we can at least afford to feed them well, we can clothe them, we can educate them and provide them with primary health care. If we had the information earlier about family planning and its benefits, we could have had few children like two. Life here in the village is very difficult when you have so many children but when you have one child or two or none, it’s at least better” She says.

Anyango is lucky she had access to family planning information and services, but for some thousands of women in Siaya County who want to avoid or delay pregnancy, they cannot do so because they have no access to modern forms of contraception or family planning. The unmet need for family planning in Siaya County stands at 25%. This means that almost a quarter of women in this county lack the basic human right to plan for their family and future.

Since health is devolved, there is need for the county government of Siaya under the leadership of His Excellency Governor Rasanga to prioritize meeting women’s and their partner’s need for family planning through investing more in voluntary, safe, effective, acceptable, accessible, affordable, high quality, family planning information and services that respect human rights.

Family planning is a win-win intervention that can help enhance economic development in the county. When women and girls who want to use contraception are empowered and educated to use contraceptive method of their choice, they will be able to take control of their lives. Family planning allows girls and women to stay in school, pursue their career and have children when they are ready, it improves child and maternal health, reduces unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, HIV infection rates, and poverty.


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Strategies in Curbing

Strategies in Curbing NCDs

Category : Naya , Naya Blog

Kelvin Mokaya, NAYA Advocate.

Ensuring that youth receive the correct information about the health impacts of their behaviors is important to help youth make healthy decisions. Many young people today have unprecedented access to information and the capacity to act on that information in shaping their own lives and determining their own health status. For example, the Ministry of Health launched an anti-tobacco mass media campaign in 2014 titled, “Smoking Kills—Quit Now”. It broadcast messages on radio and television about the adverse health effects of smoking tobacco. The Ministry of Health also disseminated informational posters in schools, universities, and other public institutions to create awareness.

Young people can contribute in several ways to prevent NCDs. By using new media, young voices can provide a novel perspective on NCD prevention and control by sharing targeted messages on key risk factors and interventions. Young people can engage with different communities and share information about NCDs.

Schools’ managerial bodies can also play an important role. For example, the school curriculum in Kenya is currently being revised to increase the level of physical activity children gets during school time, but a major challenge has been the tendency of many schools spending the physical education time on other academic subjects.

Now is the time for Nairobi County, under the NCD unit in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, to implement a full range of prevention strategies, i.e. prioritize NCDs, reduce risk factors, support research and development, monitor trends and determinants of NCDs, strengthen the health system and national capacity, which will build positive health behaviors and reduce NCD risk behaviors among youth. Successfully implementing such strategies require coordination, creative thinking, collaboration across sectors, and involving young people.

Also important is filling critical information gaps by regular NCDs’ data collection efforts, and conducting policy and program evaluations to help identify the most-effective interventions for Kenya. Averting the premature onset of NCDs will enable youth to reach their full potential, increase productivity, decrease future health care costs, and contribute to further economic growth and development.

Youth centers and existing health services targeting youth, such as sexual and reproductive health services and HIV/AIDS services, can also incorporate NCD services, such as counseling and screening for NCD risk behaviors, to reach a wider cross-section of youth with the services necessary to reduce risk behaviors. School-based information programs on the importance of staying away from alcohol and tobacco have also been found successful in some settings.


Diabetes

Diabetes

Category : Naya , Naya Blog

Mariah Akinyi, Youth Advocate.

Extreme fatigue, feeling very thirsty, blurry vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, feeling very hungry (even though one is eating), itchy skin, red and/or swollen gums, numbness or tingling especially in the feet and hands, are just but a few of the symptoms that accompany individuals who diabetes has gotten the better part of them. Doctors around the world have described diabetes as a group of metabolic diseases in which the patient has a high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because the insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin or both. Insulin is the hormone that regulates the level of sugar in the blood i.e. it helps to keep the blood sugar level from getting too high or too low and is produced by beta cells of the pancreatic islets. Diabetes, just like any other Non-Communicable Disease (NCD), can cause great discomfort to the victim and deprive them of their happiness as the normal operations of the body will be affected.

There are three types of diabetes that are known; Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes and Gestational diabetes. Under Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Patients with this type of diabetes will need to take insulin injections for the rest of their life. Under Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function, or the body cells do not react to insulin. Most of the cases of diabetes worldwide are of Type 2. Gestational diabetes affects females during pregnancy. These are mostly women with very high levels of glucose in their blood and their bodies are not able to produce enough insulin to combat the blood sugar levels.

In as much as all people are at risk of developing diabetes, some are at much higher risk than others. These include obese and overweight individuals whose weight leads their bodies to produce chemicals that can destabilize the body’s metabolic functions. Those who are usually inactive and continually take the wrong diet are also at the risk of developing diabetes and especially Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is untreatable and it is unfortunate that patients affected by it have to live with it for the rest of their lives. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by exercising a lot, controlling one’s body weight and taking in the right diet especially fruits and vegetables.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of diabetes in Kenya is estimated to be at 3.3% and by 2025 it is predicted to rise to 4.5%. Diabetes is a threatening factor in the country and so the government should ensure that a proper funding structure is put in place in our hospitals for effectively combating the disease. People should also be educated on proper feeding habits in order to keep diabetes at bay.