REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

MAUREEN WAITITU: Society should openly talk about sexual health

Covid-19 exposed the ugly underbelly of the lack of reproductive health services in the country.

In Summary

• According to Global Citizen, around 152,000 Kenyan teenage girls got pregnant during the lockdown.

• The consequences affect girls more as about 13,000 girls drop out of school every year because of pregnancy.

Sex education. Most teens have sex because they are curious, a study shows.ghe
EARLY SEX: Sex education. Most teens have sex because they are curious, a study shows.ghe
Image: FILE

Over the past few years, as a #Better4Kenya ambassador and a content creator, I have been part of formal and informal conversations about family planning and contraceptive methods.

Kenya has committed to achieve some family planning goals by 2030. Some of these goals include reducing the unmet need for family planning for all women, enhancing the capacity of service providers who provide family planning information and services, reducing pregnancy among adolescent girls and transforming social and gender norms to improve male engagement in family planning.

Why are these goals important? They acknowledge that family planning helps individuals and couples decide their future by enabling them to make decisions about the number of children they want and their spacing. Of course, this means that there is a clear link to sexual health and sex education.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of teen pregnancies in Kenya astounded us all and caused a huge debate.

According to Global Citizen, around 152,000 Kenyan teenage girls got pregnant during the lockdown. Covid-19 exposed the ugly underbelly of the lack of reproductive health services in the country. Policy makers had been highlighting this issue for many years but only when faced with the drastic consequences did we have open conversations about it as a society.

Even though some of the numbers were because of an increase in sexual abuse, the numbers also showed that teenagers across the country were actively engaging in sexual activity without adequate contraceptive information. 

The consequences affect girls more as about 13,000 girls drop out of school every year because of pregnancy. So we must face the facts.

Kenyan teenagers need access to sexual health information and reproductive health services which includes access to contraceptives. Meeting the need for access to reproductive health information and services requires government investment into our community health structures. This is why it is fantastic to see the government acknowledge that they need to enhance the capacity of service providers.

However, even if reproductive health services and family planning products are made available, if we cannot talk openly about sexual health as a society, we will stigmatise this process making it harder for those who urgently need these services. One way we can tackle this stigma is to engage men in family planning campaigns.

When Dj Moz, renown gospel DJ talked about his experience getting a vasectomy as part of the #ChezaKamaWewe conversations, he opened conversations far and wide. By talking about his journey he set the stage for men to engage in family planning conversations as equal participants. This transformative conversation allowed us to tackle the prejudicial idea that child care and family planning is the woman’s burden.

The year 2030 might seem like a distant dream for many, but for policy makers and the Kenyan government it is just eight years to get the country’s family planning commitments implemented. So why haven’t you heard more about these commitments yet? If we do not know about the commitments how can we hold successive governments accountable?

Moving from commitment requires all of us to lend our voices to champion access to family planning services for all across the country. Those of us with influence on social media can use our platforms to highlight these commitments and the work that is being done every day by our fellow Kenyans in this field.

This requires us to be brave and open in the face of societal stigma because #FamilyPlanningForAll is #Better4Kenya.

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