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.

Tom: My pharmacy might be small but it keeps women healthy and safe

Category : My Abortion Story

Story narrated by Tom

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

As a pharmacist, I usually get a lot of clients more so young women who come to me with a lot of questions about abortion and how to use the abortion pill.

Every day I get up to 5 women who come to buy the abortion pill and get more information on how it works. I offer my services secretly for fear of being arrested and charged in a court of law for helping women get abortion and risk a jail term of up to 14 years.

Despite the risk, I still do it because I want to save lives and I believe abortion is part of health care and health care is a human right. Denying safe abortion services and information to women and girls would be a violation of their rights.

Abortion is part of women’s lives. You might think abortion is not normal or common but the truth of the matter is that, abortion is very normal and common than you think.

Abortion occurs everywhere regardless of what the laws are. Restricting abortion doesn’t make it go away but instead it makes abortion be done secretly and unsafe putting the lives of women in danger. Unsafe abortion causes permanent injuries and even death.  No woman should have to risk her life or health because she lacks safe reproductive health choices.

I believe that decisions affecting a woman’s body should be left to women to decide and once they make their choice or decision known it should be respected and our role is to only make sure we provide safe and necessary resources she needs to make that choice a reality. Every person has the right to choose whether or not to move through a full pregnancy. No person should be forced through a full pregnancy.

I am a pharmacist and not a politician or a religious leader. I believe in choices. I believe that women have a right to access safe abortion information and services when they need it.  My pharmacy might be small but I am glad it keeps women healthy and safe in my community.

Lucy: I was not ready to be a mother

Category : My Abortion Story

Story told by Lucy

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

I was in my second year in campus when I found out I was pregnant. I was shocked. I was using a birth control method and I didn’t expect to get pregnant. It was clear to me that my birth control method had failed after all they are not 100 percent effective.

I was not ready to be a mother. Never in my life have I ever thought of having a child. I decided to have an abortion in a private hospital secretly without my partner knowing because I knew he would stop me despite me not being ready to be a parent.

My abortion saved my life. I could not have finished my studies in campus and started a career in journalism with an unintended pregnancy. I don’t regret making that choice to have an abortion. So long as it is my body, I make my own choices. Period.


Linda: We all have choices

Category : My Abortion Story

Story told by Linda

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

Back in high school 6 years ago, I fell in love with a guy who I thought was Mr. Perfect. He was so good to me until when I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant for him.  He refused to take responsibility and accused me of cheating and he dumped me over the phone.

I was hurt and angry but I was raised to be strong through tough times. I put myself together and after some serious thinking and soul searching, I decided to have an abortion. Having a child wouldn’t work out for me at that point of my life considering the fact that I was still young and in school.

Through the support of my mother, I was taken to a private clinic where I was to have my abortion. At first, the doctor in charge tried to convince me to keep the pregnancy but that did not change my mind and decision to have an abortion. I had my abortion and everything went well.

My ex-boyfriend later started to accuse me of killing his unborn baby, he told his friends what I had done and they all started calling me awful names just to shame me. I never had peace. I felt so helpless and hopeless because I had no one to talk to on what I been through.

My mum decided to change my school and we relocated to another estate to start a new life where no one knew what I had been through. I moved on with my life and am now concentrating on my studies in campus. I am in a healthy relationship with a man who would catch a grenade for me and jump in front of a train for me.

I hate the fact that there is so much stigma out here that comes with having an abortion. I believe that no woman or girl should be forced to carry a pregnancy she is not prepared to have just to satisfy a man and society at large who have no clue at all about her life, situation or what she is going through. We all have choices and having an abortion is one of them and should stay that way.


Category : My Abortion Story

Story told by Achieng

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

I remember that painful and terrifying day vividly. It was on Saturday, March 28th 2018 at around 10pm when I was brutally defiled by a man I didn’t know or recognize.

Our home is located three hundred meters away from a famous restaurant here in seme sub county. On that day out of curiosity, my elder sister and I decided to go and check on what was happening there due to the loud music and shouting that came from the area. When we reached, we found out that one of the popular Luo musicians was performing. There were a lot of people both inside and outside the restaurant so we decided to stay outside for a while since I was underage and could not be allowed in. After I had enough, I decided to leave my sister as she seemed to be enjoying herself and walked home.

Before I got far, I noticed I was being followed by a man dressed in all black clothes. He was tall and slim even though I couldn’t see his face as it was quite dark.  I assumed he was also heading home since the footpath that heads to our home is usually used by other people.

When I reached near a small bush which is like 100 meters away from our house, the man ran towards me and held a grip on my hand and threatened to kill me if I dared to scream. He pulled out a small machete hidden in his waist, pointed it at my throat and ordered me to lie on the ground. He then proceeded to do the despicable act despite my numerous pleas for  mercy. It was the most intense pain I have ever felt both physically and emotionally. After he was done he left heading towards the restaurant.

I felt dirty, scared and weak. I did not know what to do and who to approach or talk to. The environment both at home and in school were not conducive. My dad being a widower was a drunkard and our teachers in school were harsh and unapproachable. I decided to keep it to myself. No one would ever know what had happened to me.

One month later I found out I was pregnant. I hid it from my teachers and family but they eventually found out as my stomach grew bigger by the day. I had it rough in school. The teachers mocked me, my fellow students mocked me until eventually the head teacher in our school called me and asked me to drop out of school for a while and postpone my education until the time I gave birth. He said there was no way I was going to sit for my final Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination because he had taken my name off the list of those who would sit for it in fear that I would bring bad grades for the school and that I would encourage other female students to get pregnant.

Feeling unwanted, I ran away from home for two weeks to my aunt’s place because the pressure was too much. Even while there, I never disclosed to her that I was raped. I only did this when I got the courage to talk to a Network for Adolescent and of Youth Africa- Kenya (NAYA Kenya) personnel who is a family friend and was interested in my case. He wanted me to go back to school. He was so understanding and promised to help me. I thank the guy who rescued my life after picking up my story and presenting it to the director of education who ordered that I go back to school and assured me that I would sit for my final exam. She also ordered I be taken for antenatal care, counseling and be treated with respect and dignity all the time I was in school.

I am five months pregnant now carrying a child I was not really ready to bring into the world. My dad had a change of heart and offered to take care of the child once I gave birth even though I wish I had a different choice. I do not want to be a mother right now as I am only 15 years old with a lot of goals to achieve in life.

If safe and legal options to end my pregnancy were available then I would have ended my pregnancy long time ago. If there was no shaming of rape victims and women that choose to abort, I would have ended my pregnancy long time ago. If I had information about safe abortion services and where to get help I would have spoken up sooner. If I had information on what to do when sexually abused, I would have taken action.

No girl should have to undergo what I had to go through.

My abortion Story

Category : My Abortion Story

Story told by Lucy

Edited by Michael Okun Oliech

I was 18 years old when I found out I was three weeks pregnant. I was in my first year in campus. Being the firstborn in our family and a daughter of a peasant, I was so scared. I did not want to be a disappointment to my family and siblings. I wanted to complete my education and become that brilliant lawyer that I have always wanted to be and help my family. I was not ready to be a mum and raise a baby when I was still a baby myself. My boyfriend was not ready to be a dad. Considering the fact that we could barely take care of ourselves there was no way we could take care of another being.

Having an abortion was the only option that was available to us. We decided to use half of our higher learning education loan to go and get abortion services at a private hospital. The procedure was a bit painful but I was so relieved when it was over and everything went well. I was extremely relieved that I was no longer pregnant and I could now go back to class and study without stressing or worrying about the pregnancy and what people and my family would think or say about me.

Ten years down the line and looking back at the decision I made when I was young, I don’t regret it. Here I am today married to the man who stood by me during the most difficult time of my life, helped and supported me when I made the hard decision to have an abortion. I was able to attain my degree in with law first class honors and now I am a lawyer blessed with a beautiful girl and a handsome boy who are wanted and we are a happy family.

Abortion should be a choice left in the hands of women and not in the hands of policy makers, religious leaders and society at large.  It is very important that women should be allowed to decide if, when and whether to become parents or not. It is our body and we should decide on what stays inside our body. When a woman decides to have an abortion we should respect her decision and make sure we avail the resources and services she needs to make it safe. I believe safe abortion is a human right and the government must respect a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her sexual and reproductive health life.

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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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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.