Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental human right as well as human development issue that states must strive to fulfill. This right is guaranteed in various international and regional human rights instruments as well as national laws and policies. Kenya is a state party to various international and regional human rights instruments that guarantee the right to sexual and reproductive health. Furthermore, the Constitution of Kenya 2010, for the first time guarantees the right to health care including reproductive health.The girls and women sexual and reproductive rights related to multiple human rights including, the rights to be free from torture, the right to information and the right to quality health.
For many years, PGI has been working on advocating for the rights of women and girls in Pastoralist region. We support the rights of women and girls to make informed choices in relation to their reproductive health from coercion, violence and discrimination. Our approaches have been to eliminate harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, and Early Marriages. Girls and women have been frequently subjected to serious violations, including sexual violence
Pastoralist Girls Initiative believes that to overcome gender inequality and social norms which hinder women and girl's rights to sexual and reproductive health rights. Culture should not justify traditional activities to discriminate and harm girls and women. Religious/Opinion leaders and men should be involved in overcoming inequality challenges. Pastoralist Girls Initiative is committed to advocate against stigma, discrimination and violence towards women and girls.
Access to information on SRHR
Lack of access to information on sexual and reproductive health right has contributed to high levels of morbidity and mortality for preventable SRH problems. Global, every year half a million women die during childbirth because of there in not skilled attendant present at the birth. Women and girls access to reliable information on SRHR is essential in improving their health quality. This increase women and girls become more effective in accessing correct and comprehensive knowledge on SRHR. Pastoralist Girls Initiative ensure that women and girls receive accurate information on SRHR. We advocate for comprehensive education to enable women and girls to develop skills and knowledge to make informed decision to overcome discrimination and harmful gender norms.
Engage National and County Governments
Women and Girls are the most vulnerable and excluded groups in the pastoralist communities. Advocating for the rights of girls and women seems more important now than ever given the powerful forces pushing back against advances towards gender equality at local and national level. Pastoralist Girls Initiative work to ensure that national and county governments are held to account for their commitments to girls' and women's rights. We will work with local communities, religious/ opinion leaders, girls, women and partners to ensure that we are advocating on the issues that matter, as effectively as possible. We support girls and women to take the lead to change, take action and build networks for realizing the rights of girls and women .
An estimated 23% of girls are married before their 18th birthday in Kenya. Child marriage rates vary across regions, with the North Eastern and Coast regions having the highest prevalence rates, while the Central region and Nairobi have the lowest rates. A high prevalence of HIV in Kenya means that young married girls are particularly at risk. In a study in Kisumu, 33% of married girls surveyed were infected with HIV as opposed to 22% for theirsexually active, unmarried counterparts. (Figures from Girls Not Bride)
Girls from North Eastern and Coastal parts of Kenya are often perceived by their families as either an economic burden or valued as capital for their exchange value in terms of goods, money and livestock.
To justify these economic transactions, a combination of cultural, traditional and religious arguments are often employed.Child marriage is a gross violation of human rights and a barrier to girls' health and social well-being. It severely impedes Kenya's development efforts including undermining initiatives to raise girls' education, to reduce maternal mortality, and to increase employment and enterprise levels. Pastoralist Girls Initiative supports communities to enable girls stay in school and are not married by decide for themselves whether and when to marry. Our program design is holistic that identify and analysis the root cause of the child marriage and work with partners, communities and girls to identify opportunities for change. We advocate for girl's education to enable them complete the school years, raise community awareness and work closely with religious, opinion leaders, women and girls.
PGI is part of a national network – End Child Marriage Network Kenya and we are the focal lead partner for the ASAL region in the country to spearhead and amplify the voices of all CSOs in the region. .
Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons (WHO). It is also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision. There are no health benefits to FGM and it is recognized internationally as a human rights violation. In 2011 the Government enacted the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act. The Act not only criminalized FGM for underage girls but for everyone and, in a bid to tackle social pressure, also banned the stigmatization of women who had not undergone FGM .
Pastoralist Girls Initiative work on FGM
PGI works in Northern Kenya to safeguard girls at risk of FGM and support women affected. We do this through direct community engagement, stir up local champions who defend the rights of the girl child. Champions who is now an anti-FGM advocate and speaks to their community, especially other female circumcisers, to abandon the harmful practice and advocacy.
By working with our national and county governments, international community, non-governmental organizations and communities, together we can accelerate action towards a total and final end to FGM.
2 million girls under 15 are at risk of FGM in the Kenya FGM in Kenya is practiced by some of its most traditional communities such as the Samburu, Maasai, and Somali. Therefore, even as the country has made significant progress in reducing the national prevalence of FGM from 32, these communities still have FGM prevalence rates as high as 86, 78, and 94 per cent respectively. Unicef report .
Menstruation is a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health, yet in many cultures it is treated as something negative, shameful or dirty. The continued silence around menstruation combined with limited access to information at home and in schools results in millions of women and girls having very little knowledge about what is happening to their bodies when they menstruate and how to deal with it.
Somali Community have beliefs, myths and taboos relating to menstruation. Almost always, there are social norms or unwritten rules and practices about managing menstruation and interacting with menstruating women and girls. Some of these are helpful but others have potentially harmful implications. For example, in Somali Community, women and girls are told that during their menstrual cycle they should not bathe or they will become infertile, they should not sit on seats that are used by men of boys or they become pregnant, look in a mirror or it will lose its brightness), or touch a plant or it will die. Cultural norms and taboos on menstruation are often compounded by traditional associations with evil spirits, shame and embarrassment surrounding sexual reproduction.
Women and girls' capacity to manage their periods is affected by a number of other factors, including limited access to affordable and hygienic sanitary materials and disposal options leaving many to manage their periods in ineffective, uncomfortable and unhygienic ways. In some contexts, natural materials such as mud, leaves, dung or animal skins are used to manage the menstrual flow (UNESCO 2013, Puberty Education and Menstrual Hygiene Management). These problems are further exacerbated by insufficient access to safe and private toilets and lack of clean water and soap for personal hygiene. As a result, menstruating girls and women often feel ashamed and embarrassed.
Pastoralist Girls Initiative is committed to addressing the social beliefs and stigmas surrounding menstruation. Together with local governments and schools we are training district health workers, teachers and volunteers. We also distribute menstrual hygiene materials in schools and teach girls how to manage their periods so they feel confident and stay in school .