Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Women’s Reproductive choices under threat in Kenya

by Esther Kimani Wambui 
(Executive Director -Young Women's Leadership Institute)

It has taken me few months after the release of the song Nerea by Sauti Sol and Amos and Josh for me to comment on but more so to analyse it at a broader angle and why I think the whole access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for women and girls is under threat in Kenya. In the song by Sauti sol, Nerea is begged by the man not to abort the pregnancy because when a child is born God brings his/her a plate as well, this means that God will provide for this child if the girl is not able to.  The song further give a list of people the child may grow up to be such as Lupita Nyong’o, Raila Odinga, Barack Obama, Miriam Makeba among others. This is very problematic as the arguments are not based on the real social-economic status of Kenyans and women’s lack of access to information, knowledge and service on sexual and reproductive health and rights

Music is vibration; Music is a powerful tool for transformation from the little self to the Eternal Self. Mystic Mama

We hear stories that music has a way of soothing the soul when hurt of down. I totally agree that music is indeed a powerful tool that can be used to pass out strong messages for transformation. When music makes you want to dance, you are opening to receive more Light. When music touches your heart, you are opening to receive love. When music unleashes your sensuality and passion, you are becoming more alive. When music helps you express anger and rage, you are opening to make room for the transformation that will ultimate take you Home! When music breaks free the sadness in your heart, you feel an overpowering longing. When music warns you on something you tend to question yourself and your actions.

The song Nerea begs and in a way warns women and girls not to abort as God will always provide for those children. Furthermore the child might become great leader like Barack Obama and Raila Odinga among other influential people in Africa and the World. Above, we saw the power of song and this song which is being played in our airwaves every day is an obstacle of women’s access to Sexual and Reproductive health Services especially abortions as women and girls will shy away to demand this right. Who wants to terminate Barack Obama, Lupita Nyong’o or even Raila Odinga? Who? Who wants to terminate pregnancy when God will always provide for them? Who? And if they do, they will go to clandestine and quarks to have the procedure done and in turn add to the horrible statistics of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortions.

Many Kenyans live below the poverty line, According to UNICEF’s report; Kenya is one of the most unequal countries in the sub-region. Forty two percent of its population of 44 million live below the poverty line. Access to basic quality services such as health care, education, clean water and sanitation, is often a luxury for many people. Large segments of the population, including the burgeoning urban poor, are highly vulnerable to climatic, economic and social shocks. As such, progress on the Millennium Development Goals, especially in regards to social security, is mixed. This situation is more severe for women and girls who are not economic independent.

A few weeks later after the release of this song the Students Organisation of Nairobi University‘s President wrote a letter to the President of Kenya Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta. In the letter they are seeking for permission from the President to burn all clinics performing abortions in Kenya. They are also requesting for petrol to facilitate the burn of these clinics. There justification is their concern on the growing number if clinics providing abortions services. Since they have identified a clinic in the central business Center of Nairobi, imagine if they not only burn but vandalise all clinics providing Sexual and Reproductive Health services, where will women go to access this service? It is not a coincidence that in the letter they copied Sauti Sol musician behind Nerea.

Unsafe abortions situation at a glance:

Abortion is an emotional issue in Kenya and many are times the discussions are linked to culture, religion and patriarchy as a whole. Kenyans continue to bury their heads in the sand by not accepting that women and girls die every day due to unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortion in Kenya is recognised as a leading cause of maternal mortality. If we are to continue having powerful messages asking women not to terminate pregnancies which already are being done in unsafe environments and letter asking to burn all SRHR clinics where will women turn to. In 2012 nearly 465000 induced abortions occurred translating to a high national abortion rate of 48 per 1000 women of reproductive age (15 -29 years). The study further indicates that all of these induced abortions are from clandestine and unsafe procedures. When will stop and think those women’s life matters and need to be saved. This is not the Kenya we want where leaders and the public among others are quick to judge women’s sexual and reproductive health choices while at the same time not denying their access to contraceptives in prevention efforts. It is unacceptable for a society to allow women to die from unsafe abortions.

Women’s Reproductive Human rights and Human right; Unsafe abortions violates the right to life, the right to health, the right to dignity and the right to be free from inhuman treatment. In order to protect these rights of women, the society as a whole needs to start the conversation with a sober mind and with arguments that reflect the true picture. SRHR advocates will continue to have this dialogue and make sure that the rights of women are protected and respected. Women, men, boys and girls can only realize their full dignity and potential when their human rights are protected, respected and fulfilled. We all are responsible in making sure that this happens in Kenya.

Kindly note that (Jewjes, 2005), there are myriad of reasons why women seek an abortion; all are concrete and deeply meaningful to the individual woman. Denying the women or a girl access to safe services is a violation of her right to self-determination and freedom of conscience.

Young Women's Leadership Institute (YWLI) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or YWLI please follow the links below.