NAIROBI, 06.17.2021 (Press Release): A new report finds that women and girls in Kenya lack access to comprehensive information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) despite the country’s constitutional framework guaranteeing reproductive health and access to such information.
Low uptake of contraceptives, increased rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, sexual and, are attributable to lack of access to information by women and girls, the report found, which also leads to higher rates of gender-based violence such as rape and sexual exploitation.
This new report by the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center) and Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) sought to evaluate women and girls’ access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and the role of the government in facilitating such access.
Grounded on interactions with women and girls, health service providers, and government officials in five counties of Kenya, the report, Access to SRHR Information by Women and Girls in Kenya: An Assessment of Nairobi, Bungoma, Homabay, Kericho and Kilifi Counties, finds a disconnect between the promise of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the reality, in terms of women and girls’ access to and realization of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Betty Odallo, Advocacy Adviser for Africa at Center for Reproductive Rights faulted the government for providing women and girls with select and/or piecemeal information on sexual reproductive health rights. “While government facilities provided some information on reproductive health services such as delivery, and post-natal care, it failed to provide information on abortion care, post abortion care, assisted reproduction and contraceptives,” observed Ms. Odallo, adding that “learning institutions offered limited or no comprehensive education on sexual and reproductive health despite school-going girls preferring to receive such information from schools according to the report.”
Article 43 of the constitution guarantees the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including reproductive health which is a state of complete physical, mental, social, and emotional wellbeing regarding reproductive system, and not merely being without disease. Moreover, Article 35 provides for right to access information meaning women and girls are entitled to seek and receive information concerning health, including sexual and reproductive health to help them live whole and healthy lives.
Jade Maina, Executive Director, Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) reiterated: “For Kenyan women and girls to realize healthy productive lives and contribute to nation building, the Government must live to its commitments to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leave no one behind in designing sexual and reproductive health and rights programs.”
The report also revealed that men, women, and girls with multiple disabilities such as hearing, sight, and speech were neither substantively involved nor considered in such program design. Additional findings include:
- Knowledge of Reproductive Rights: 36% of women and girls under 25 years of age have the lowest level of understanding of reproductive rights.
- Knowledge of Reproductive Rights in the Constitution: A majority of women and girls, irrespective of age, are unaware of the constitutional provisions on sexual reproductive health rights, including abortion.
- Knowledge of Menstrual Cycle: 12% of girls aged 12–19 and 38% of women ages 21–30, are knowledgeable about menstruation.
- Knowledge of Pregnancy and Contraception: Girls aged 15 and below are least knowledgeable on how to prevent unintended pregnancies. Women aged 21–30 are most knowledgeable on how to prevent unintended pregnancies. 80% of these women use contraception, compared with 20% who reported abstaining from sex.
- Knowledge of Sexual Gender-Based Violence: Most married women expressed that they experienced a lack of autonomy, choice, or decision-making in negotiating for safe sex or not to have sex. Respondents reported that it is up to women, and not men, to take the necessary precautions to prevent pregnancies and STIs.
Key recommendations the report makes towards government and stakeholders in ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive health information and education:
- Equip all health facilities with health service providers trained in the provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights information
- Finalize, publish and rollout a curriculum on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health for in- and out-of-school adolescents, to be delivered by trained teachers
- Undertake regular, nationwide awareness campaigns on sexual and reproductive health for persons of all demographics on widely accessible media
- Provide information and education on sexual and reproductive health and rights in formats accessible by all persons with disabilities.
Follow the conversation on:
- Twitter: @ReproRights #Access2SRHRInfoKE (Primary) #KatibaForSRHR (Secondary)
- Facebook: TICHAKenya and Reproductive Health Network Kenya