• Onyango said rights campaigners will engage different groups such as cultural and religious leaders to promote the sexual and reproductive health of young people.
• Executive director for the Reproductive Health Network in Kenya, said the Constitution grants comprehensive reproductive health rights to young people.
Several groups plan to engage cultural elders to support the reproductive health rights of young people.
This year, Kenya's population included more than 13 million adolescents, according to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.
Kenya remains the third-highest country worldwide with teenage pregnancies where one in every five adolescent women aged 15 -19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child, the Ministry of Health reports.
The Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK), a network of civil societies working mostly with young people, said the needs of this age group are largely ignored.
“For instance, it is okay to support to teenagers who fall pregnant, but not right for them to prevent pregnancy through contraceptives,” said Martin Onyango, associate director of legal strategies for Africa. He spoke at the Nairobi-based Centre for Reproductive Rights.
Onyango said rights campaigners will engage different groups such as cultural and religious leaders to promote the sexual and reproductive health of young people.
Nelly Munyasia, the executive director for Reproductive Health Network in Kenya, said the Constitution actually grants comprehensive reproductive health rights for young people.
“No one should be discriminated against on account of age, gender, sexual orientation or religion,” she said.
The activists spoke in Nairobi on Wednesday ahead of the 2023 Reproductive Health Network in Kenya Annual Scientific Conference on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in June.
The annual event brings together different groups including government, civil society, the private sector, faith-based organisations, and cultural leaders advocating for comprehensive access to sexual reproductive health information and services.
According to UNFPA, adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health must be supported.
“This means providing access to comprehensive sexuality education; services to prevent, diagnose and treat STIs; and counselling on family planning,” says UNFPA in its statement on adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
In July, the Ministry of Health launched the national reproductive health policy (2022-2032) to address maternal health, family planning, adolescence and young adults’ reproductive health as well as that of marginalised persons.
“The National reproductive health policy seeks to address the age- specific needs of the entire life cohort of the Kenyan population. This ranges from the reproductive health needs of a baby born intersex , through an adolescent seeking guided understanding of the changes occurring, and protection from harm, as they cross over to adulthood,” former Health PS Susan Mochache said in July last year.
Director, medical services, preventive and promotive health at Health Ministry,Dr Andrew Mulwa, said the policy aims to align reproductive health with provisions of the Constitution as expounded in Article 43 on the right to the highest attainable standards of healthcare.
“The document will guide the delivery of reproductive health services needed by the public,” Mulwa said.
The ministry said the policy also seeks to provide age-appropriate and culturally competent information and education to guide the nation in protecting reproductive health.
(Edited by V. Graham)