By The COAST Reporter
In Kenya, sexual and reproductive health rights have been a topic of discussion since the early 1990s.
Additionally, the Constitution of Kenya further recognizes the right to health, including the right to reproductive health services, and the right to make decisions concerning reproductive health.
Kenya has made significant progress in providing access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services over the past decade.
However, there are still numerous challenges that prevent many people of reproductive age from being able to access the services they need.
Among those standing firm against this is activist Henry Ominde who has taken the front seat to champion for inclusivity as well as advocating for the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Kenya.
Ominde says some of these challenges that pose the difficulty of universal health come in the form of cultural, social, and economic barriers that limit access to SRH services in Kenya.
“Cultural stigma often makes people feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek the services they need. Additionally, there is often a lack of information about SRH services, which makes it difficult for people to know where to go or what services are available.”
The vocal human rights defender attributes other challenges as the lack of adequate health facilities that provide SRH services.
In many areas, there are simply not enough clinics and hospitals that are equipped to provide SRH services.
He says this makes it difficult for people in these areas to access the services they need. Additionally, many health facilities are not staffed with trained personnel who are knowledgeable about SRH services and are youth-friendly, which further limits access for marginalized/vulnerable populations.
He further points out the lack of financial resources as also a major challenge in accessing SRH services, stating that lack of political will to address the challenges of accessing SRH services in Kenya.
“There is a need for more investment in health infrastructure and personnel in order to ensure that everyone has access to the services they need. There is a need for more inclusive and youth-friendly policies.”
He continues: ”Often, if not always SRH-R is approached as a major concern affecting cis-gender females within the context. However, this is not the case. The promotion of harmful masculinity within the local context makes it difficult for young men and non-heteronormative identifying persons to access these services.”
He says as it stands, this is not all there is to it, the SRH-R issue is also unspoken within the differently-abled community in Kenya.
Without categorically pointing out the specific communities Ominde says the rights to the said communities are denied.
He says not only is there limited information about persons living with disabilities, but the assumption that every disability has to be physical and that differently-abled persons aren’t necessarily required to prioritize their sexual and reproductive health poses a challenge.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 15 percent of the world’s population has a disability with the highest prevalence of disabilities in lower-income countries. As par the 2019 census, 2.2 per cent of Kenyans have a disability.
They are more likely to be unemployed, uneducated and living in poverty and experience inequalities in accessing healthcare.
Achieving sustainable development goals is not possible if the needs of people with disability are underserved.
Despite their vulnerabilities being known, these attitudes and stereotypes have affected programming, resource allocation and planning of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) interventions, leading to negative reproductive health outcomes for PWDs.
“With this being said it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of Community-based organizations that focus on inclusivity and advocating for the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of persons with disabilities as well as gender and sexual minorities.”
Organizations such as the HIV/AIDS People’s Alliance of Kenya offer friendly and quality SRH services using a model that is not only inclusive but also friendly.
Dream Achievers Youth Organization (DAYO) has always been at the forefront of bringing together young people across diversities as well as regions and empowering them to speak up and create awareness within the community.
“People deserve quality, inclusive, and accurate sexual reproductive healthcare. It is the responsibility of our parents, leaders, teachers, and peers to pursue knowledge on SRH and disseminate it with precision. Sexual Reproductive Health rights are our rights.”
DAYO organization which is developing a disability policy in collaboration with Mombasa county has often implored coastal counties to put up a robust disability-inclusive programe as they work towards achieving the government’s universal health coverage UHC.
The organization regrets that despite the higher needs, persons with disabilities often encounter barriers to accessing health services, including physical, communication, attitudinal and financial barriers.