Despite the constitutional framework guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), women in Kenya still lack access to such information according to a new report.
The report, by Centre for Reproductive Rights and the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health, found that there is lack of information among girls and women on salient matters such as menstruation, contraception, safe abortion, sexual gender-based violence, and reproductive rights.
At least 80 percent of the women surveyed in the study use contraceptives with only 2 out 10 abstaining from sex. The report notes that girls and women under 25 years reported the lowest understanding of reproductive rights. It adds that only 12 percent of girls between ages 12 and 19, and women between 21 and 30, have knowledge about menstruation.
Dubbed Access to SRHR Information by Women and Girls in Kenya: An Assessment of Nairobi, Bungoma, Homabay, Kericho and Kilifi Counties, the report based its findings on interactions with women and girls, health service providers, and government officials in the five counties.
“Majority of women and girls, irrespective of age, are uninformed of the constitutional provisions on sexual reproductive health rights including abortion,” the report reads in part.
It notes that the knowledge gap limits the ability of women and girls to claim their sexual and reproductive health rights from the government and health facilities.
It adds that the lack of access to SRHR information also contributes to low uptakes of contraceptives, increased rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, increased incidences of HIV and other STD infections.
The study also points out that lack of such access results in sexual and gender-based violence including rape and sexual exploitation as well as “unintended pregnancies which in turn affect women and girls’ access to education and economic opportunities and could result in unsafe abortions, as well as maternal mortalities and morbidities.”
The report also presents recommendations on how the government and stakeholders can improve access to reproductive health information including undertaking awareness campaigns on sexual and reproductive health across the country.
Advocacy Adviser for Africa at Centre for Reproductive Rights, Betty Odallo, while discussing the findings, faulted the government for failing to provide SRHR information.
“Whereas government facilities provided some information on reproductive health services such as delivery and post-natal care, it failed to provide complete and prior information on abortion care, post abortion care, assisted reproduction and contraceptives,” she noted.
Reiterating the need to provide the information and avert risks attributed to sex, TICAH Executive Director Jade Maina called on the government to keep their end of the bargain.
“For Kenyan women and girls to realize healthy, productive lives and contribute to nation building, the government must live up to its commitments in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leave no one behind in designing sexual and reproductive health and rights programs,” said Ms Maina.
Among the recommendations of the study to government and stakeholders is equipping health facilities with trained staff and adoption of a comprehensive sexual and reproduction education in the school curriculum.