Earlier on this year, I met Christine Omao during a workshop by The Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) -a training of trainers (ToT) for young women activists that was meant to equip them with necessary skills required for their advocacy work at the grassroots, #YoungWomenSay. I immediately fell in love with her energy, exuberance and passion for the work that she does. Christine is a woman who would easily charm you! I have been following her work and I have also met her during other different workshops; Wait until you read what she does- That too will fascinate you!
Christine Omao works at Dandelion Kenya since January 2015 to lead advocacy on sexual reproductive health and rights including safe abortion, at the grassroots, regional and global level. She leads mentorship programs in schools and community outreaches within Nakuru county and engages women on safe abortion advocacy. She manages Dandelion Kenyas’ strategic partnerships with Personal Initiative for Positive Empowerent (PIPE) to explore the intersections of HIV and SRHR.
At Dandelion Kenya, she is the focal point for the Kenya Adolescent and youth reproductive health and rights network which is a youth led network with 30 member organizations from all over Kenya, championing young people’s access to SRHR information and services. As a member of the network and through Dandelion Kenya, she led Nakuru young people’s input into this years Africa Union (AU) consultation meeting that outlined young people and especially young women’s needs in regards to the Demographic Dividend. The outcome fed into the January 2017 AU summit to Addis Ababa. The network has also been involved in the FP2020 consultations for young people representation.
She particularly has passion in advocacy for young women’s access to family planning and participated in empowering Africa youth through the demographic dividend dialogue in Berlin Germany. Through Dandelion Kenya, she has been involved in budget hearings and preparation of the Reproductive, Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMCA&H) cost implementation plan for Nakuru county. She is among the founders of the Nax4p movement, a movement of young people within Nakuru trained by DSW on family planning leveraging on social media platform such as #SRHRDialogues, spearheaded Dandelion Kenya for advocacy. In addition, Chrstine is a member of FEMNET and a champion for DSW Kenya!
Here is the interview I held with her!
Why abortion and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR)
Being a mentor to young women and girls, I would suggest that it is high time we stop burying our heads in the sand as we continue to lose our girls to issues that can be worked on. According to available statistics, children as young as 8 years are sexually active!
A recent research by AMWIK shows that young people depend on the Internet as their first reliable source of information concerning SRHR, followed by their peers. Why can’t we be their first and trusted source of information? What are these peers telling each other? What sort of conversations are they having among themselves?
Three weeks ago , a 12 year old girl approached me and asked if its true when using a male condom you should use two to guarantee safety. I could not condemn her because she is young, clearly she is engaging in sex. I gave her the right information!
Sustainable Development Goal 3 talks about good health and well being for all. I am responsible for ensuring this goal and targets attached to it are realized. We cannot continue losing young girls and women to unsafe abortions, we cannot continue losing young people due to STIs and HIV.
These are things that can be prevented as early as now.. We just need to voice these issues out. And as a nation we shall only achieve our full potential when ours SRHR are protected.
What do you consider some of your successes?
Huh! They are so many!..
There is a girl by the name Naomi Mumbi who is now pursuing her Bachelors Degree in Michigan State University. Naomi directly links her success to our project and she also happens to be a mentor to the other girls at Dandelion Kenya.
The other success story is about a girl called Mary (not her real name) whose parents disowned for engaging with boys in the neighborhood at age 13. She was handed over to me when she was 19, and had dropped out of school. She had given up on her education. I was able to mentor her and help her go back to school. She recently joined campus and is a first year student. Am so proud of her. She is a role model to the other girls. Am proud of myself too!
What are your dreams and aspirations for young girls and women in Kenya?
I would love to see girls and women free and safe from all forms of Gender Based Violence. I wake up every day hoping to change a girls life. I take it upon myself to ensure that every girl I know of is able to achieve her dreams. I would want to see a world where girls and women can make their own choices without anyone judging them based on their gender.
Ending partriachy, achieving gender equity and equality is what gets me up from my bed every morning!
What are your future plans?
Mhhh… Giving back to my community where FGM is quite rampant (Kisii). In future I intend to move back to my rural home and work with my community to end Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM) and ensure that all girls get an education.
I will also influence policies that protect our girls from Gender Based Violence- until women achieve there Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, until women are free from all forms on GBV.
What are some of the challenges you encounter during your work?
I receive a lot of backlash from the community since my work touches on sensitive, taboo topics. Most of the time we are denied access to villages to sensitize young people on SRHR, we are viewed as bad people who want to spoil young people.
Policies by the Ministry of Education (MoE) on sex education limits our work and some program implementation because we are denied access to some schools as mentors, we are viewed as enemies of their work.
Lack of proper funding also drags our work, we have projects that cannot be implemented without sufficient funding..