Malawi, Where HIV Testing and Treatment is Conducted Within Churches..

In Africa, stigma among members of the public remains a key barrier to seeking HIV testing and treatment services within communities they live in. However, the case is different in Malawi as churches have chosen to counter the situation by taking the services to congregants.

According to 2018 UNAIDS data, Malawi has one of the highest HIV prevalence in the world, with 9.6% of the teenage population aged 15-19 years old living with HIV. UNAIDS further estimated that one million Malawians were living with HIV in 2016 and 25,000 Malawians died from AIDs-related illness in the same year.

7Vu9VK_M.jpeg
Pastor Howard Kasiya at the faith leaders convention in Nairobi.

“Our people are dying due to lack of knowledge” Said Pastor Howard Kasiya, the National Coordinator of the Health Commission of the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM). Pastor Kasiya was speaking during an interview conducted on the sidelines of a recent inter-faith leaders’ training conducted by Faith to Action Network, in Nairobi, to build their capacity to influence changes in policy and social norms in the State of African Women Campaign.

EAM, a faith-based organization understands that health is a universal need. At the heart of evangelism, they run programs which mainstream interventions for the HIV scourge.

Roughly a third of all new HIV infections (12,500 out of 36,000) in Malawi in 2016 occurred among young people aged 15-14. Early sexual activity in Malawi is high with around 15% of young women and 18% of young men aged 15-14 reporting having sex before the age of 15 , (UNAIDS 2018).

Among their programs, EAM churches have teen clubs for young people and youth living with HIV. They meet twice weekly with support from a trained pastor. Teen clubs help answer various questions that young people have concerning issues of HIV infection and treatment.

Similarly, the adults within the churches and communities have HIV support groups for people living with HIV. These groups are also supported by a church leader.

For effectiveness, EAM has trained several religious leaders, of different ages, to become peer educators and counselors on issues of HIV AIDs and offer psychosocial support. The trained persons facilitate discussions within the groups.

In addition, the churches also offer nutrition services to the affected population.

“There has been an attitude change among boys and men who are often rigid at seeking HIV testing services. Many are now requesting for the services” Said Pastor Kasiya.

On days set aside for testing and counselling services, congregants turn out in good numbers. Pastors, deacons and church leaders often lead the congregants in taking up the services. Counselling and testing for HIV is offered by qualified service providers together with trained youth leaders and church leaders.

 “To deal with stigma associated with people going to public testing services, we decided to bring the services closer to them. Service providers come to our churches to conduct testing services. We make the exercise as comfortable as possible for all,” emphasized Pastor Kasiya.

Pastor Kasiya further noted that HIV prevalence has dropped in Malawi over the past few years, but they as a church cannot ignore the rising number of new infections among young people.

Besides HIV and AIDs, EAM also runs programs around Sexual and Reproductive Health, Family Planning, Maternal and child health, Sanitation and hygiene and nutrition.

“What is very important is that we present all these from a biblical perspective, with supportive scriptures from the bible, as an obligation to God” Concluded Pastor Kasiya.

Achieving this kind of commitment from faith leaders has not been easy. There has been constant training and capacity building of religious leaders, such as the one provided by Faith to Action Network with financial support from the European Union, to make faith actors effective amplifiers of the message that optimum health and wellness are a key part of God’s plan for humankind.

Culture, Illiteracy, Obstacles to Family Planning Uptake Among Refugees In Kakuma.

IMG_8180.JPG
Mrs. Diing Aten at the “ICPD What has changed conversation”

Uptake of family planning services among men and women living in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei communities is still low. Reasons for apathy vary; Social cultural beliefs, low education/literacy levels, religious beliefs -all lead to poor health seeking behavior.

“Our culture and traditions are the main reasons why women are wary of family planning services”, said Mrs. Diing Aten during the “ICPD what has changed” conversation event that was held last week in Kakuma.

At the event, women pointed their inability to make decisions in their homes which makes it difficult for them to decide how many children they would want to bear. Such gender inequalities generally place greater constraints on women’s access to Family planning programming.

For Instance, women from South Sudan have little say in their homes. As a matter of fact, they are not allowed to speak before men, or as Diing puts it, “We die with our problems”

However, Diing is happy to have an understanding husband who is warm to the need of spacing their children. At 35, Diing has four children. According to Diing, her age-mates have an average of 6-8 children.

IMG_8599.JPG
Diing speaking to three of her four children

Unsurprisingly, Diing is a community leader. She is also a member of the community health committee in Kakuma Refugee Camp. She has interacted with various family planning programmes supported by International Rescue Committee (IRC) and UNFPA Kenya.

She too is a family planning champion. “I use my position to reach out to my fellow women and men. I speak to them about the importance of family planning. I have individually convinced about 10 families. I will still reach out to more.” She assertively affirmed. Diing pointed out that besides culture, women fear using contraceptives for they fear that they might make them infertile.

John Mading prides in his big family of three wives and 13 children. He purports that during war, many men, women and children were killed thereby gravely affecting the South Sudan population. He considers having a big family as away of replacing the relatives he lost during war. “We are replacing our lost population” Said the 47-year-old South Sudanese Refugee who has been living in Kakuma for 27 years now.

IMG_8570
John Mading together with his last wife and some of his children

On his part, Mading maintains that he is fulfilling the theological command by God “Go ye fill the world” He quoted. Mading believes that children are from God and that men should obey Gods’ command.

In addition, he sighted that his culture despises men with less children, “Men with few children are seen to be weak. In fact, if two/three years go by without your wife getting pregnant, the community speaks ill of you.” Said Mading.

According to Mading, cultures such as wife inheritance among the South Sudanese are in place to ensure that widows bear more children which the late husband would have sired before he departed.

IMG_8541.JPG
John Madings’ second wife attending to her chores

However, Diing affirmed that awareness and educational programs are active within the refugee community, but the deep-rooted cultural beliefs are a big hindrance to uptake of family planning services.

John Wafula, Humanitarian Programme Specialist, UNFPA Kenya spoke of the above issues as priority matters that will be addressed at the upcoming ICPD+25 Conference, “ it was necessary for us (agencies) to have this conversation with our beneficiaries to illuminate what more can be done to accelerate the ICPD PoA” Said Mr. Wafula

“It is evident that more has to be done especially around the component of advancing gender equality. As the conversation unfolds, we must recognize that reproductive health, women empowerment and gender equality are the pathway to sustainable development” Concluded Mr. Wafula.

Twenty –five years ago in Cairo, Egypt, leaders drawn from 179 countries promised especially women and girls’ reduction in maternal deaths, elimination of violence and ending harmful cultural practices against women, ending unmet need for family planning, and advancing gender equality. This came to be known as the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD PoA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Political Leaders Tasked To Lead The War on Eradicating FGM in Africa- AU Summit Report 2019  

Image result for AU SUMMIT 2019
Africa leaders at a past AU event.  Photo courtesy

After decades of prolonged cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation, hopes of its total obliteration finally gleam across Africa after the Africa Union (AU) charged political leaders to prioritize its elimination among their mandated roles.

The decision came after deliberations by civil society organizations, women-led movements, political leaders and Heads of States/Governments met at this years’ AU Summit that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 10-11th February. At the summit, a special assembly was set up to discuss action around the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a practice that has had serious costs on African societies.

In effect, His Excellency Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso, was designated as the African Union Champion for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation; an indication that AU is keen on galvanizing political commitment towards wiping out FGM and child marriages in Africa.

The Assembly noted with concern, the high rates of FGM in Africa, where 50 million girls will be at risk of undergoing this injurious, harmful practice by 2030. FGM is a human rights violation which causes lifelong health complications resulting from the procedures administered to girls and women. The practice also adversely affects the maternal health outcomes on the continent.

The Assembly further endorsed the continental initiative led by the Commission to be known as Saleema: African Union Initiative on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation. They (the assembly) called on Member States to implement the African Union Initiative on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, with a focus on ending medicalization and addressing cross border practice of FGM.

Notwithstanding, the Assembly saw an urgent need to implement strong legislative frameworks, allocate domestic financial resources, promote use of evidence and data, regular reporting, and the engagement of civil society and community groups in ending female genital mutilation.

Finally, the Assembly requested the Commission to put in place an accountability framework to hold Member States to account and monitor progress at the regional and national level in line with commitments made.

 ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE

The assembly reaffirmed its commitment towards the Implementation of the Common African Position on Ending Child Marriage in Africa and recommendations from the first African Girls Summit held in Lusaka, Zambia in November 2015 and all the recommendations from the 2nd African Girls Summit on Ending Child Marriage held in Accra Ghana in November 2018.

The Assembly also decided to take concrete actions to end child marriage in all its forms and manifestations, with firm commitment to article 21(2) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and to have comprehensive report on the progress of Ending Child Marriage in Africa through the reporting channel to the Policy Organs.

For more information please log on to: http://www.au.int

Winners of Kakuma-Kalobeyei Community Run Commit to End GBV

John Echwa, 30 and Nancy Nadai, 17, both South Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma Refugee Camp won yesterdays’ Community Run that took place in the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement which hosts mostly South Sudanese refugees living in proximity with the host community in Turkana West Sub-County.

The race dubbed Kakuma-Kalobeyei Community run was organized by UNFPA Kenya, UN agencies, implementing partners and the refugee community in Kakuma and Kalobeyei refugee camps, as a top activity to mark this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV)

This year’ theme is; “End Gender Based Violence in the world of work’.
The organizers sought to create awareness and mobilize refugees in Kakuma and Kalobeyei against GBV as well as create awareness among agency and refugee workers on their responsibility and obligations for creating safe work spaces, including Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse as a form of GBV.

The race also aimed to address GBV as a barrier to access Sexual Reproductive Health Services for women and girls within the refugee communities including Family Planning as power of choice to determine their reproductive health pathways which is often constrained by GBV.

On winning the race, John Echwa said that he was aware of the various forms of GBV that happen among them and that he plans to use his newly found platform to rally other men against perpetuating GBV.

“I am happy about winning today’s race. I will use this opportunity to urge my fellow men to stop abusing their women” Said John.

On her Part, Nancy said,

“For me it’s not just about winning, it is about creating awareness about the forms of violence that we experience as women living in refugee camps. I want GBV against women and girls to end” She said.

The race also reserved a special category for people with disabilities and adolescents.

“UNFPA responds to vulnerabilities generated by humanitarian situations to ensure adequate and sustainable access to reproductive health services and protection against violations founded on gender inequalities. This years’ 16 Days Of Activism is for us to amplify efforts that we have made in collaboration with our partners to eliminate gender based violence as a desecration of human dignity and impediment to realization of sexual and reproductive health rights” read a statement by UNFPA’s Country Representative Dr. Ademola Olajide ahead of the race.

A joint statement released by UN Agencies few days to observing the 16 days of Activism read;

“Our duty is not only to stand in solidarity with survivors of GBV but also to intensify our efforts to find solutions and measures to stop this preventable global scourge with a detrimental impact on women’s and girls’ lives and health. Ending violence against women and girls is not a short-term endeavor. It requires coordinated and sustained efforts from all of us”

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse as a form of GBV can lead to discrimination and exclusion of especially women and girls from work places, denying them opportunity for economic empowerment which deepens their vulnerability to further abuse.

GBV in its various forms occasions emotional and physical trauma, unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, pregnancy complications and sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.

Kakuma-Kalobeyei Community Run to End GBV, #16DaysOfActivism

Residents of Kalobeyei participate in a walk to sensitize the community about GBV during the launch of 16 days of activism.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge gender-based violence.

UNFPA Kenya, in collaboration with UNHCR, implementing partners and the refugee community in Kakuma and Kalobeyei refugee camps, will use the platform provided by this year’s 16 Days of Activism to create awareness and mobilize communities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei (Turkana West Sub-County) against GBV under the theme: ‘End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work’. The main event of the celebrations will be a marathon dubbed “Kakuma-Kalobeyei Community Run to End Gender Based Violence”
The initiative targets to create awareness among agencies and refugee workers on their responsibility and obligations for creating safe work spaces, including Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) as a form of GBV.

“UNFPA responds to vulnerability generated by humanitarian situations to ensure adequate and sustainable access to reproductive health services and protection against violations founded on gender inequalities. This years’ 16 Days Of Activism is for us to amplify efforts that we have made in collaboration with our partners to eliminate gender based violence as a desecration of human dignity and impediment to realization of sexual and reproductive health rights” read a statement by UNFPA’s Country Representative Dr. Ademola Olajide, ahead of the slated activities.

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) as a form of GBV can lead to discrimination and exclusion of especially women and girls from work places, denying them opportunity for economic empowerment which deepens their vulnerability to further abuse. Organizations whose staff are implicated in work place related forms of GBV are exposed to reputation risks and legal sanctions that could dissuade donors. Individual staff themselves risk loss of employment and litigation.

GBV in its various forms occasions emotional and physical trauma, unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, pregnancy complications and sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.

‘Why I report On SRHR,’ African Award-Winning Journalists Speak.

Logan, Abdel Aziz, Abdoulaye- some of the award winning journalists

For a very long time in Africa, Sex and related subjects have been deemed taboo. They could never be discussed openly. The scenario is slowly changing such that currently, subjects around sexual and reproductive health can be discussed within various groups including homes, churches and on media platforms very openly.

However, Journalists have played a major role in disseminating information, demystifying myths around sexual subjects which in turn spurred various conversations through their coverage, debates and interviews. Though they mention that it has not been easy covering such a sensitive subject. Some even risked losing their jobs for highlighting contentious issues such as contraception, abortion and LGBTQI rights! It took only the bold and passionate journalists to uncover the realities beneath the Sexual and Reproductive Health world.

During the recent awards ceremony held in Kigali on the sidelines of International Conference Family Planning (ICFP), award winning journalists shared reasons as to why they chose to report on health matters particularly sexual and reproductive health;

‘My mother got pregnant and gave birth to me at 14. Her education and dreams were greatly disrupted. She took time out to take care of me. My dad was on the other hand free to continue with education and pursue his dream. Which he did quite well. He even pursued further studies abroad and finally got a good job. I write from a place of painful understanding. Had my mum known much around contraception, she would not have deferred her education. She would have exploited her fullest potential. As such, many girls fail to achieve their dreams and full potential due to early pregnancies. A pregnancy can be the only thing that stands between ones’ dream” Said Joyce Chimbi, Winner Print Feature Article 750 words, From Kenya.

Moses Chifwembe, Runners up print feature 2500 words said, “While I loved sports and sports reporting, I was totally blind about things that happened to women and girls on the ground. But one day, I witnessed something during my work that made me switch from being a sports reporter to a health reporter. However, convincing my editor about my decision was not easy. He asked me to write three articles around the issues that I felt I wanted to cover after which he would make the decision whether to accept my request or turn it down altogether. I did as he had requested and amazingly he published all the three articles” Said Chifwembe, Zambia

On his part, Logan Koffi, Runners Up Print Feature 750 words Said “Having hailed from one of Togos’ rural areas, I saw how women and girls struggled to access health services especially reproductive health services. These women happened to be my neighbors, mother and sisters. Ten years ago, when I launched my career in journalism, I decided to focus on health reporting. Women in rural areas are adversely affected due to lack of SRH services. I am their voice. I believe that all women and girls have a right to information and access to SRH services and that no woman or girl should be denied this most important human right”

Abdel Aziz Nabaloum, Burkina Faso, winner print feature article 2500 words encouraged journalists from Africa to tell their own stories since they live and experience these issues first hand.
‘Let us tell our own stories, no one should tell them for us. We have first hand experience on issues that affect our people,’ Said Aziz

The awards ceremony sponsored by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region had seven journalists across the continent scooping various prizes for their commitment to improve Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights for millions of girls and young women within the continent.

Ida Odinga Calls for Increased Awareness on Cancer to Curb Frequent Deaths

“Cancer is currently a menace for Kenya. It is claiming many lives and is no longer a disease of the affluent as it was thought to be; it cuts across all social classes.” Said Ida Odinga

She was speaking last Friday evening at Villa Rosa Kempiski during the screening of a movie on breast cancer called ‘Purple Hearts.’

She underscored the economic burden of the disease on families and asked the government to strengthen the healthcare system by either training more doctors or outsourcing expert doctors to treat the disease locally, instead of referring patients overseas for treatment.

She however, was happy that the government has prioritized on Universal Health Coverage for All, as one of its Big 4 Agenda, a move that will see both infrastructural and service improve-ment within the health sector.

The movie screening event convened by United Nations Population Fund Kenya (UNFPA) and Maendeleo Ya Wanawake brought together first ladies from Machakos, Makueni, Kakamega counties, Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris and various stakeholders to engage a broad range of stakeholders as advocates who would provoke strategic policy discussions and far reaching actions, which if undertaken will advance the health rights of women and girls.

The movie which chronicles a 32-year-old lady diagnosed with breast cancer after a precious pregnancy that followed five years of secondary infertility highlights a broad range of issues that would eventually impact on her family.

‘‘The purpose of the movie is to highlight that breast cancer can be defeated” Said Andy Amenechi, the producer of the movie whose wife is a breast cancer survivor.

Andy said that the movie is currently showing on Africa Magic Tv. He also partners with various advocacy organizations to distribute free copies, for he wishes that everyone gets a chance to watch the movie. He has plans to have the movie translated to Swahili language for the general Kenyan audience.

Dr. Ademola Olajide, Country Representative, UNFPA Kenya, said, breast and cervical cancers are Sexual and Reproductive Health Right (SRHR) issues which require appropriate attention,

“As the movie illustrates, the interface of breast and cervical cancer and Sexual Reproductive Health of women such as those of maternal health, against the background of gender constructs within the society which disempowers women require appropriate attention” Said Dr. Ademola.

He added that UNFPA Kenya, under its mandate will continue to work with everyone to address urgent health issues affecting the country for the well-being of all

On her part, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Chairperson, Rahab Muiu, assured that her organization was poised to take the message to the grassroots and appealed to those present within policy circles to give voice and amplify the issue.

Tana Adelana, leading actress, ‘Purple Hearts’ said it was not easy shooting the movie, it was rather overwhelming.

‘The movie depicts a true-life story, for me knowing that someone had to experience this in real life was quite emotional. We had to cut certain scenes so that I could get myself’ She said

Cancer is the third leading cause of mortality in Kenya, accounting for 7% annual deaths after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases, with an estimated 400,000 new cancer cases and 28,000 cancer deaths occurring each year (MoH 2011).

Evidence by Kenya Cancer Network (KCN 2017) shows that 60% of Kenyans affected by cancer are younger than 70 years old, while the leading causes of cancer in women are cancers of the cervix and breast and esophagus, head, neck and prostrate in men

“Report Cases of Sexual, Gender Based Violence” Kibera girls told.

Hon. Esther Passaris, speaking to the girls

Nairobi Women Representative Hon. Esther Passaris urged girls from Kibera to courageously SPEAK OUT by reporting cases of sexual and gender based violence regardless of the status of the perpetrator.

“Do not fear to report sexual violence cases to your teachers, parents and the police.” She said. ” It doesn’t matter who the person is, be it your teacher, parent, neighbor, please report. Do not fear intimidation,” urged Esther.

Hon. Passaris spoke during the International Day of The Girl Child celebrations that took place on 19th Oct, 2018, at Lutheran church, Kibera.

The celebrations convened by UNFPA Kenya and Polycom Development Program brought together over five thousand girls and boys from primary and secondary schools around Kibera. Also present at the event was H.E Nicolas Nihon, Ambassador, Embassy of Belgium, Lucien Kouakou, Regional Director, International Planned Parenthood Federation, (IPPFAR), Mrs. Rahab Muiu Chairperson Maendeleo ya Wanawake, Principal Secretary Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs and women 4 women platform members.

some of the pupils from primary schools around Kibera

During her speech, Hon. Esther Passaris stressed on the urgency to address and end the rampant cases of physical, emotional, sexual and gender based violence that happen in Kibera. Esther said, she was aware that most families solve gender based violence cases amicably at home, thereby interfering with the rightful avenue for seeking justice for the victims. She requested the police and the judiciary to diligently exercise their mandate by arresting and prosecuting offenders of SGBV.

She also said that the county government of Nairobi is, at the moment, working on setting up safe houses around Nairobi to accommodate survivors of gender based violence who flee their homes and those that require safety from their abusers who may otherwise harm them.

A speech read on behalf of the Permanent Secretary (PS), Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs mentioned the projects that the government is currently focusing on to better the life of every child across the country. The projects included; free primary and secondary education, Universal Health Coverage and affordable housing under the current Big 4 Agenda that is under implantation by the national government. The Principal Secretary recognized the importance of children in the society and their contribution to development.

“Children are a sign of hope and continuity of generations, they are fundamental to the growth of any country, their rights must therefore be jealously preserved, ” Read the opening remarks of the speech.

The PS, underscored the economic burden of Gender Based Violence and its ramifications to the economy of the country.

“The economic burden of GBV is estimated to be at Sh46 Billion, the cost of post-rape care services in public health sector alone is estimated st 236M. These are monies that can be channeled into other development projects, if we end SGBV in Kenya Read the speech

Rhab Muiu, Chaiperson, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake

Mrs. Rahab Muiu, Chairperson Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, advised the girls to abstain from sexual activities, a behavior that may deviate them from achieving their dreams. “Avoid having sex and relationships now, focus on your education.” She said. Rahab pledged to mentor the girls along the way and to continuously protect their rights, through the mandate of her organization.

Mrs. Phanice Juma, Director Healthcare Assistance Kenya, (HAK) used the opportunity to avail a 24 hour Violence Rapid Response and GBV Toll Free Hotline (1195) which girls can call and report cases of abuse. “If you are in any kind of abuse related trouble, call 1195, we will help you,’ She affirmed.

Girls performing a song

During the celebrations, the girls played songs, dances, skits and read out poems that called for protection of their rights and freedoms. Key was a number of poems read out from a collection of poems written and published by Kibera girls in a book dubbed “The power of Love”; an in depth understanding of what love means to them.

UNFPA Kenya Country Representative Dr. Ademola Olajide addressing the girls

Dr. Ademola Olajide, Representative, UNFPA Kenya urged the girls to work hard and challenge the status quo.

” We want the first female president of Kenya to come from Kibera,” He said.

He also said that UNFPA Kenya would provide necessary support to ensure that the the girls are comfortable to stay in school and pursue their dreams, “We are here for you, we will support your dreams” Said Dr. Ademola.

UNFPA Kenya has been (for about one year now) working closely with Polycom Development Program under its talking boxes project. Talking boxes are small metallic boxes where girls in primary schools drop secretive notes onto which they express issues that they may be going through, including sexual, gender based violence. The notes are later retrieved and read by a school counselor. Follow up is then done to help curb/solve the case.

Early this year, UNFPA Kenya supported production of 55 metallic boxes, a move that saw the project scale up to 50 schools up from 15 schools within Kibera. The project continues to positively impact on the health and education of thousands of girls around Kibera.

Jane Anyango, Director-Polycom Development Program

In her speech, Jane Anyago Director Polycom Development Program thanked UNFPA Kenya for the incredible partnership and called upon anyone passionate about the initiative to reach out and work with her, for she wishes to expand the project around schools in Kenya.

Read more about the talking boxes project here.

Ghana Based Journalists Commit to Relentlessly Report on Sexual, Reproductive and Health Rights Stories

Ms. Abena Acheampong, Executive Director PPAG signing up her commitment to the #RightByHer Campaign

What if we all stood right by her?

These are the sentiments that engulfed the room during the training of about 25 journalists on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) on 3rd Oct 2018 at Alisa Hotel, Accra, Ghana.

The training dubbed #RightByHer Journalist Training Workshop was coordinated by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR), Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) and sponsored by The State of African Women Report (SoAW2018) Program.

Members of the fourth estate learned terminologies around SRHR and crosscutting issues around health in Africa particularly SRHR, in relation to population and development.

The training also included an evaluation of the SRHR curriculum for journalists across Africa that is currently at its initial stage of development.

Guiding the training was a review of the State of African Women Report (SoAW) which outlines key areas around health that affect women and girls in Africa. The report further gives recommendations on the way forward to improve the lives of girls and women in Africa.

Some of the journalists partaking in the #RightByHer commitment exercise

Journalists shared some of the challenges that they experience on the ground while covering SRHR stories mainly because of the sensitivity around the topics. However, Ms. Abena Executive Director, PPAG encouraged the health reporters to engage experts as much as possible in order to shed light on these crucial yet ignored issues, that often border development.

” It is important that you understand the topics well so that you are able to break down some of the existing myths and misconceptions.” Said Abena.

Ms. Abena volunteered to offer her support along the way. “Come to us, we will help you. My staff at PPAG are knowledgeable on all areas around SRHR, they will assist you” She affirmed.

Journalists also got acquainted with progress of the Maputo Protocol on the rights of women and girls in Africa and the Maputo Plan of Action (MPoA) which is the implementation framework for the continental policy framework.

Dr. Leticia Appiah ; Executive Director, National Population Council of Ghana underscored human capital as a critical resource that governments have to harness in order to reap the demographic dividend. And that Africa’s development heavily relies on a healthy population.

“For Africa to achieve the outlined Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and the AU Agenda 2063, we have to shift focus on improving the Sexual and Reproductive Health of all women and girls. They encompass a huge chunk of Africa’s population that has to be harnessed.” She said

Dr. Leticia Appiah, Executive Director, Population Council of Ghana addressing journalists during the training

She urged reporters to bring out the subtle SRHR issues that threaten the development of Africa.

Similarly, Mark Okundi, Programs Officer at #RightByHer program urged reporters to use their pens as barrels to hold governments accountable on the commitments that they make around health and gender policies.

“It is your duty to probe our leaders on the commitments they make as they sign some of these regional charters and documents.” Advised Mr. Okundi.

The journalists also joined the IPPF Journalists Network team as new champions for the #RightByHer. They signed up their commitment messages for the #RightByHer movement and joined the existing champions from Kenya, Togo, Burkina and Cameroon who were also present during the training.

Mark Okundi, Programs Officer #RightByHer taking journalists through the training

The training took place on the sidelines of the Review of the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD) which also has clear reservations on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for Women and Girls in Africa.

Men, Share Family Planning Responsibilities…

Photo courtesy; IPPFAR

For a very long time, family planning has had a feminine face. It has been left as a female issue. Africa is a patriarchal society where men make almost all decisions but it’s amazing how they become adamant when it comes to making decisions about family planning at household level. Honestly, if only men were involved and informed about the use of contraceptives, we would be at a better place, as a society.

Men lack information about contraceptives. While there exist only two contraceptive methods for them; condoms and vasectomy, their adaptation and use is quite low. In July this year, during the World Population Day (WPD), 94 men accessed vasectomy services because they were well informed about the services. More advocacy has to be carried out to reach more men.

Men are central when it comes to family planning programs at all levels. They need to start learning at an early age. They all have a responsibility when it comes to pregnancies and spacing the number of children.

Realistically, if men embraced well the use of contraceptives then we would have fewer unintended and unplanned teenage pregnancies, we would have fewer unsafe abortion cases, we would have healthy stable families where children are well spaced , we would have fewer maternal deaths, we would have fewer cases of HIVAids and STIs transmission.

Many a times men have been heard ‘denying’ pregnancies some claiming that they only had sex once with the woman. How naïve of them! They then disappear from the woman’s life leaving her depressed, confused and vulnerable! Weighing their current situation, some women are left with the battle of whether to carry on with the pregnancy or to terminate. Some even decide to end their lives all together!

With the current tough economic times, it’s time men took up the mantle. It is time they changed their attitude towards Family Planning. Besides, FP is related to sustainable development. High population density puts pressure on the fewer available resources.

The extend to which young people are empowered to make informed decisions about their bodies and lives, to live free from HIV and other STIs, to avoid unintended teenage pregnancies, early marriage and the negative consequences to their health, education and their well being would ultimately determine the realization of the Demographic Dividend in Africa and in turn the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Therefore governments need to ensure that we have enough budgeting to take care of our Sexual Reproductive Health needs for its people.