Stories and podcasts Spotlight Feature Spotlight Feature: Alvin Mwangi Name: Alvin Mwangi Irungu Age: 22 Country and Location: Nairobi, Kenya Area of interest in International Development: Reproductive Health Information and Services for the Adolescents and Young people. This further adds up to Sexual reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues for the young people of the ages 10 to 24 Background – Tell us a little about yourself? I am an Adolescent and Youth, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Advocate in Kenya. I do a lot of advocacy work on SRHR information and services. Young people, when empowered with Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) that is information that includes Health, life skills and sexuality education they are able to make informed decisions on their present and future life on their social and health lives. I do this as I was able to go through a CSE Program known as World Starts with me (WSWM) implemented by The Centre Study for the Adolescents (CSA) and supported by Rutgers amongst other partners. CSE has been able to empower me as well as my thinking; I am able to make the right decisions which are based on education that I have received from the WSWM Program. I have engaged with a number of organizations in Kenya that are doing SRHR work as well as taken part in international Platforms in the UN – where I have attended Global Conferences that highlight various SRHR work. I continue to strongly engage with partners as well as the Ministries in Kenya that are in charge of SRHR to ensure that young people do receive information and services regarding to SRHR. Tell us about your area of work? Reproductive Health information and services in Kenya is mainly supported by partners who are Donor Dependency, there is minimal government support in terms of resources to actualise things in the ground. In Kenya, we have a lot of SRHR Issues, they are as follows; New HIV infections in young people Child Abuse FGM Teenage Pregnancies Stigma and Discrimination of YPLwHIV Abortion LGBTI – SOGIE I do a lot Awareness Creation on various issues that are in line with CSE using the WSWM Program. I engage with in and out of school young people whereby I empower them with CSE to ensure that their Knowledge is increased, Attitudes Improved and Changed as well as increase in Practise. I also ensure that young people have the information on the various health facilities that offer youth friendly services that they can seek – this include; HIV/AIDS Testing and Counselling, STIs Screening and Treatment, Counselling amongst many more. Young people in Kenya don’t have adequate health facilities to get services and information on SRHR, THROUGH THIS, I do a lot of advocacy with partners, implementing and development partners as well as Government ministries to ensure that young people are part of the process and in the table – Nothing For Us, Without Us – Young people have the voice and are the present leaders, we are not leaders of tomorrow as always insinuated by the Adult partners. Through the advocacy that we have been able to do, we have achieved a lot of successes – board and committee positions have been created to ensure that young people are part of the process and still ensures that young people’s issues are prioritised. What issues do you consider to be the most prevalent to women and young people in your country? In Kenya, Abortion is not legal. But the Constitution of Kenya states that it can be procured with the advice of Medical Practitioner. Due to this fact, most of the public facilities in Kenya still do not offer the service as well as information. Most of the young girls and women are forced to use unsafe means to do an abortion. This is also caused by the Cultural and Religious Issues. The young people do not have adequate information on various SRHR issues – education on HIV/AIDS remains very important – this is from modes of transmission, as well as how to openly leave with YPLwHIV as well as the preventative ways on reducing HIV. What programmes are currently operational in your country and do you think they are working? If yes why, if no why? And what could be done better? Kenya has a lot of programs on SRHR – A lot of the organizations are heavily funded by international donors like IPPF, Rutgers, Dance4life, Choice for Youth and Sexuality amongst other donors and partners. This organizations are also very much donor dependency and most of them don’t really have sustainability plans on their programs, thus a lot of programs are done for a specific number of years. WE have a lot of programs and projects that have ensured that young people get SRHR information and services in Kenya. Some of this are; - ASK (Access Services and Knowledge) - UFBR (United for Body Rights) - Dance4life - WSWM (World Starts with Me) - GUSO (Get Up Speak Out) - ACT! 2030 These projects are heavily funded in Kenya and have ensured that young people in Kenya do receive the information and access services. The Ministry of Health has been able to come up with very clear policies and guideline on various SRHR issues, but there are no resources to ensure full implementation of this policies from county to the national level. The government of Kenya has also not been able to commit adequate resources to ensure that young people do receive CSE as well as SRHR information and services. The Youth Friendly Centres have remained dysfunctional and some only supported by NGOs. The programs are well working but the Government of Kenya needs to take up this projects and ensure there is continuity, this will be possible, if the leaders commit with resources to ensure achievement of this and achievement of the 2030 Agenda. What do you think is the biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in the field of International Development? With regards to my area of work on SRHR, From countries to a global point – most of the countries have very beautiful guidelines, Policies as well as Constitutions – How about we implement the Constitution? In Kenya for instance, The constitution through the Bill of Rights highlights very well the Rights that all the citizens are entitled to which includes the Right to Basic Health care that includes Reproductive Health. Countries should ensure that they have very well clear and well laid out plans on implementation to ensure that the promises highlighted in the beautiful documents are achieved. The government is still not putting adequate resources to ensure that are areas are worked on well. There are also VERY many organizations that are doing health issues to be specific on reproductive health information and services – the organizations should be able to partner and ensure that their work is put into good use to avoid duplication of resources and projects. What do you think are some solutions to these problems? The solutions to this problems are as follows; Implementation of the programs that target the Adolescents and young people will be possible with Commitment of RESOURCES, Governments should ensure that there are resources to achieve the promises well laid out. The citizens should continue on doing Advocacy and holding their governments accountable to ensure that a lot of the ongoing SRHR issues decrease. The government should also highly invest on Building and maintaining of partnerships which will further help in better utilization of resources as well as in sharing of ideas. Apart from the above solutions, Kenya is still making strides to change the perceptions of most cultures and the Religious Leaders with Evidence based data that is collected from different work. What makes this sector so special for you? This sector is special to me because I am a young person, I have seen many of my friends make bad and very poor decisions in their life with regards to their social and health issues. Parents, school and the government is failing the young people – Data such as “97 young people between the ages of 15 to 24 are infected in every 24 hours” Reported by the Director of NACC (National AIDS Control Council) Dr. Nduku Kilonzo We have failed our own young people and we should GET BACK on track to the issues and ensure that the young people are part and parcel of this issues from the development of programs to closure. We are losing a lot of young people to some of the issues and this issues could be prevented from happening is only there is investments, friendly and well involving policy and law environment as well as harnessing the partnership. What future progress in International Development – regionally, across the continent, or even for your own personal future – excites you the most about this sector? The world is slowly changing and in the near future I am certain issues like Religion and Culture will not be issues that are spoken off. Religion and Culture have played a strong and a huge role in some of the issues like Access to Safe Abortion, Eliminating FGM, and Acceptance of the LGBTIQs. This institutions and groups are aware of the power they have and I believe through more, better, stronger and evidence based advocacy – we are going to see to it that we all Respect the Rights, Decisions and Choices of Everyone.