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ACCESS! IS OUR HEALTH RIGHTS

Access! Is Our Health Rights: #YouthParticipate037 is a  project that has been implemented from April 2018 to date  in Kakamega County. The project aims to address the burden of SRHR and gender inequality among a large[1] number of youths in Kakamega County. Some of the identified inherent problems among the youths include Sexual debut at lower age, low contraception against high fertility rate, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS and STIs, sexual abuse and violence, drug and substance abuse that increases vulnerability to HIV infections, child marriages, cultural believes and practices and schools dropouts especially among girls. The project will eventually achieve this by activating the Kenyan Constitution (2010), County Governments Act (2012), Public Finance Management Act (2012), and Counties’ Public Participation Acts among other laws that give prominence to mandatory citizen participation in the country’s governance as a right.

According to the Kenya Population Situation Analysis (2013), Kenya has a rapidly growing population with the majority (24%) being below 20 years. Kakamega[1] County targeted by the project has a child rich population, where 0-14-year-olds constitute 47% of the total population. This is due to high fertility rates among women as shown by the highest percentage household size of 4-6 members at 43%. The young population has implications on the social, economic and political agenda of the county. A young population puts great demands on the provision of health services, education, water and sanitation, housing and employment. These demands have a direct influence on the general well-being and particularly sexual reproductive health rights for youths. According to World Health Organization (WHO)[2] paying attention to youths’ sexual reproductive health is a life-time investment that has positive effects on behaviour and lifestyle during the entire course of their life.

Youths especially female in Kagamega County are faced with a number of issues that negatively impact on reproductive health rights such as Sexual debut at lower age; low contraception against high fertility rate; high prevalence of HIV and AIDS and STIs; sexual abuse and violence; drug and substance abuse; child marriages; cultural believes and practices and; low level of school enrollment or dropout due to community pressure or poverty among girls. All these in one way or the other contribute to the violation of reproductive health rights among youths especially girls who bare the bigger burden.  Reproductive health rights and gender equality are closely interrelated and jointly affect the productive and reproductive health of both girls and boys. Reproductive rights are human rights and gender equity is enshrined in the constitution, but men still are the majority power holders in almost all aspects of everyday life, including women’s reproductive health, family planning, and family size. Reasons why this is such a significant problem among the youth in Kakamega County: In spite of problem facing the high young population, the County government has not put significant effort towards investing in sectors that that would facilitate sexual health rights of youths. Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental human right as well as human development issue guaranteed in various international and regional human rights instruments as well as the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Therefore, the project plan to activate youth participation and their inclusion in the county government planning, budgeting and monitoring of activities as a way of ensuring that County Plans, Policies, and the project meets the needs of the SRHR youth and improves gender equality. This will be achieved through mobilization and sensitization of youths to participate in public participation mechanisms and structures at county and grassroots level, strengthening linkages between local communities based organizations and county governments and, the establishment of active feedback/ information sharing mechanisms.

This project  therefore continues to mobilize, organize and create knowledge of youths to participate in county development processes and influence the prioritization and access to SRHR access and gender equality services, strengthening linkages between local youth organizations and county governments and, the establishment of active feedback/ information sharing mechanisms.