Whenever 'Family Planning' is mentioned, the first thought to strike is Condom. I come from a very rural area, very poor and the region has got one of the highest birth rate in Kenya and its mortality rate is significantly high. Siaya County, just like other major towns in western part of Kenya, still have higher HIV rate infections compared to other regions in Kenya, malaria still killing people and poverty is order of the day.
Coastal region, known worldwide for its relaxing and beautiful beaches, not only attracts millions of foreign tourists every year but also where most Kenyans prefer going for holidays. But, most of its residents are poor, illiterate and jobless. Most of young people in this region are perishing through drug abuse.
I will not talk about Central Kenya where locals are languishing in poverty, living in squalor conditions and also Northern Kenya where they are struggling with high rate of joblessness, insecurity and illiteracy.
With above picture in mind, according to National Council for Population and Development Report (http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/DN2/Plans+to+tame+Kenyas+exploding+population/-/957860/1606646/-/12plw8mz/-/index.html) it says population is growing at the rate of 1millon per year and women will continue to giving birth to average of 4.6 children per woman. This is a worrying trend.Experts are positing the idea of 2 children Policy to help curb the population rate. For this to work, Kenya needs to:
- Improve quality and accessibility of education to both girls and boys: Even though education is 'free' in Kenya, most families prefer enrolling their children to private education as the quality in public schools has taken a nose dive. Rural schools still lack adequate materials and poor families are still struggling to provide necessities like uniforms and books. The disparity of quality between private and public is so clear that the government has been accused of tampering with national results. Future begins with now.
- Address the issue of joblessness. Having a smaller family increased economic success and individuals are able to invest into their lives. Majority of young people in Kenya are jobless, easily manipulated and girls are swayed into family life with the promise of 'a better future.' There are still families that sell of their daughters for money and goods resulting to girls bearing children against their wishes.
- Increase Awareness Programmes. Let communities know the health programmes available and the services should not only target urban areas but also remote villages. Involve men and women. Family Planning is not just about distributing condoms. It is about; birth control and techniques of implementing this, sex education and planning when to have children. Education is power.
- Equip rural nurses and improve health system. Communities should be comfortable talking to nurses and they should be empowered to trust nurses. Family Planning is life. Practioners should have the capacity to inform general public about options available extensively. Nurses need to be well informed and government to invest in them. Don't keep their salaries! A woman in Bondo should be able to get same information as a lady in Nairobi or Maasai Maraa or Moyale.
- Involve church leaders. Majority of Kenyans trust the church and even though Kenya is not regarded as a religious state, according to a study supported by US Department of states (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2007/90103.htm), 80% of Kenyans practice Christianity. Effects of high population growth where most of citizens are living below the poverty line has been well documented. Church leaders need to be educated about this. One would assume, 'every shepherd wants to see his sheep happy and full.' Government of kenya needs to involve meaningfully not just mainstream church leaders, but also those small churches that are mushrooming in villages and urban estates.
An educated woman is an informed woman who has the will and access to explore contraceptives and thus plan her family well.
Follow Kevin Mbewa Anyango on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mkevoh