A bill gives hope to the many girls who are not only at high risk of teenage and unplanned pregnancies but are also vulnerable to sexual violence, having that Kenya has seen an increase in teen pregnancies in the recent past.
Women and girls in East Africa have a reason to look forward to a progressive reproductive health policy that sets the pace for East African countries should the East Africa Legislative Assembly pass the Reproductive Health bill that has been under consideration for the last couple of months. This bill gives hope to the many girls who are not only at high risk of teenage and unplanned pregnancies but are also vulnerable to sexual violence, having that Kenya has seen an increase in teen pregnancies in the recent past.
“I would want to see a world where young girls and women have quality and appropriate information on sexuality, sex and reproductive health from parents and guardians and with this, they will not end being mothers at an early age like I was when I got my first baby at 14,” a young woman shared during the national consultative meeting with members of the East Africa Legislative Assembly on the East Africa Community Sexual Reproductive Health bill (EAC-SRH bill).
If passed it would be legally mandatory for all East African countries to provide women and girls, adolescent and youths, boys and men with reproductive health information and services. Currently, policies on access to reproductive health information and services across East African countries are biased and lacking depending on age and gender, so the updated policy would include age and culturally appropriate comprehensive sexuality education. The bill will also mandate countries to channel resources towards reproductive health including facilities, commodities and human resources to ensure quality, equal and equitable access.
This November, TICAH alongside other civil society organizations hosted the national consultative dialogues on the East Africa Community- Sexual Reproductive Health bill famously known as the EAC-SRH bill. This dialogue was aimed at engaging legislators in national parliaments and the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) on why this policy is crucial for the lives of the communities in East Africa. For such a document whose implications will affect millions across the community, the bill seeks to provide the attainment of sexual reproductive health and rights for women and girls to fully enjoy their sexual reproductive health and rights. The convening brought together: five legislators from the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA from Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan), one member of the Kenya national assembly, and over 25 civil society organizations, religious leaders and government technocrats. Here are some of the sentiments shared around the bill upon review during the conversation.
“Let us not deny the marginalized groups across East Africa access to health. Let’s be objective despite our personal beliefs,” Deputy Director, State Department of Gender.
“We have not been brave enough to address the societal vices around sexual reproductive health and directly address the people affected by power dynamics,” a EALA member stated.
“If we do not give these audiences appropriate information on sexuality and reproductive health, we will be doing an injustice to our faithfuls,” said Grace, a religious leader with the Presbyterian church of Kenya.
We look forward to a progressive East Africa Community on matters of sexual, reproductive health and rights for the millions of the community members.