Sadly, ten years later after the promulgation of the Constitution, these basic rights are still a dream for the girl child.

Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya is an ambitious aspiration that is meant to promote equality, equity, inclusion, and non- discrimination based on gender, race, and ethnicity. The Constitution has presented an occasion where women and girls have over time experienced historical imbalance. Systemic challenges have made it difficult for women to not only access political leadership but also social and economic rights. The right to safe abortion, right to menstrual health hygiene, female genital mutilation are some of the issues that women and girls among other things fight every day.

Image by Hanna Barczyk for NPR

Menstruation is a biological process that transitions a girl to womanhood. Some girls experience it earlier than the age of ten, others experience it way later. This biological process is characterized by pain, some women experience extremely heavy bleeding, premenstrual syndrome, and amenorrhea. However, this biological process which forms a critical component of sanitation, health, and education has been compounded by taboos and cultural practices. Silence or discussion of menstruation hygiene in hushed tones has curtailed women’s and girls’ ability to express their sexuality and this hinders their participation in matters that concern them. The silence has been worsened by existing gender and social norms, societal restrictions, predominant patriarchy, and gender inequality.

Kenya has made some significant strides in addressing menstrual hygiene. Water and sanitation sector is key in implementing menstrual hygiene management, hence Article 43 of the Constitution has given a right to all to enjoy access to clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Menstrual health is a reproductive matter, the same provision guarantees all women and girls to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health which includes reproductive health care. However, these rights have not been fully achieved as far as menstrual hygiene is concerned. Most girls and women in low- and middle-income areas still face challenges relating to access to sanitation facilities and lack of proper avenues for disposal of menstrual waste. Disposal of menstrual hygiene products is not only a waste management problem but a health issue as well. Poor disposal of menstrual products may act as a breeding ground for infections and diseases. On top of that too, sanitary products not disposed of well can be an eyesore. Most school latrines and public toilets lack free-flowing water, lockable doors, good lighting, and privacy in general.

And to mention accessibility, the prices of sanitary towels are outrageous. Girls and women who cannot afford this commodity have been forced to improvise the sanitary products. Tree barks, socks, tissues are some of the improvised products. Even though these go a long way, they pose a challenge and could lead to infections. Some young women in rural areas are known to sit on small holes they have dug as their menstrual cycle passes.

The Basic Education Amendment Act, No. 17 of 2017, provides that the government shall provide free sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution who has reached puberty and provide a safe and environmentally sound mechanism for disposal of the sanitary towels. This has kept many girls in school but in areas where negative gender-based practices continue to prevail that limit access of girls to education, girls have missed out on this which has spiked the rise of early teenage pregnancy due to transactional sex and in some areas early childhood marriages.

The Menstrual Health and Hygiene Policy is a landmark Policy that was approved by the Government of Kenya in November 2019. It contains five policies that the government hopes to include in existing programs like the anti-FGM campaign. The policies which include the establishment of an enabling legal and regulatory environment for women and girls, eradication of myths, taboos, and stigma around menstruation, ensure women and girls have access to safe and hygienic menstrual products, safe and appropriate menstrual waste management and maximum accountability in the policy will go a long way in ensuring that women and girls enjoy this reproductive health right devoid of stigma and shame.

Written by Mercy Chepkemoi who is a lawyer by profession. She is particular with issues affecting women’s rights.
Twitter – @masiememo
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Image courtesy of People Daily.

Teenage pregnancies are still on the rise, are we doing enough about it?

As the country struggles to curb the spread of coronavirus, teenage pregnancy has also starred as another outbreak that has raised alarm all over the country. It has been weeks since the media reported data that is said to have been from public facilities, even as stakeholders continue to debate on this matter and blaming each other, the big question remains, how do we liberate our girls from another pandemic called teenage pregnancies?

The magnitude of the problem extends to the social, mental and economic wellbeing of the pregnant girls as most them are not able to complete their education despite the existence of policies that support them to resume school after delivery; Important to note is that complications relating to pregnancies and childbirth are the leading causes of deaths for girls age 15-19 (WHO), therefore this pandemic exposes teenage girls to even greater risk. Their limited capacity to negotiate for safe sex, school closure, sexual violence, and perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic might have been the leading causes of teenage pregnancy. 

Urban informal settlements have mostly been affected by the surge of teenage pregnancies with teenagers being left at the mercy of quack doctors procuring unsafe abortions, while those who choose to keep the baby have limited access to essential healthcare. Doreen is a thirteen-year-old girl living in Mukuru slums, she is four months pregnant from a 23-year-old man, Doreen has since faced rejection from her parents and the man who impregnated her. She expresses her dissatisfaction with the antenatal care she has been receiving from a nearby facility. Doreen represents thousands of girls across the country who are facing tough times in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enough said, if the issue of teenage pregnancies is not addressed then we might end up having more teenage pregnancies than COVID-19 cases; so how do we sustain the gains made over the years as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic? Stakeholders including parents, the government, and Non-Governmental Organizations should promote comprehensive sexuality education that will help learners make informed decisions concerning their bodies and health. There is also a need for continuous advocacy to address policy barriers that limit enabling legal and socio-cultural environment for accessing Sexual Reproductive Health Services and information

Finally, it is imperative to note that the root causes of teenage pregnancies are complex and to be successful, there is a need for comprehensive, multi-pronged, and multi-sectoral approaches and integration of the approaches in COVID-19 response especially at the County level.

 

BIO

Steve is a passionate Reproductive health advocate who has a reputation in the youth sector when it comes to reproductive health and rights.

He is a youth health advocate from Nairobi Youth Advisory Council championing for the rights of youth and adolescents, sexual minorities to access to comprehensive and age-responsive sexual reproductive health knowledge about their sexual and reproductive rights.

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Kenya’s Big Win; What does this mean for the common mwananchi? – Mukanda Asha

On Thursday the 18th of June as the world slept, world leaders convened virtually to cast votes for the UN Security Council non-permanent membership 2021–20202. Kenyan won. This was after it garnered129 votes against Djibouti’s 62 in the second round of voting at the UNSC headquarters in New York City. Kenya won largely due to its support for refugees from Somalia and South Sudan, as well as to its support to the two countries’ fragile governments. The win came at an opportune time, this is because Nairobi’s latest international bids had largely been unsuccessful. Kenya had lost a bid to host the secretariat of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement to Ghana. She had lost her bid to have one of her own as Chairperson of the AU Commission. It also failed to host the regional offices of the Afrexim Bank. This means that Nairobi can, from January 2021, return to the UN’s most powerful organ after 23 years where it will be part of key decisions on global peace and security.

As a Kenyan and a patriot, my heart was filled with joy and I couldn’t help but smile as I read the news. I did not know what this meant for the country, but my ignorant self was aware that being the UN Security Council, this meant that it was a huge deal or so I thought. But what does this big win mean? How does this major move translate to the life of a Common Mwananchi? Does it trickle down to Wekesa or is it just an icing on the cake? Are there perks that one can ride on or is it another foreign concept one that is of no benefit to the citizens?

The win wasn’t devoid of issues, it later came up that none of the East African countries voted for Kenya a move that left most of us questioning our rapport with our neighbors. Observers said Djibouti’s race against Kenya may jeopardize working relations in regional blocs the two countries belong. According to Dr. Mustafa Ali, “having two entrants from the same region was also a pointer to weak multilateral diplomacy in Africa and a possibility of external influence.”

The fact that two countries from the IGAD region were competing for a non-permanent member seat at the UNSC left us wondering if this was a pointer to deep divisions between countries at the sub-regional bloc~ Dr. Mustafa Y Ali, Chairman of the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies.

 Speaking during a press conference Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Racheal Omamo alluded to the fact that with the new platform, Kenya will articulate the issues that shaped its campaign for the seat. These issues include regional peace, Justice and Human rights, Climate Change, and youth empowerment. She mentioned that the opportunity will allow Kenya to join the world in dealing with issues that are critical for every human being.

“It is essential that Africans are at the table, that our ideas, our decision making, our thought processes visions and are laid on the table for all to see, for all to hear and for all to engage with that is why we were endorsed by the African Union to speak for Africa without hesitation, trepidation and without fear.~Racheal Omamo Cabinet Secretary Foreign Affairs.

The big question is can Kenya and  Africa as a whole make its global point or influence as an independent entity without being infiltrated by external power interests? 

Mukanda Asha is a bibliophile who is passionate about youth, women, policy, and data and the effect that the four have on each other.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/asha.mukanda.1 | Twitter https://twitter.com/mukanda_asha | IG-https://www.instagram.com/mukandasha/

 

 

Siasa Place is an NGO formed 2015 that aims to create an enabling environment for women and youth mainstreaming into our body politics.

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