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Implement Comprehensive Sexuality Education To Tackle Teenage Pregnancy

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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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No Woman Should Die When Giving Birth

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

For most women, pregnancy is a time of happiness, fulfillment and great expectations.

However, for some this happy moment is just like a big balloon waiting to burst.

It is estimated that more than 800 women die daily from complications during birth. This is according to the World Bank report 2015. These cases of maternal mortality are highest in developing countries in the sub-Saharan region in Africa, Kenya included.

In Kenya maternal mortality is highest in rural areas and amongst the poorest communities. Most of the rural areas are characterized with lack of proper health care services maternal health included. Most of the women in rural areas are poor and thus choose to give birth at their homes with the help of mid wives. This is despite the government declaration of free maternity services.

Majority of these mid wives are only equipped with general knowledge about giving birth and they cannot tackle complication that arises during and after birth. These complications could be in terms of severe bleeding, infection, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.

These, alongside unsafe abortions, are major causes for maternal deaths.

These deaths can be prevented. It starts with deliberate allocation of resources to reproductive health and generally improving the dilapidated healthcare system, especially in rural areas.

When pregnant women have access to skilled care before, after and during child birth, even their general health status improve.

We believe all women in Kenya deserve to have a full access to both antenatal care and skilled care and support during child birth and after child birth. These services need to be done in settings that meet human and physical thresholds of competence.

This just goes beyond formulation of policies and declarations, these plans must be implemented fully including with budgetary backing for the plans of action.

No woman should die when giving birth.

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The Sex Dens of Kondele

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

It’s a normal Friday afternoon in the boda boda city of Kisumu. The ubiquitous hot and wet Kisumu weather is unignorable, so is the smell of fish and dust from the road construction.

I meet my usually jovial friend Otieno who wasn’t his cheery self today.

I can tell something is wrong by the look of his face.

He is usually free with me so he decides to be talk.

“Mike there is a big problem in kondele. Young girls are being used in the sex industry at kondele. I feel so bad that girls below the age of 15 are in this business of prostitution. It’s a pity that such girls do sleep with very old men in fact older than their parents for only fifty shillings. These girls operate from eleven until morning hours.”

Otieno, noticing the disbelief in my face, drags me to see for myself.

As soon as the dark of the night creeped in, young girls barely into their teenage years started trooping into the parlour.

I asked Anyango* later why she feels she has to do that.

“I need money. I am an orphan with nobody to take care of me, nobody to buy me pads or other things I need.”

She tells me that business is not bad.

“On a good night I sleep with over five men. They pay me fifty shillings if we use condoms and eight hundred shillings if we don’t use.”

It’s clear what her choice is.

Otieno asks me what NAYA KENYA will do about this.

“Law enforcers know about this and are doing nothing about it. Most of them actually receive bribes not to do anything. NGOS aren’t any different as most just come here, conduct research in the area and leave with data.”

He feels that civil society organizations have an important role to play in such dialogues.

Teenage prostitution is real in kondele area and I just wish this issues is dealt with once for all.

Otieno feels that most of the coverage on Kondele on traditional and new media platforms are all about vices, yet the youth of the area are much more than social misfits.

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Sex Exploitation of children in all its forms is a crime according to the constitution and other local and international instruments.

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“I Talk To My Kids About Sex.”

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Melisa Anyango is 30 years old. She plays father and mother to her three kids, her husband having passed on. Paul is eight years old, Steve is five and Grace is nine years.

As a mother of three young children, she knows the importance of equipping them with the right sexual and reproductive health information to enable them make informed choices.

It hasn’t always been like that though.

She changed her mind after observing what happened when some of her relatives were not free with their children.

But it was not until she attended a NAYA Community Forum where the importance of cross generational dialogue was discussed that she had a whole new view of the situation.

She now strongly believes that parents should talk to their kids early about sex because through this the children will be able to understand their body and will always think positively about their bodies as they grow.

She spreads the gospel in her area that chats between children and parents should begin at an early age so that there is no tension or embarrassment  when the topic of sexuality is broached.

Melissa  is now a strong believer that every information and knowledge that children gets should first come from their parents or guardians. This prevents young people from accessing the wrong information elsewhere including through peers and the internet.

As a mother of three kids first approaching adolescence and sexual debut, she knows it’s her prerogative to ensure the future of her kids by empowering them to abstain and if they can’t then to make safe sexual choices.

She states that when parents are communicating to their children then they need to be honest and open to them.

“We should respect their views and don’t be so judgmental.”

She argues that once one has built a strong foundation with their kids then as the kids grows up and reach the trials of adolescent,  they are more likely to speak up about their issues freely.

She says most parents fear talking to the adolescents because of fear and embarrassment.

The ever smiling Melisa quotes a saying that prevention is better than cure.

“We the parents need to stop running away from our responsibilities leaving all these duties to the school and friends and social media”.

“A child is more likely to listen to the parent than the teacher and friends;” she adds.

Her mission, she says will not be complete until she has shared what she learnt from NAYA with the rest of the community.

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Financing for Development: Invest in Meaningful Youth Participation

(Photo: Our Country Team Leader with President Thambo Mbeki at a Side Event in Addis)

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

Over the years, global development goals have been set by technocrats and experts. There was widespread belief that these processes were too complex for the average Joe to understand, let alone young Joe.

Majority of these processes did not have youth components, and the few glimpses of youth issues in them were ideas from technical people who factored in what they thought young people wanted.

Cheikh, the special envoy of the president of Burkina Faso shared an interesting story about the role of community involvement in developing and executing development ideas.

He tells of his community where woman travelled long ways just to access clean water.

In their own wisdom, the government in collaboration with development partners, built a huge water point right at the center of the village.

However, it was observed that the women snubbed the nearer, safer and more convenient water point and still trooped to the river.

Curious what might have forced the women to act this way, one confided in him,

“You see, the time for fetching water is the only time we get as women to talk our issues.”

But this isn’t about women in Burkina Faso refusing a well-built water point.

This is about meaningful participation in decision making processes.

For the longest of time, young people have been like this women; being given things others feel are important for them but ones nevertheless they didn’t ask for.

The narrative has to change now.

The global discussions on the POST 2015 Agenda gave young people an unprecedented opportunity to influence policy making at the highest level. Whereas there was no specific goal on young people among the seventeen goals, the language on youth was still strong.

But realizing this goals will not just require powerful statements but also key resources including finances, technology and capacity.

That’s why NAYA KENYA , alongside other civil society organizations working around the rights of young people from across the globe are in Addis Ababa; to ensure that Financing for Development Conference finances meaningful youth development in an integrated and sustainable way.

And whereas young people may from time to time lack specific skills on key thematic issues, it is still important that their capacity is built in order to allow them to participate fully in development agenda.

Of course this meaningful youth participation should not be measured just in times of quantity of young people involved or even quantity of this meetings, it should be measured in terms of the quality of the contributions.

Our leaders keep on saying that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, then investing in their health, education and building their economic base now is not only the smart thing to do, but also the right thing to do.

The Addis Ababa accord, though not as strongest as we would want int to be, must now be implemented in driving the development agenda forward, including as a means of implementation to the upcoming sustainable development goals.

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A Tale of Two Sisters

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Eighteen year old Evelyn Atieno and seventeen year old Jacinta Auma from Seme are not just your ordinary sisters. They have a unique story.

Apart from sharing a bloodline, they share something much bigger in common.

They got pregnant on the same day!!

In 2013, Evelyn and Jacinta were just normal teenage girls on their last year of primary school looking forward to graduating to secondary school.

Their dream did come true. They got admission into Form One.

The fairy tale ends here.

Secondary school suddenly seemed like a whole new world. There were certain things that the big girls did that seemed cooler and mature. Girls had boyfriends. Having a boyfriend seemed like the best thing that could ever happen to a young girl.

Evelyne and Jacinta would soon get into this elite group.

They would, as expected of them, engage in unprotected sexual activities.

They had no information on sexuality and on just what healthy relationship entails.

They had no idea of the magic called contraceptives either. Nor of course what they were for.

Pregnancy was not something that ever crossed mind. It would cross their paths soon.

Shockingly, as true sisters that they were, they got pregnant on the same day.

They would only realize a month later. That would be the end of life as they knew it.

They had to drop out of school. They couldn’t just handle the ridicule and the shame.

But the biggest hurdle was how their harsh and proud charcoal selling father would take the news. It seemed just better to die than wait for him to take a panga and cut them into pieces.

They would escape his wrath, thanks to their mum who stood by them and calmed the old man down.

The pregnancy hasn’t been without challenges. Jacinta particularly has had a rough time. Five months into her pregnancy, Jacinta had to prematurely deliver. Apparently her anatomy wasn’t ready physically to withstand the demands of pregnancy.

She had to undergo emergency caesarian section.

Her baby would not survive. It died almost immediately. It was one of the most devastating moments of her life.

But that wasn’t the end of her pain.

She developed chronic headache and now has to take painkillers regularly.

The local health care workers assure her the headaches will disappear after some time.

Her sister is now eighth months pregnant and is likely to conceive next month.

But teenage pregnancy in Seme is not just restricted to Mzee Ojwang’s homestead.

Twenty of their friends have gotten pregnant and dropped out of school.

The sisters believe that sexuality education would go a long way in reversing this alarming trend.

Their story doesn’t end here though.

They are determined to rise up after their fall and rejoin high school next year.

Thy want to grow up and realize their dream job of becoming teachers in the community.

Their mother is really a strong woman and has been their pillar for support for them. She has sacrificed a lot and assures me her daughters will go back to school and inspire other teenagers who have dropped out of school due to early pregnancy.

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We continue to call upon government to Implement and fully fund, quality, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programs that provide accurate information on human sexuality, gender equality, human rights, relationships, and sexual and reproductive health for both in- and out-of-school youth that is relevant to each specific age group. Wherever possible, make in-school CSE programs intra-curricular and examinable.

(Position Paper on Inclusion of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the POST 2015 Agenda)

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Illicit Financial Flows; Major Threat to Development

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

One of the age old responses posted by governments in response to requests to substantially increase allocation to critical components of development like education and health has been, “we recognize that that’s an important issue, however we do not have funding at this time”

This template response has been a major hindrance to realization of basic human rights.

Hundreds of pupils cram together under trees to wait for one overworked teacher as pregnant women continue to walk long distances to go bring forth life. Sometimes the obstacles standing between them and that facility is dilapidated roads that can only allow one wheel barrow at a time.

Funding all these different but interrelated issues is very critical if we are to achieve sustainable development.

The question however should not just be where can we get additional resources from but also how best to fully make use of the resources at our hands in an effective and efficient manner, taking notes of our different priority agendas.

One of the greatest problem bedeviling our world, especially our continent is the massive issue of illicit financial flows.

This is when money is illegally earned, transferred, or spent.

According to the report by the task-force led by Thambo Mbeki, former South African president, Africa has lost about 1.2 to 1.4 trillion US Dollars over the last thirty years. This sum is very significant because by some expert’s estimate, illicit flows from Africa each year could be as much as double what Official Donor Assistance allocate to Africa.

But Africa does not stand alone in this.

Bangladesh is a classic example where the amount of money lost is bigger than the aid it receives from developed nations.

Companies, especially multinational companies that avoid tax must be reminded that the revenue lost would have funded dreams and strengthened important sectors like education, health among others.

The Addis Ababa Declaration must therefore be strong on sealing all the loopholes of illicit cash flows.

This will go a long way in ensuring that as citizens and donors do their part, governments utilize the available resources to rewrite the history of our continents, realize human rights, achieve equality and strengthen governance and accountability.

As the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, urged members as he closed civil society consultations, Financing for Development is of crucial importance not just in realizing the ambitious POST 2015 development agenda, or the climate change, but for all the aspirations of the widow in Bangkok and the mama mboga in Kenya.

We most not behave like the proverbial Kimani who took forever filling his bucket and still ended up with no water.

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Reintroduce Ambition at Addis!

Category : Naya Blog

By Robert Aseda

As the Millennium Development Goals draws to a close, the world is getting ready for the ambitious Post 2015 Development Agenda characterized by seventeen goals and a whooping one hundred and sixty nine targets!

That must show how serious the globe is with realizing global and national development, right?

Wrong.

For this plethora of targets, finances are obviously a key part of the means of implementation. Otherwise the beautiful picture we have drawn in our heads will just remain dreams if not backed by sufficient resources.

It is against this background that ministers and citizens, feminists and artists, politicians and religious leaders, businessmen and tech wizards, old and young people, technocrats and concerned commoners from the one hundred and ninety three United Nations members states have descended into Addis Ababa to take stock of what was agreed on in the past, what has been achieved and what must be done differently in order to feed our monstrous desires in a sustainable way.

But Financing for Development isn’t a discussion that is beginning in Addis Ababa. This is a processes that started over a decade ago in Monterrey and later in Doha in 2008.

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis couldn’t have come at a better time. It not only has the hindsight of failed promises but a clearer picture of the world we want.

The Draft Addis Accord however fails to capture the spirit of the globe’s aspirations. It fails to recognize that time for lukewarm and maybe resolutions are long gone. It fails to agree on concrete and tangible deliverables.

It fails to address the uneasy relationship between developed and developing nations. It fails to address social and economic justice, nor does it strongly address domestic resources that are not properly and systematically collected and utilized.

How then would we expect to fund important issues like education, energy, water and sanitation, sexual and reproductive health and rights among others?

Mr. Stefan Prato of the Addis Ababa Coordinating Group, sums it that the Financing for Development process is stuck between aspirations of our rights and the realities of our political structures.

“Are we here to cry?” he asked.

Definitely not.

Civil society organizations have tremendous opportunities to influence the outcome of Addis. We still have a huge opportunity to work with governments and development agencies to realize a world where we shift from business as usual and focus on the centrality of human rights in the whole processes.

Some of the key issues that NAYA and other civil society organizations are going to take seriously include a global tax system that will redress taking from the poor and rewarding the rich, an outcome that calls upon investment in women and youth as smart economics and not as fundamental rights, concrete actionable deliverables, stopping illicit financial flows and most importantly strong follow up mechanisms.

But it’s not going to be easy.

It has never been easy.

The realization of major milestones like right for women to vote in the United States or new constitutional dispensations in many African countries didn’t come on a silver platter.

A group of committed individuals fought for them.

Just as there can never be sustainable development without human rights, there can never be realization of human rights without development.

 

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Senate; Amend and Pass The Reproductive Health Care Bill

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

We have had the statistics over and over again. The Kenya Demographic Health Surveys, the Multiple Cluster Indicator Surveys, the Kenya AIDS Indicator Surveys, the Google Zeitgeist results, the reports all tell us one thing- that the Kenyan young people are not where there they need to be when it comes to issues of health in general and reproductive health in particular.

If the fact that the most asked questions online by young people in Kenya has been ‘What is Sex?’ and how to abort cannot jolt us into immediate action, then the fact that the group with the highest HIV/AIDS infections rate are girls between twenty and twenty four or the gory details of ten year old mothers we see every day in televisions and hear in radios should definitely do it for us.

It’s a huge shame that they don’t.

My people perish because of lack of knowledge, the good book tells us. We live in a ‘pious’ society which would rather hide her head in the sand and hope the danger has gone away.

Yet it still lurks in the neighborhood waiting to pounce on our ‘Africanness’ under our collective watch.

A slightly weaker version of the ‘controversial’ Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 finally made its way back to the floor of the Senate after it first appeared in the public eye last year. Just as was the case last year, it seems there is still no love lost for attempts to ‘sneak in” the comprehensive sexuality education in our school curriculum and advocate for access to youth friendly reproductive health services.

Some of the adjectives used to describe the Bill would have passed as interesting hadn’t these issues been so grave.

A quick online poll by Citizen Television revealed that over six out of ten Kenyans were in agreement with the need for young people to access sexual and reproductive health information and services, which is an improvement from a similar poll last year.

But this discussion is bigger than democracy or religious inclinations or even political opportunism. This debate needs to strongly anchored in human rights, the harsh realities of our world today and the vision we have for our young people.

After all it’s only fools who keep on doing things the same way while expecting different results.

Last year we made our submissions to the Senate and published several articles on the local dailies on some of the myths peddled against the Reproductive Health Care Bill including that it will encourage young people to start having sexual relationships at young ages, or it will encourage promiscuity or that it is a foreign agenda. The reality is that borrowing successful ideas does not mean we are less African, it means that we are a people keen on learning and rewriting our stories. It means that we want our young people to live long enough to power our nations to the same fete young people from the Asian tigers took their nations to.

We therefore call upon the Senate to be the Solomon’s of our generation and ensure that young people do not have to rush to Uncle Google to get information they so crave if that information can be provided in a controlled setting and issued in a way that recognizes different packages for different age sets.

We call upon our Senate to ensure that young people do not have to go to dingy corners illuminated with whacky quacks in order to get a service that they would have otherwise accessed at youth friendly centers in a manner that is agreeable and friendly to them.

However, the clause on parental consent while accessing reproductive health services for those under eighteen needs to be amended. After all, nobody asks for parental consent when engaging in sexual activities, why would they start when seeking reproductive health services?

This ASKS are not out of the blues. They are based on promises based in international declarations, national policies and guidelines that just need to be strengthened further by provisions in an act of parliament.

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Loud Whispers of Misery

By Praxides Mavale, (@Praxides_mavale)

She cuts the figure of a run-down woman almost crumbling at the sheer weight of the world on her tiny shoulders.

Atieno* is just sixteen years old, yet in her tiny world, she has been to hell and back.

When we meet Atieno at her grandmother’s house in Bonde village, she tells us about her unhealed scars.

Yet Atieno doesn’t exhibit the normal signs of injuries. For she has a bigger sickness-in her mind!

Psychosocial trauma is a major problem bedeviling many a young person today.

When Atieno opens up to tell the devastating post exposure experiences after procuring an unsafe abortions, she evokes a deep empathy of what she had to go through and how life would have played out differently.

Sometimes a person may get away with the physical risks of procuring an unsafe abortion, but the psychological scars live forever.

When she got the news that she was pregnant, she thought it was just a funny joke that the body was plying on her.

Yes, she had engaged in unprotected sex with a local village boy but surely she couldn’t have been pregnant. Not at sixteen!

What would people say? What would happen to her now?

She had to get rid of her public source of ridicule!!

But because of poverty and a restrictive legal environment on unsafe abortions in Kenya, Atieno was referred to a quack operating in a dingy corner of Kisumu City’s sprawling slums.

She was scared, hoping for the best while expecting the worst.

It’s the worst that would happen.

She had never seen so much blood ooze out of a person. The pain was excruciating, searing and unignorable.

Perhaps, her date with the maker was closer than she had imagined.

She ended up going to the back street attendant who managed to stop the bleeding, but permanently tempered with her cervix and womb.

Her pains were later to be compounded with the disappearance of her sugar bear.

But Atieno isn’t alone in all this. Statistics paint a grim picture of the Kenyan youth. Unsafe abortions are so common, yet nobody talks about them.

There is need to address women’s rights issues and the rights of other marginalized population’s including young people.

Many young women die due to unsafe abortions.

The higher costs of treating complications from unsafe abortions pushes women further into greater poverty.

Complications resulting from pregnancy are the leading causes of deaths for young women of ages 15-19 because they lack proper information and access to youth friendly services.

If only young people could have access to information and youth friendly services…..

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There’s something our parliament can do to make young people more than just statistics- they can pass the Reproductive Health Care Bill 2014 and fast track access to information and services by young people.

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