By Rens Saat, Programme Officer @Simavi
Amsterdam, 21 june
Last month, I went for a seven – day visit to Kenya with my colleague, Marlijn Lelieveld. In the Western region we visited our local partners to get updates on the progress made of our projects. During our stay in the city of Kisumu we visited the offices of our local partners; TICH, ADS as well as KMET, who are all in their own way making valuable contributions to better Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for young Kenyans. While it would be easy to simply report the positive results, taking a deeper look into the circumstances in which our local partners are working helps one to understand the urgency of the projects and appreciate the outstanding results they have achieved.
We found this reflected during a field visit to Bungoma, where our local partner CSA organized a meeting with multiple stakeholders involved in their SRHR work. We were surrounded by SRHR project coordinators, health workers, young people, school pupils and youth champions (influential information providers). The main topic of discussion was: Young people and their reproductive health services. The first discussion point was to determine which circumstances result in a higher likeliness for young people to engage in unhealthy sexual behavior. A list of 9 factors came out:
- Substance abuse (alcohol and drug).
- Negative peer pressure (bad influence of friends).
- Teenage pregnancy (high number of girls resign from school).
- STI infections and no treatment (including AIDS).
- Multiple sexual partners and promiscuous behavior.
- School dropout (especially girls).
- Younger people dating older people for financial reasons, so-called: sponsors.
- A conservative environment with cultural beliefs which ends all grounds for discussion.
- Lack of SRHR information and perspective.
Besides the troubled circumstances in which young Kenyans are living, there are also other challenges at hand. These issues were explored during the second discussion:
What challenges do people have to access to health services?
- Timing. Young people are attending school during clinic opening hours. Such facilities also tend to be available only during weekdays.
- Financial constraint. Young people can’t afford treatment or transport-related costs in order to reach the available clinics.
- Lack of privacy at clinics.
- Lack of Youth Friendly Services. Only five of them for all youth residing in Bungoma.
- Judgmental attitude health workers display towards youth.
- Challenges and setbacks experienced by the youngsters in the service provision they tend to be spread among their peers.
As we can see, the aforementioned circumstances create a challenging environment for young people in Bungoma. Not only do they contribute towards unhealthy sexual behaviour, there is also the issue of good health services being inaccessible. The challenges Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights programs face are generated by the complexity of the problem, which is hard to attribute to a singular cause. This justifies the need for a multi-component approach as offered by Simavi, targeting the problem on different levels and components. This is precisely the strategy used by our local partners and where they are creating added value and establishing positive impact.
More information on our SRHR programs can be found here!