Lacking the right or understanding of one’s own sexual and reproductive health is what many rural women across Kenya suffer with, even today. For many women and girls living in rural parts of the country, there is limited access to reproductive health services and modern family planning methods. Women and girls are then faced with risks like early or unintended pregnancies, giving birth in dangerous circumstance, for example.
In Kenya, women under the age of 24 account for about 70% of all unintended pregnancies, out of which only about 50% remain married and are based in rural areas (KDHS 2014). Other reasons for unintended consequences could also be derived from the inability to choose love partners, limited decision making to have sex, lack of information about sex, and the lack of freedom to choose protection for sex.
Health programs need to provide information on girls’ and women’s rights, including their right to live free of abuse. Forty-five percent of women have experienced physical violence; not to mention there are about forty-two percent of women in Kenya who believe that wife beating is justified under at least one condition (UNFPA, 2017). Women who are empowered with access to information, opportunity and agency, can therefore be more likely to access both sexual and reproductive health care (UNFPA, 2019).
Access to sexual and reproductive health rights is after all a basic human right, and measures to address this should be a major priority for the Kenyan government. Many lives can be improved by investing in sexual and reproductive health rights, ultimately paving the way to achieve gender empowerment and equality of the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. According to UNFPA, this will further reduce poverty, and promote other rights for women such as access to education, and a safe and secure livelihood. The national priority to address gaps in sexual reproductive health rights should be by focusing on family planning interventions.
Research shows that family planning is central in achieving a woman’s safety, security, empowerment, and in reducing poverty. According to United Nation Population Fund, family planning reduces unintended pregnancies, reduces the number of unsafe abortions and lowers maternal mortality and child morbidity brought about by complications during pregnancy and childbirth. If all women living in rural areas with unmet needs for family planning were able to use modern methods of family planning, thousands of lives in rural areas could be saved.
Full provisions of modern contraception with adequate care provided to all pregnant adolescents and their newborns in Kenya would improve a young female’s health by resulting in fewer unintended pregnancies, unplanned births, fewer abortions, and fewer adolescent maternal deaths. Safe and comprehensive information must also be provided regarding contraception that are adolescent-friendly but also community-friendly so as to de-stigmatize adolescent sexual activity and access to reproductive health services.
The country aimed to achieve its family planning national goals as articulated in Vision 2030, but for this to happen, the following needs to be prioritized (DSW, 2014). This is our CALL TO ACTION;
- Lobbying for unmet contraceptive needs
- Increased budget allocations to family planning, particularly in county governments
- Integrated adolescents and teenage boys and girls in sexual and reproductive health education
- Free maternal care integration with family planning programs, education and commodities to mothers and families
- Improved quality, efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery
- Ending discriminatory practices towards adolescent and teenage girls in access to SRHR services within and outside the health center
The vision of achieving a safe, accurate, high quality, free, acceptable and voluntary family planning services and information will further aid in empowering and encouraging our women and young girls to lead better, healthier, and happier lives.