People Power

Kenya describes itself as a Democratic Nation but that Democracy is largely on paper. I say so because the wielders of power are the minority few. A certain clique of leaders has addressed themselves as the owners of Kenya. This sets a very terrible terrain for the leadership of the country. Among the mature Democracies, that we purport to admire, no individual wields any excess powers to an extent of capturing the state. For example in the USA, of which we’ve borrowed a huge chunk of constitutionalism from having the best illustration of what a Democracy should look like. The power is vested in the people and through political parties. Separation of powers has also been inclined so well, that the Executive, Judiciary, Congress, and the Federal units know what is expected of them.

 

For Kenya to be like these countries, then the people must come out and claim what belongs to them. This power belongs to them. They are the true owners of the system. The constitution gives us the freedom and the chance to exercise our mandate and power through the ballot.   Politicians however have mastered the art of dividing the local man. They know that in case the local man is given the platform to exercise his will without any interference, the likelihood of change is high. This is why instead  of just asking for your vote, they go to the extreme to a point of bribing you to make a decision. Voter bribery is not uncommon and this has led even to the phrase, the ‘biggest briefcase’  takes it all. Where this cannot apply effectively, they marshal their community against the other on divide and rule tactics leading to deep ethnic divides. And when this fails they employ violence. 

It is such practices that have made the  Kenyan people unable to partake in good governance as it is enshrined in the constitution. However, as Kenyans, we must let go of the notion that power only belongs to a few lucky people. This makes Kenya sound rather like a monarch than a democratic state. 

We must guard our conscience and take responsibility for our leaders through the ballot. We must come out as the lot that refuses to be suppressed into submission. We must take back our power. But for that to happen, then we have to let go of ethnicity and stop accepting bribes from politicians. We must also fight violent attacks and hold the electoral commission accountable for the election results. 

Through this, we will achieve complete people’s power and we will always partake in nation-building.   

  • Lincoln Oyugi – Law Student at MKU 

Member of Africa’s Formula For Development

  • Facebook@ Linc Oyugi Twitter @ lincoyugi Instagram@lincoyugi 

I know things are tough, but we should spend more

 

“On or about 1910,” writes Virginia Woolf, “human character changed.” 

The truth behind this statement – despite the writer’s conviction- is sketchy at best, fallacious at worst, and frankly portrays a sort of wishful thinking that I, and the irony is not lost on me, am about to espouse today. 

 

“On or about 2020, Kenyan character needs to change.”

 Now, there are so many ways that Kenya could benefit from a character change. However, today I am only interested in one: a simple, extremely simple, character shift that many, elites and otherwise, might consider, as undoable. However, all I ask is that you suspend your judgment for a few minutes to hear me out.

CoronaVirus. 

Without any further explanation, your mind has probably conjured up some dreadful statistic or fact about the virus. You may have also reflected on its effects upon your life and felt a sense of hopelessness and dread about what comes next. The word ‘next’ here does not strictly imply ‘what follows after’ as experts have speculated that the virus might never go away. Even more importantly, we are all feeling the economic sting of the halt that the disease has brought our country to right now.

Following a record number of employment losses that left many Kenyans impoverished, people have turned to businesses, more specifically hawking. Everywhere you turn, you see a former teacher – and I use the word ‘former’ loosely – hawking foodstuff, former students selling clothes, former journalists selling tomatoes from the boots of their vehicles, and so on. It is increasingly seeming that there are more businesses than there are customers. This throws us into a quagmire, where everyone is selling, yet no one is actually buying; We all remain broke.

 

With many of us down on our luck, and looking for ways to re-strategize, we need to turn our eyes to and heed the advice of Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, who after the 2007-2008 economic crisis urged his countrymen to increase their spending. And with China also has set the groundwork for this strategy, Kenya should not be far behind. It is a simple enough strategy which, I admit, seems too simple to be true, yet has the potential to restore our economy, and grants the added benefit of boosting local industries.

 

Splurge. Comma. Kenya Splurge. It is essentially a simple strategy that plays on the principle of the circulation of money: A Ksh 1000 note is valueless inside your pocket but achieves its pecuniary value when taken out and exchanged for a good and/or service. As a people, we should splurge to increase money circulation and boost businesses that are already threatening to close their doors for good.

 

Kenyans as financially conservative people is a foregone conclusion. We bargain incessantly whenever we shop, and we tend to keep money in our pocket (and mattresses?) for longer than we should, and we look for the lowest prices when buying, and we resort to buying faux goods just to save. Hence, we need to change ourselves at the atom level to accommodate such a strategy.

 

Some will interpret this as a utopian view of the world – that if everyone spent more, then there would be more money for everyone. However, there is both a sound rationale behind it -with evidence backing it – and a charitable aspect to it. Whenever you stop to buy a cup, you help the vendor fill another with tea the next morning. 

Splurge. Comma. Kenya Splurge. I am no financial expert. Yet it is a commonly known fact that the higher the demand of a product, the higher the supply tends to get. Essentially, as Kenyans spend more, then producers will have to produce more, and employ more people, with higher pay, to assist in the production. This completes the chain quite neatly: As spending increases, then revenue for the government increases, and, hopefully, our national debt decreases, and, even more hopefully, our inflation rate decreases.

 

The government and financial sectors will also need to take an active role to facilitate such a movement. Long term, low-interest credit should be made available to the people to boost their businesses; Short term tax bailouts offered to allow some breathing room for Kenyans on the onset; Major discounts are given, and social protection programs extended to cover more people.

Splurge. Comma. Kenya Splurge.

 

The writer, Melchizedek Asuma, is a Journalism student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Instagram: @asuma_melchi

Twitter: @MelchiAsuma

 

Youth Inclusion.

On a daily basis a number of youth support groups and various individuals across the country rally for youth inclusion and empowerment. Fortunately, this song appeals to most youths if not all, and we all dance along enjoying the tune and the beats. “What exactly is the meaning of that song?” That’s the million-dollar question we all seem to be concerned about.

The youths have to be involved in major development programs and also in policymaking. This has been the song no one seems to be able to clearly break down. Masses have continued to move in the wrong direction in solidarity with our “youth leaders” chanting slogans that only they understand in all perspectives. A sample of the youths has been brought on board to positions set aside for youth and this has been embraced as a great step towards youth inclusion. The government and other stakeholders have formulated policies and other strategies through the Ministry of State and Youth Affairs just to ensure matters affecting the youth have been looked into.

On the other hand, non-governmental organizations have come up to help roll out programs aimed at containing the youth bulge. These programs have been embraced in various sectors and they include entrepreneurship programs, scholarly programs (tertiary and higher learning), counseling, talent search, and cultivation among other programs. These have helped a great deal and the narrative is changing by the day.

Youth inclusion entails more than we are already doing and it needs some things done right for it to have meaning. Youth inclusion involves the youth being empowered to identify challenges facing youths across the country, find solutions that are sustainable, and independently formulate informed policies and strategies. The legal procedure should be youth-oriented not forgetting other civic duties. Most importantly, the youths have to be properly educated and create an enabling environment to foster their ascension to key positions in government and the society at large.

Youth inclusion in Kenya is a paramount aspect necessary in the process of brightening our future as a nation. Youth account for a greater percentage of the population and their inclusion in the government is the most important step towards realizing the Vision 2030 Agenda and containing the numerous problems that are almost weighing us down and having us wallow in unending debt. Give meaning to youth inclusion, save the nation.

Revenue Allocation – Saruni Lemargeroi

The recent debate on the allocation of revenue elicited mixed reactions, offering a glimpse into challenges and opportunities in the counties that, for decades, have been classified as either underdeveloped or “non-starters”. The Senate has been unable to arrive at a consensus, this shows how complicated and difficult the process is. But we must not forget that the heart of this conversation is about devolution and it’s the high time to allow counties to have their share. 

The fact that they are fighting to have their funding increased indicates that many of them are struggling to undertake development. This has affected not just the salary payments but also the development mandate of devolution. While many counties are struggling, it’s the historically marginalized that bear the brunt. 

Unfortunately for the arid and semi-arid land counties, the revenue is not the only struggle but rather a lack of transformational leadership, continued conflicts, many cultural practices, and associations that have made it impossible for them to prosper. While the stalemate on release and sharing of revenue is part of the problem facing the marginalized, it’s prudent that they seek to overcome these historical challenges.

Since Independence, there has been a negative association with many of these counties which range between tribal clashes, banditry, and divisive politics often based on clannism. For decades the regions were marginalized, viewed as unproductive with negative media publicity.

Of the 47 devolved governments, ASAL comprises of 29 counties, making it difficult to ignore them in national conversations. Leaders have in the past promised to unlock the potential that these regions hold for its citizens. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to set off and largely due to myriads of challenges including scarce resources which have been worsened by delay in the release of funds by the treasury. 

While most of the area consists of arid lands, where rainfall is low, temperatures are high throughout the year, and where people’s access to and control over critical livelihood resources such as land is insecure, the local leadership must concentrate its annual plan to uplift the region.

Sadly, while some communities have made strides in overcoming issues regarding natural resources, there has been the politicization of conflicts and conflicting policies in seeking to make the North an oasis of peace and prosperity. This has made it almost impossible for counties to raise standard revenue.  As we hope for breakthroughs on revenue sharing, it’s up to the leaders across the spectrum to arise and face their own challenges and seek to create conducive environments that can stimulate change and stability for the northern frontier. 

Some of the conflicts pit governors against the county assembly and this adversely affects operations. We need to get a mechanism to resolve these issues to properly utilize the revenue for social transformation.

In pursuit of an inclusive economy and shared prosperity, we must not leave ASAL regions behind. But to make them prosperous, let us focus on the prudent use of resources, including the revenue allocated by the national government and other donors.

There seemed a clear correlation between the scarcity of natural resources resulting from the drought and violent conflict in the ASAL areas. It has been proved that stability can be achieved within fragile states and it’s up to the affected areas to seek alternative ways to end these cycles of conflicts that often derail much-needed development. But with good leadership and the right people at its helm, societies have the ability to overcome myriad challenges. While good leadership is a critical ingredient of the developing world, those entrusted must be men and women of integrity, accountability, and foresight for the furthest we can go is intertwined with the vision of the leadership we do have. 

There is a need to elect leaders of integrity and good morals to accelerate the huge promise that ASALs hold for national development. We can’t just sit back and wait for the national revenue share. So no matter the outcome of the stalemate, we must consider the marginalized regions and bring them at par with the rest of the country in matters of development.

Written By Saruni Lemargeroi, Political/governance analyst and Mandela Washington fellow

 

The need to be considerate when electing leaders – Felix Odhiambo

We are the people guided and guarded by the constitution, we are the same people exploited and used in the face of the constitution. After casting our votes we are left to trek on our muddy roads, we die of hunger while they gamble to measure their powers, we keep yelling every day in the media of how unemployed we are while they keep talking of succession and just like ever before they come to devour us with few notes then we end up pushing them to higher levels of leadership.

There is a difference between a leader and a politician, a leader is one who stands firm for the people and in the interest of the people, a leader is one who values his followers and makes them a priority, a leader is born not made even though most people will defer with this opinion. On the other hand, a politician is one who trades the money game, politicians are not worth it, they are made not born. This a person who climbs the ladder while looking at his or her subjects down on the ground. As much as we have a distinction between leaders and politicians, we also have political leaders. Who is a political leader? A political leader possesses the characteristics of a leader but politically exercises them. Now, contrast the three people and categorize who you voted for. 

Being considerate while voting simply means questioning the integrity of the contestant. Is he worthy to be given a political seat? Has she ever been involved in a scandal before? Is he/she trustworthy enough to deliver the promises he/ she sings about during campaigns? Is he/ she eligible for the position? Being considerate is being free from bias when casting a vote, forgetting about tribal links associated with the contestant, and focusing on electing the perfect leader and not the perfect politician to suit your personal needs through corruption. It is time we elect based on good performance since 2020 has taught us a lot, politicians exercising corruption even as we struggle with the pandemic. 

Written By Felix Odhiambo – Journalist, Blogger, and Writer. 

Facebook: Poetic Felix |  Instagram: Felix Odhiambo  |  Twitter: @felixOdhiambo 

Katiba @ 10 – Lincoln Oyugi

“We the people are the rightful masters of both parliament and courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow men who pervert the constitution” Abraham Lincoln.

Just as Lincoln said more than 200 years ago, we remain the greatest part of the constitution. It is designed for and by the people. And in our supreme law as Kenya, the preamble states, “We the People “. However, while celebrating ten years of existence of the Kenyan Constitution of 2010, a lot lingers in the mind. The main question remains, does the constitution stand for the direct benefit of the people of Kenya, as it is written in the preamble? And the simple answer is a big fat NO. Even though the main aim of the constitution was people-focused, it was hijacked by the politicians immediately after the inauguration.

On the 27, August of 2010, I was barely 10 years old, yet just like the rest of Kenyans, I was full of hope that the New Constitution was dawning the new beginning of Kenya. However, how wrong I was! The narrative has remained just as it was decades ago, just like the tale of some monkeys but different forests. So just how has this document that was intended to serve the interest of the people not lived to expectations?

Runaway corruption: Chapter six of the constitution places weight on integrity and leadership. The constitution also established independent offices to deal ruthlessly with runaway corruption.  However, a few people have hijacked the process making it difficult, or rather impossible to pin down any corruption suspect. In fact for the lifetime of the constitution, corruption has gone too far too extreme levels. The bodies tasked like EACC, ODPP, DCI, and even the judiciary has been weakened to an extent that despite the overwhelming evidence on grand corruption, no convictions have been made.

Devolution:  When the constitution was enacted, devolution was a major clause. It was applauded as the new dawn towards achieving the elusive equity in Kenya. The central governments of the previous years had sidelined parts perceived to be in opposition. However, devolution was to bring power close to the people. The Governor was to be the president of and serve the interest of the particular counties. However, ten years on there is nothing much to write home about. On matters of development, the counties are just the same as they were pre-devolution. In fact, the ASAL Region of Kenya which was basically ignored by the previous regimes has not improved 10 years with their local governments under devolution.

Calls for a change in the constitution. A good constitution is often argued as that which cannot be changed easily. However, currently, the political class is already in a rush to change it. This has been brought by the excitement behind “The Handshake”. Yes, the Handshake is good considering the times we were going through, which I am an ardent supporter of, however, its end game being a change in the constitution is completely puzzling. While the 2010 constitution is yet to be implemented, a clamor to change has already begun. This makes Kenya a weak democracy, with weak institutions and laws which are changed by politicians to suit their will. This makes Kenya equal to any banana republic, only now that it involves democratic dictatorship.

In conclusion, I believe that the implementation of the Kenya 2010 Constitution has been done in the worst way possible, and no matter how many times we change the laws, without great implementers, then the constitution is doomed to remain pieces of paper forever.

Written by Lincoln Oyugi – A Law Student at Mount Kenya University and a member of Africa’s Formula For Development

Facebook @Linc Oyugi  |  Twitter @lincoyugi  |  Instagram @lincoyugi

Youth should take ownership of their future – Levin Banns Ouma

Talk of youth as future leaders may sound so novel. This is despite the fact that it has always been the case all along- it has, for the longest time, been said that the youth are the future, or leaders of tomorrow if you may. The current crop of leaders, together with the government of the day, has time and again peddled this narrative through the various platforms and channels available to them. However, there has been very little, if any, development over the years to promote the realization of youth leadership. This, therefore, begs the question: Is this merely a simple, empty, and overused cliché?

The youth form the bulk of not only our country’s population but also the electorate. A lot of young people are enthusiastic and eager to be involved politically and to shape their destiny and society(ies) in which they live. The youth are, thanks to their visibility, exposure, and progressive ideas, better placed to assume higher, more effective political and leadership roles. Despite their qualitative and quantitative visibility, the sorry state of their inclusion/ involvement in the management and development affairs of the country is deeply troubling. There are numerous factors that have stood and continue to stand between young people and their quest for leadership. Among the notable obstacles and challenges that make it difficult (or nearly impossible) for young people to lead include; suppressive government structures, corruption, poverty, lack of education, and unemployment. These factors significantly muffle and/or even extinguish their voices, thereby making it imperative that they seek and adopt strategies targeted at making the much-needed change. 

Current leaders have also gone to great lengths to cast the youth in a bad light and to portray them as immature and having negative idealistic attitudes that taint their reputation. This should not necessarily be a bad thing. Why? Rather than trends, youth are largely moved by ideas, which they have the potential of staying true to and not giving up on despite the cost, challenges, and obstacles they’ll come across. While this idealistic attitude could earn them a bad reputation in the eyes of veteran leaders, it is precisely what will see them as being good leaders. The veteran leaders have also argued that this digital age has reduced the youth into a mere generation of followers only moved by trivial pursuits, not leadership. In this regard, the youth should remember that social media has been used the world over by other young people to bring about change, lead, and hold the government to account. Through social media, youth have been able to organize unprecedented change in, for example, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and so on. Youth have also used social media to get their messages across and to drive various causes- such as human rights, unfair or discriminatory policies, injustices, and climate change- which have been responsible for various historical developments in the world. 

It is, thus, all too clear that the youth are the ones best suited to drive positive change and pave the way for the future. Without youth empowerment, the country cannot thrive. While the country is led by veterans, its future is highly dependent on the youth and young leaders who remain highly disenfranchised and excluded despite their having the skills, ideas, motivation, and power to lead. The youth should, therefore, rally together, remind their leaders of their duties and responsibilities, take it upon themselves to demand good leadership and accountability, and take ownership of their future by pushing for the change they’d like to see. 

Written by Levin Banns Ouma

Profile: I am a Kenyan youth who is interested in and closely follows politics and governance issues in the country. Facebook: Levin Leweezy Ouma

 

Kenya needs Kenyans, now more than ever – Kibet Brian

“Will we succumb to chaos, division, and inequality? Or will we right the wrongs of the past and move forward together?” the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres posed to global leaders in the 18th edition of the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture. The lecture was given as part of the celebrations of Nelson Mandela International Day which is celebrated on the 18th of July every year to honor the legacy of a global icon whose values continue to inspire many seven years after his death.

The question above resonates well in the Kenyan context we find ourselves in today. Many Kenyans feel the supplication in our national anthem, “O God of all creation bless this our land and nation”, has gone unanswered or the blessings have been few, with the rest praying for more blessings upon the few. It is worth noting that we are in the middle of a global pandemic whose effects on the economy have caused untold suffering to countless Kenyans. Declining income, closure of businesses, and the loss of jobs only reflect the tip of the iceberg. The political climate in the country, however, seems to suggest otherwise. One would be forgiven for thinking we are months to a general election with the novel coronavirus already contained.

The political doldrums in the midst of a pandemic make one wonder whether it is a blessing or a curse to be born in this country. It seems this quagmire is what made a netizen to hilariously assert that this country should be closed for repairs.

However, all is not lost. Amidst all these, we are given a chance to correct mistakes and build a future while appreciating our not so memorable past. It is while we are down that we scratch our heads for the way up. It is no longer tenable to remain in the trenches and complain about poor governance and corruption in government. It is time to advance against the ills that bedevil our societies and stand to be counted. After all human history is replete with circumstances where the unfathomable has been achieved by the unexpected.

In this sense, rising up means fighting the undoing that fan negativity and embrace those that bind us in unity and form the hegemony that Kenya should be. This means extending our arms to the less fortunate in our communities and demanding action from authorities where we feel there are issues. It also means the citizenry making an effort to become more informed on how they are and how they should be governed. Above all, it is all about raising the political cautiousness of the people to enable them to make decisions that benefit them in post-COVID 19 elections.

Finally, it is also about our leaders owning up to the great responsibility bestowed on them by leading from the front. It is a great dereliction of their ordained duties to be the ones leading in subverting laws which are meant for the good of the people to oppress and deny citizens their right. Politicking on succession politics in these extraordinary times is at best pharisaical of them.

The good for all is a prosperous country where unemployment is eradicated, healthcare accessible by all, housing no longer a preserve of a few, food security attained, and where the rule of law reigns. Now is the time to begin the actualization of this, because this is what we signed up for.

 

Written by Kibet Brian who is a Student at the University of Nairobi – School of Law in Parklands. He comments on topical issues with a bias for Tax, Social, and Administrative Justice.

Twitter – @Kibett_Brian
Facebook- Ki-Bett Brian

What is so public about participation when youth are not involved? – Stephen Gathaga

Considering the fact that the youths are the future and the representation of any nation, Kenya is not exempted from such a fact due to the high number of youth in the country. This is because these are the people who are mainly engaged in any nation-building process or any destructive process due to the high levels of energy that they have and the capability of them adapting to new environments. In recent years, we have seen youth being engaged in certain reforms of our nation. The latest has been witnessed during the Kazi Mtaani Project that has seen the cleaning and rehabilitation of our environment. This was a great boost to the youth since to some extent; the levels of unemployment and poverty were reduced. However, there is much that needs to be done to counter the unemployment notwithstanding the fact that most of them have attended institutions of higher learning. Though most of them are now being encouraged to attend technical institutions so as to create self-employment, the government should feel the urge of providing sufficient capital to them after successful completion of whatever course one has engaged in. Also, there is a need to engage the youth in administrative processes such as governance and policy implementation. As stated earlier, the youth are the future of any nation and in regards to this, a generation of responsible youth will be raised and this will create a stable transition of them from junior to some of the senior positions in governance. This will help our nation avoid going into a governance crisis.

Public participation
In Kenya, the executive, legislature, and any other administrative bodies have been given the power to come up with legislation and policies. However, any undertaking that these institutions do engage in should be in the best interest of the citizens and through their involvement.

According to Article 1 of the constitution, the Sovereign power belongs to the citizens and hence the need for the citizens to be engaged in public participation as guaranteed in the Constitution of Kenya in Articles 10 (2) a, 69(1)d, 174(c), 184(1), 196(1)b and 232(1)d. The government usually uses the Kenya Gazette to present any issue that needs public participation. The question that arises is: how many Kenyans are able to access the Kenyan gazette and fully air out their views? How many Kenyans are able to read and fully comprehend whatever information has been placed before them in the gazette? Are the timelines provided for public participation regarded as sufficient? Despite the fact that public participation is guaranteed in law, the government of Kenya has not yet reached the threshold that is required for sufficient public participation to be stated to have taken place. This is clearly seen in instances whereby the public is not involved and if they are involved they are not given enough time to participate. Recently, it was witnessed when there was a transfer of functions from the county government of Nairobi to the national government.

The deed of transfer of functions was rendered illegal by J. Hellen Wasilwa in Petition 52 of 2020. This is because the county assembly was not involved in the process which was a clear violation of the constitution. In such a case, public participation would have been conducted by the members of the county assembly who are the representatives of the citizens of Nairobi County. In conclusion, public participation remains not to have been fully implemented and hence the need for the government to institute measures to ensure the same will be conducted fully in the coming instances.

Written by Stephen Gathaga Mihang’o, a student at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa

Facebook: Stephen Gathaga
Twitter: @gathagastephen

Repeated lies and accepted truths – Barbra Ouma

There are always two sides to a story. A story is never complete if you don’t listen to both sides. This is especially where there are controversies or disputes but especially when it involves the death of a person. In case of an accident, if the victim survives and lives to tell their tale then that’s okay and great as well. At least the family of the victim will know what really happened and if there are things that can be avoided as well as lessons learned from the accident. But what happens to the victims that die instantly…who lives to tell their story? Who can attest to what really happened that led to the death of the victims? Their story will always be forgotten tales. No one will ever know what really happened that led to their demise.

When one loses a loved one, there are more questions than answers. Questions that only the dead can answer. Questions we carry for a lifetime. Questions that do us more harm than good. These questions hurt so deeply, pierces the heart like a knife. The questions lead us to a place that no one wishes to be in. One is left in limbo. It is hard to move away from such thoughts and only God can give you peace of mind, serenity, and tranquility that you so badly need.

COVID 19 for instance came with a bang. Like the uninvited guest, the virus came unnoticed, settled among us, and set the pace and tune which everyone dances to at the moment. The tunes may not be melodious as we all wish it should be but we forcefully have to listen to it and settle with the rhythm however boring. Every nation worldwide has been affected by the virus, so many have died and Kenya has not been spared either. There are those who have died as a result of the virus. There are those who suffered from mild headaches and died from it. There are those who have died from childbirth. At the same time, there are those who have suffered from major and minor accidents and died at the hospital, there are those who have had heart failure and died as a result. Some of these cases have been reported as COVID 19 cases thus creating stigma on the bereaved families.

Unfortunately, the dead cannot speak for themselves. The living is the one left to defend the dead. It is only the victims that can truly tell their tales but it is unlikely that anyone would listen because they cannot speak nor can their voices be heard. The stories of their struggle, suffering, and the feeling of loneliness and abandonment by their loved ones will remain untold. Only the ones who have survived the ordeal can narrate their survival journey. Sadly, the dead will always keep the pain and agony they went through when they were sick when they suffered when their heart failed. They cannot tell the world they are not COVID 19 victims as it is claimed by others. Theirs will always remain to be so only to be forgotten by others with time.

Forgotten tales are stories worth listening to and sharing the pain of the victims, but mostly it is never the case. The owners travel with them to an unknown destination and no one will ever know what truly happened. Their stories are in a safe haven but forgotten by many.

Written by Barbra Ouma from Kisumu county
Twitter: @barbaraouma18
Facebook: Barbara Ouma

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
Instagram – Masiememo
Facebook – Mercy Chepkemoi Chebett

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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