Many people admit to being nervous whenever they purchase, or ask about, contraception in public spaces. Sex, or the implication of it, is still very much a taboo topic in the Kenyan public.
This was one of the concerns raised when the Form Ni Gani? Initiative recently launched its University Idea-thon competition.
Through this competition, the initiative hopes to make young people more receptive to their contraceptive needs. It also hopes that young people can accept their sexuality and feel free when seeking contraception.
Several universities will compete to create an ideal solution for better access to contraception.
At the event, Form Ni Gani? released the Kenya in 2030: Young Voices on Future Scenarios and Contraception report. The report proposes four possible future scenarios for Kenya based on the current contraception trends.
The four scenarios are Uwakilishi, Utegemeo, Upendeleo, and Ukaidi. The ideal scenario is Uwakilishi, where all Kenyans can access contraception readily without fear or stigma. In this scenario, every individual is in control of his/her contraception needs and economic future.
One troubling statistic from the report found that averagely, 13,000 girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancy. Even more shocking, 6,300 women die every year during pregnancy and childbirth. Many of these pregnancies are unplanned. One of the panelists, Scheaffer Okore, couldn’t hide a heavy sigh as she commented on these statistics.
“Do we even have return to school policies? Do we even know what those are? Young girls who have given birth are stigmatised when they go back to school,” said Okore.
As many of the panelists noted, the problem with contraception is not inadequate information but the conservative perceptions about contraception. Contraception is mostly reserved for married people and women continue to bear the burden of contraception in most relationships.
One worrying consequence of inadequate/unfair access to contraception is an increase in the number of fatalities resulting from unsafe abortions.
‘ABORTION IS A RIGHT’
“Abortion is a right, women and young girls should have that choice. We can fight about it all we want but the fact remains that one out of seven women dies every day due to unsafe abortions,” Okore boldly stated.
One resounding takeaway from the panel was that the freedom to access and use contraception without fear will drastically change Kenya’s economy by 2030. Young people will have complete control over their bodies, their sexuality and their future. Currently, government institutions, religious institutions and, learning institutions dominate public discussions on sex, contraception and abortion.
Norris Kabembe, a student at the Multimedia University, and one of the participants in the Idea-thon competition, feels that it is time for the society to accept that young people are sexually active and need access to contraceptives.
“As much as we say that we are the 21st century and we are ‘woke’, the Kenyan society is still very conservative. We are still controlled by religion and culture. We have the information, but we need more than just information. People really need to change their mindset,” says Kabembe.
Currently, contraception services in Kenya are largely funded by donors and foreign governments. Compared to the 4.3 billion contributed by donors and foreign governments, the Kenyan government only allocates 600 million to contraception.
This, even as the country continues to struggle with poor planning, insufficient resources and, a rapidly growing population. Perhaps for the government, the link between contraception and development is not very clear.
“Today if we go to any county, I can guarantee you, none of them has even one percent [of their budget] going into contraception. Nobody makes a correlation between the number of schools that are in a county and the number of children that are born. A politician asks you to have children because they need votes yet, it will take 18 years for that child to even cast a vote,” said Katindi Sivi Njonjo, one of the panelists.
This is not the first time that the Form Ni Gani? platform has held a bold campaign to raise awareness on contraception. In 2018, ‘pregnant’ men marched down the streets of Nairobi to create awareness on the fact that pregnancy and contraception are not only a woman’s responsibility.