Not so long, the president of Kenya unveiled areas that his Government would actively tackle during his second presidential term; Food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable health for all.
It is apparent that most ordinary Kenyans do not understand what the Big 4 Agenda is all about. It is the role of the media to package are relay the Agendas in a crystal clear manner for citizens from all corners of the country.
The big 4 Agenda presents great opportunity for life transforming actions for the Kenyan society. The media will be on hand to document those transformations.
Key to the Big 4 Agenda is access to information and information dissemination. Journalists will look at what policies are being implemented. Particularly policies pegged on the Agendas. They will be looking at what funds are allocated and how they are spent. They will document the changes taking place in the society and the general impact the agenda is having on the lives of Kenya’s everyday life.
The media shall carry the voice of Kenyans as they engage with the Big 4 Agenda. Most importantly, the media will provide a platform for discussion and debate on the Agenda. The debates will seek to streamline and meet the felt needs of the citizens. They will majorly seek to hold leaders to account on tasks assigned and resources accorded to them to implement the Big 4 Agenda.
Good governance will be key in achieving the Big 4 Agenda. It is necessary that the media is engaged in deliberate and meaningful ways in the execution of the Big 4 Agenda.
Speaking during the launch of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) strategic plan on Thursday last week, Broadcasting and Telecommunications Principle Secretary (PS) Fatuma Hirsi said that the government will exercise media freedom as enshrined in the constitution.
“Journalists have a right to criticize institutions including the government, for they are the watchdogs of the society. Truth must be said, truth must be published” Said Hirsi
On the very occasion, Chief of staff to the Presidential Delivery Unit Nzioka Waita assured journalists that his office will cooperate with media in providing factual information regarding the Big 4 Agenda.
It has been observed over time that sometimes journalists have been left pens and microphones hanging while sourcing for important information from government officials. Waita confirmed that this will no longer be the case from his office.
Of recent, the Government of Kenya (GoK) prioritized Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in its Big four agenda over the next five years. The Big Four Agenda which is aimed at accelerating economic growth focuses on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal health.
The Government is set to roll out a Universal Health Coverage to all households by 2022 to guarantee access to quality and affordable healthcare by reconfiguring the National Hospital Insurance Fund and reforming the governance of private insurance companies to align them to the universal health coverage.
Focus on universal health stands out as the most significant and conceivably the most important strategic priority for Kenya. The reality is that a majority of Kenyans can hardly afford, worse still access health services in their various localities
The governments’ agenda to invest in health will indeed spur economic growth. The move demonstrates that the government values the need for human capital. A healthy population will engage in various economic activities hence contribute to the growth and development of Kenya.
In light of Sexual and reproductive health and rights, they relate to each of the current Millennium Development Goals, and they cut across each of the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. Sex and reproduction are essentially intimate affairs, played out within personal and familial relationships. However, the consequences of lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, supplies, information and education are felt across entire populations, social and economic life..
The recently launched ‘Status of the African Women Report’ by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) warns that unless countries make urgent commitment to invest in tangible actions for improving the Sexual health and lives of women and girls in Africa, the continent will continue to have poor development outcomes.
To realise this the National government will work the county government to scale up the provision of specialised medical equipment and increase the number of health facilities at the community level, including mobile facilities in order to increase access to health services.
The existing Linda Mama Programme, a free maternity care programme is slated for expansion to mission and private hospitals to enlist community volunteers who will assist in healthcare service, provision at grassroots level.
Training of medical doctors is also set to commence, including the sourcing of health specialists from outside in order to fill the existing medical gaps.
In terms of realization of sexual reproductive health, Non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations rights organizations have this opportune moment to work with the ministry of health and county governments to ensure that part of the chunk that is set for health, a good amount goes into improvement of sexual reproductive health.
They need to convince the president and his government that we cannot achieve the health agenda if thousands of girls who form a critical population continue to undergo FGM and child marriage, that we cannot achieve the agenda if teenage girls continue to die due to unsafe abortions, we will not achieve if mothers continue to die while giving birth, we will not achieve the Big 4 health agenda if girls continue to drop out of school because they cannot access contraceptives, we will fail if teenage girls who drop out of school due to pregnancies are not allowed to re-enroll yet we have policies that protect them!
This is the opportune moment for civil rights groups to push for formulation and implementation of glossy policies that protect the health of girls and women.
In the national context, the Big Four are rightly pegged on the Kenya Vision 2030 and well-mainstreamed in the third-Medium Term Plan (2018-2022) of the Vision, due for launch soon. At the continental level, the Big Four Agenda aligns well with Africa’s Agenda 2063 themed “The Africa We Want”. At the global level, the Big Four Agenda is effectively aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, upon which the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are anchored.
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 indeed a lovely. 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 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!
Christine Omao, during The National Dalogue on Protection of Children Against SGBV
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..
This year marks seven years since the law prohibiting the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was passed in Kenya-The Anti-FGM Act 2011; an achievement that was celebrated across the country and beyond. The significant move was to mark the beginning of emancipation if not reprieve for thousands of girls who were at high risk of undergoing FGM and probable early marriage; deep rooted cultures among certain communities in Kenya.
Alongside the new law criminalizing FGM, a specific institution was put in place; (The Kenya Anti-FGM Board) with the aim of coordinating activities and programs that would accelerate the abandonment of the practice. As part of its mandate, the Board and its partners has been instrumental in supporting directly or indirectly all programs geared towards rooting out the practice. Both government and non-governmental organizations carried out workshops to sensitize communities, judges, magistrates and the police about the law and the legal pathways. The media also played its role in creation of awareness. The public is currently more aware about FGM being a human rights violation and a good number of perpetrators are aware of the consequences that might befall them if caught.
The campaign also attracted support from different development actors. Both bilateral and multilateral donors curved in to accelerate efforts towards the abandonment of FGM practice. In particular, UN agencies made and followed through with commitments to elbow their support in actualizing the new law. This double advantage of the law and donor funds provided Anti FGM civil society actors working at both the national and mostly grassroot level the much-needed impetus to push through campaigns.
In the era of the world wide web and social media, the onslaught on FGM found useful collaborators. Activists mostly young people and key board warriors (bloggers & vloggers) bought into and promoted various aspects of the campaign. Creating presence and visibility, these new media activists propelled anti-FGM conversations thus keeping the campaign fresh and adaptable to the emerging changes.
Amidst these positive developments, there have been instances where the campaign faltered leading to poorly conceptualized and executed strategies, individual benefit, unclear outcomes and reverse capture. This article attempts to unravel some of these short comings. Material was sourced from individual interviews, Social media posts, personal experiences and various documented reports. Insufficient Data
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) documents that the national prevalence of FGM has been on a steady decline from a high of 32 per cent in 2003 and 27 per cent in 2008/9 to stand at 21 per cent in 2014. However, these figures betray the fact that Kenya lacks a well-established FGM baseline or a monitoring framework. Similarly, a briefing note published by UNFPA and UNICEF in 2015 showed female genital mutilation prevalence remained very high amongst the Somali (at 94%), Samburu (86%), Kisii (84%), and Maasai at (78%). This report however failed to indicate the prevalence of FGM in the other communities that carry out the practice.
The big question is, has any impactful gain in the fight against FGM been made? Whereas the KDHS numbers shown above indicate that there is a significant change, in the communities, this change is not reflected.
In other instances, organizations seemed to have data that only catered for their own narrow interests. Other cases pointed to lack of well aggregated data related to effects of FGM such as data on maternal mortality caused by FGM in specific practicing communities.
This lack of sufficient solid quantitative data indicates that organizations are spending donor resources that are not well backed by tangible evidence.
Furthermore, where data related to FGM has been captured, for instance prosecutions and convictions under the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, it has not been used effectively to influence budgets, improve programming and policy enforcement. This lack of evidence-based programming is also a result of the low threshold set by donors, who are more interested in activity-based approach towards ending FGM as opposed to impact based.
Similar media reports have also been made regarding the same issue:https://www.nation.co.ke/news/regional/1070-828494-9sp28fz/index.html
Steve Letoo, 30, from Oloitoktok, Kajiado County revealed that he was shocked at how a particular organization was exploiting locals most of whom are illiterate. Steve being a little internet savvy said, “I am always shocked by the kind of work this guy says he does on Facebook and twitter. It’s nothing but Public Relations. There is no significant work on the ground. He takes photos of poor girls and posts them on Facebook and twitter claiming he is supporting them. If you question him he becomes angry.”
Similarly, The Youth Anti-FGM Network Kenya was described as not only ineffective but also inefficient.The network launched in 2015 had a bigger vision of ending FGM in Kenya by bringing together young people from FGM affected communities around the country to consolidate efforts towards ending the practice out of the country but that dream is far from being realized. Its flamboyance on social media is nothing close to what the real network does.
According to a former member, the networks’ vision was quickly muffled after they ‘sold their souls’ to an Options UK program. Though most of the members were opposed to the move that would jeopardize their vision, anyone voicing contrary opinion was quickly ousted from the group by the leaders. Currently the network is known to have two active members one based in Nairobi and the chairperson based in Garissa, Kenya. The chairperson has very little concern about fighting the FGM practice out of his community let alone the country. In flagrant case of abuse of office, the said chairperson is evidently absent pursuing personal interests. No significant impact can be measured since the launch of the network.
Misappropriation of Funds
Another significant shortcoming relates to grassroots organizations that have been known to misuse funds meant for saving girls from the cut. In Loitoktok Kajiado, we unraveled that a popular CBO whose founder is conspicuously missing from the community after embezzling almost 1M shillings received from The Girl Generation grant kitty, monies that were meant to run a project aimed at bringing together morans to dialogue towards the end of FGM in Loitoktok. He represents many more individuals who walk scot-free after committing such crimes.
The conversation that started a few weeks ago with the above tweet has revealed that there is a lot of business going on in the disguise of advocacy to end FGM. It sparked a lot of reactions from locals and even the international front and especially complaints that these organizations are exploiting girls and women. Here are a few reactions:
What is apparent is that these trips and conferences are viewed as an avenue by campaigners to earn per diems, tour the world, shop and mingle in the name of ending FGM.
Another emerging issue relates to the programme design whereby significant amount of funds were expended on operational costs in donor countries rather than on actual programme work in recipient countries. Case in point was the Global Media Campaign, which has an office in the UK but has no physical address in Africa. This not only creates a distance between them and the communities where they supposedly work but also complicates activists’ relationship with regulatory authorities. Deceptive Strategies
Whereas there have been some strategies designed to end FGM that actually proved to work with much felt/measurable impact on the ground, others ended up creating more harm than good. This was especially with regards to top down strategies that either lacked community input or were not community led. In other instances, the campaign against FGM was more opportunistic and not strategic. This was especially true for a number national CSO’s which stumbled on the campaign only to later abandon FGM programming and targeted communities altogether. Among the most prominent was Maendeleo ya Wanawake which changed course mid-stream in 2013, thus denying the campaign its vast grassroot network.
Narrating a deceptive strategy, a village elder, Peter Lemaiyan 78, Samburu East, expressed disappointment about an incident that took place in December 2017. According to the elder, girls from his community were ferried to an apparently very big alternative rites of passage ceremony without his knowledge. He also said that the girls’ parents were unaware that their girls were going for the ceremony, only to be misinformed that it was normal vacation studies. On learning about the occasion at their return, he became very angry and ordered for their cut the very night. Defiant girls were cursed and up to date he has not lifted the curse that he cast upon them.
He said that local administration officers across Samburu are aware and also benefit from the so called alternative rites of passage and the games involved. He has warned activists from his community to disassociate with the two big organizations that claim to be saving girls yet they are using them for their own gains.
Speaking to a local activist and survivor from Samburu who asked for anonymity, she said that such phoniness has made it hard for genuine activists to be trusted by locals thereby making their work so difficult. She however urges NGOs to consider working with activists on the ground for they know best what can possibly work in their respective communities.
Saiyanka, an activist from Kajiado terms the same strategy deceptive, a lie and often the number of girls graduating is not true at all. He says; “It’s unfortunate that this is being driven by big NGOs here. The community knows that the girls are already cut. This makes them think badly of us, that we are not genuine. It’s a very selfish way of doing things. Anything cultural cannot be fixed this way, it must be dialogued”
Our investigation revealed that a recent ARP ceremony in Indupa, Kilonito, Kajiado West that claimed to have ‘saved’ over 300 girls from FGM was a lie, the locals are very aware that only 2 girls in the whole village are uncut, and it’s only because they have not attained the right age, for FGM here is 100%.
Other strategies such as social change communication have remained a vocabulary across most of the activists that have received training. Many activists who requested anonymity stated that such big terms scare and confuse them.
Another major concern regarding anti-FGM campaigns stemmed from the temporary nature of activities characterized by short bursts of intensity that quickly fade. In this regard, numerous conferences have been organized in the name of “sharing experiences” which never cascade to the micro level where it matters. This is because a lot of the anti-FGM actors prefer to work in silos with a lot of opacity. Conclusion
According to the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness, two of the major objectives of good aid include;
fostering recipient’s ownership of development policies and strategies;
improving aid transparency and mutual accountability of donors and recipients.
The emerging scenario in the anti-FGM campaigns point to a lack of ownership of strategies because of poor conceptualization, lack of research and over reliance on dubious grassroot organizations/ individuals not based in the respective communities. The anti-FGM campaign has also created a less transparent relationship between donors, implementers and communities. In effect, donor funding has fostered strong resentment of genuine development aid organizationsand actors in practicing communities. This is contrary to the principles of do no harm. What this brief has unraveled has ended up raising more questions than answers. The scrutiny of the anti-FGM campaign in Kenya was not meant to be exhaustive as that would require more time and resources. Some of the questions that would require further interrogation are elucidated below;
KEY QUESTIONS ARISING
➢Does the Anti-FGM Board, an institution mandated with regulating and coordinating activities and programs that are meant to drive the practice away have the requisite capacity?
➢Do donors carry out audits and perform due diligence before dispatching funds?
➢Do funding models consider the amount of money lost before reaching the ultimate beneficiary?
➢Do most of these programs have a sustainability model or are they just touch and go thereby exploiting communities?
And finally, do anti-FGM campaigners really want FGM to end? Does it mean that if the funding stops then the campaigners will stop doing their work in the communities? What motivates anti-FGM campaigners to continue doing their work?
Off Olympic road on the left, a busy, noisy street punctuated with tiny squeezed shops on both sides. Pedestrians briskly walking up and down as though they are running late for something……Both men and women vendors consumed in their daily hustles……Piercing noises and fire sparks by welders springing across the road…..Smell of fried ‘chapatis’ and ‘mandazis’ consuming the air around while screams of children playing at a nearby school-Olympic primary school-engulfing the whole neighborhood ……. This street will lead you to a Centre of hope and voice for thousands of young girls and adolescents living in Kibera.
300 Metres, right before the street takes a mighty curve. You will find a ruby rugged gate, paint peeled off. Not to judge. What lies inside is much greater-Polycom Development Project office. Err…Still hard to figure out what goes on there? On a closer look signs displayed on the door and walls- ‘Speak Out!… ‘Sitakimya’ meaning ‘I won’t be silenced’ suggest that it is an empowerement Centre. Right guess!
A charming Jane Anyango- Director Polycom Development, seated at the furthest corner right after you enter the building will gladly fill you in about what the project is all about..
Polycom Development project is one unique project that was started to ‘break the silence’ on Sexual, Gender Based Violence among children and adolescents in Kibera.
The project adopted a secretive ‘talking box’ approach to allow girls who would otherwise shy away from sharing their issues (especially GBV related) to confidently draft a note and drop it in the emblematic box.
In an interview with Jane at her Office, she revealed to me that the innocent project started seven years ago and was piloted in 14 schools, which after one year it scaled down to 7 schools, because some schools did not embrace it well and also some parents were against the initiative citing that it was a project meant to ‘use their children’ . She did not lose hope.
She further confirmed that they are currently working with16 schools and are scaling up to 34 more schools which will bring the total number to 50 schools, thanks to her recent partner, UNFPA Kenya.
She informed me that at first, they used carton boxes which did not function well because dubious persons broke into the boxes and stole the notes. She later got a volunteer who made wooden boxes with safety padlocks but they still do not guarantee 100% safety.
She is glad about the recent partnership with UNFPA Kenya, for they have pledged to support production of 50 metallic boxes that will guarantee, not only safety but longevity.
Benefits ofthe ‘talkingboxes’
Teacher Rose Okeya also a counsellor and Social Worker at Spurgeons Primary School- A beneficiary of the project, confirmed that the project has brought about behavior change among pupils. She has observed girls at the school being able to open up and speak out on all issues ranging from SGBV, Sexual Reproductive Health and menstrual matters. Additionally, with follow up, she has observed girls perform well in studies.
She said that the project has been able to detect, curb and resolve issues raised, most common being issues of gender based violence, especially sexual harassment among peers in school, including sexual harassment by teachers, guardians and neighbors.
For issues that require much more attention the project reaches out to relevant persons or authorities for further help.
‘The project has been very successful. We have beautiful success stories and we are in fact coming up with our own research to challenge existing results.’ Said Jane.
Jane observed that while dealing with cases of SGBV, a lot of focus is always directed to perpetrators than survivors. She called upon donors and service providers to understand the importance of working with survivors, for they bear the pain. Especially cases where the victim might never access Justice whenever the family resorts to resolving the issue amicably- which is a normal avenue for resolving GBV cases within family set up.
Jane always urges parents, during parents-teacher meetings not to be very harsh to their children. She encourages them to be friendly with their children in order to establish rapport with them. The amicable environment will enable them to share their issues freely with them. Above all, she urges them to create time for their children amid their busy schedules . She understands that the economic burden and the need to provide is huge on them but they have to sacrifice some time for their children.. Her dream is to see the project expand beyond Kibera.
Discrimination against women and girls is a Pervasive and long-running phenomenon that characterizes Indian society at every level.
India’s progress towards gender equality, by rankings such as the Gender Development Index has been rather disappointing, despite fairly rapid rates of economic growth.
A recent survey shows, in the past decade, while Indian GP has grown by around 6%, there has been a large decline in female labor force participation, from 34% to 27%. The male-female wage gap has been stagnant at 50%, same survey also indicates a 27% gender gap in white collar jobs.
Some of the inherent cultures that exacerbate gender inequalities include; Khatna/(Female Genital Mutilation) inheritance through male descendants and patrilocality (married couples living with their husbands parents), a culturally ingrained parental preference of sons stemming from their importance as caregivers in old age, the dowry system, involving a cash or in kind payment from the brides family to the grooms at the time of marriage is an institution that disempowers women. It does often result in dowry related violence against women by their husbands and in-laws if the dowry is considered insufficient or as a way to demand more payments.
Crimes against women such as rape, dowry deaths and honor killings are common in India. These trends are disturbing as a natural prediction would be that with growth comes education and prosperity. The chief barriers to realizing gender equality in India are deep seated cultural norms. Despite the millions of dollars poured into development in India, significant change is yet to come about, particularly in regards to Indian culture. When Empowerent conflicts with Indian culture, it’s not well received. It is well into 21st century, it’s deep rooted tradition has slowed its pace on others.
For india to mantain its position as a global leader, more concerted efforts at local and national level, and by private sector are needed to bring women to parity with men
While increasing representation of women in the public spheres, it is important and can be particularly attained through some of affirmative action. An attitudinal shift is essential for women to be considered as equal within their homes and in broader society. Men also need to realize that women can work without sacrificing their families and their responsibilities in the home. There is an urgent need to disrupt the system of cultural norms inindia that keep women surbodinate.
Educating Indian children from an early age about the importance of gender equality could be a meaningful start in that direction!
23rd February 2018, journalists across Africa-Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Kenya- converged at a Nairobi hotel, Double-Tree, to share experiences, challenges and lessons learnt in covering Sexual Reproductive Health Rights stories as well as chart the way forward on the same.
The meeting convened by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) and Member Associations (MAs) aimed at galvanizing journalists across Africa to prioritize factual reportage of SRHR issues, giving it the attention that it deserves.
In Africa, sex and related subjects are deemed taboo. Such discussions are not held openly, at family level, at school and even in churches. As a result, young people and even adults suffer the consequences! There also exist various myths and stereotypes around the subject. Journalists are therefore expected to ‘Break the Silence’ by covering these issues with an aim of creating awareness through the various mediums; both online and offline. It is however important that journalists learn and understand Sexual Reproductive Health issues so that they know how to frame better messages to reach the various key publics.
Lilian Magezi, a journalist from Uganda said unless she uses better approaches in relaying her stories-such as linking SRHR issues to a rather development perspective- then her stories risk getting published. ‘I have many a times been faulted for promoting ‘bad behavior’ , Said Lilian. Lilian’s case is an example of challenges that journalists grapple with during their work, especially from a revisionist movement.
Addressing the journalists, Lucien Kouakou, IPPF Regional/Africa Director encouraged journalists to set a deliberate and sustained agenda on SRHR reporting so that their stories influence the formation and implementation of both national and regional policies. He asked journalists to research on key indicators and government policies related to young people’s SRHR in order to measure the extent of rights’ violations in their respective countries. He further asked journalists to explore and critique policies on SRHR, including a review of international or regional SRHR commitments in order to ensure accountability.
“As journalists you have a role to highlight the realities on the ground, hence probing whoever is dropping the ball” Said Mr. Kouakou
Mr Koaukou was also present for a week-long meeting with Regional Member Associations (MAs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working on SRHR Issues across Africa who were also in Nairobi for a Planning, Advocacy & Communication roadmap meeting. The MAs, CSOs and journalists plan to work together to strengthen their work on the ground and set sexual reproductive health as an agenda for governments.
“It is apparent that there is a gap between the signing of documents (laws) and the actual implementation. Unless all the relevant sectors work together, SRHR issues will continue to endanger lives of women and vulnerable people” Said Mr. Cesaire Pooda, Senior Advisor-Communications IPPF, in a separate interview.
IPPFAR, MAs also announced a yearly award program where they plan to honor journalists who will put in extra effort in covering SRHR stories, as a way to motivate them.
The Youth Meeting
Similarly, young people across Africa under the IPPFAR program also held a concurrent meeting in Nairobi to seek consensus on how to address the challenges that they are facing.
Young people in Africa face numerous challenges on sexual reproductive health. These challenges come in form of lack of appropriate information on access to and rights about sexual and reproductive health care, or if information is available, it is often misleading. There also exists challenges with social attitudes, stigmatization and a society afraid to face the truth.
In an interview with journalists, Risto Mushongo, National SRH Community Outreach Youth/Adolescent Coordinator in Namibia working with Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) disclosed how cases of HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and school dropout have significantly dropped in his country ever since the government legislated on Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) in schools and out of school- which is mandatory for every young person in Namibia.
Mushongo, a member of a vibrant youth movement in Namibia advices that young people should be allowed to make their own informed decisions. He however advocates for youth friendly and accessible services.