Tuesday, 6 December 2016

LAUNCH OF THE ACADEMIC NETWORK ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS POLICY (ANSER)


About
The Academic Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy (ANSER) aims to become a global resource for SRHR policy research, education and service delivery by establishing an international platform for research on SRHR policy related topics; by developing a portfolio of education and training programmes on SRHR policy; and by fostering interaction between SRHR researchers and policy makers.
During the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit September 2015, 193 governments formally approved 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that expired last year. During the meeting governments were tasked to come up new policies for the upcoming years in order to achieve the targets for the set goals. Sexual and reproductive health and right (SRHR) lies at the immediate intersect of SDG3 (ensuring health lives), SDG5 (achieve gender equality) and SDG10 (reducing inequalities), and has a direct link to the achievements of many other goals (such as ending hunger and addressing ecological challenges) The development of these new policies necessitates an evidence base to ensure their adequacy and effectiveness. The SRHR is seen fit to have the central position in these goals as they can make important decisions to be followed by governments. Also, the success of their implementation is closely linked to reliable follow-up and monitoring by professionals with the required training and expertise. As a result it will ensure that there is good communication and feedback among the network team formed hence exchange of knowledge and experiences which will contribute to the achievement of these goals.

On Board
This set the stage for the setting up of an International Thematic Academic Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy (ANSER). The strategic plan of the ANSER is anchored on high commitment to linking academia and policy through research, training and service delivery paying particular attention to translating results into practice and policy. These components of the ANSER strategic plan were emphasized during its official launch on Wednesday 30th November 2016, at the New Zibra Hotel, Ghent, Belgium at 5 PM. Presenct during the launch were distinguished guests and speakers including: Secretary of State for Science Policy: Dr Elke Sleurs; Dr Moazzam Ali of the Human Reproduction Programme (WHO); Director UNFPA Brussels: Mrs Sietske Steneker and Secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, Mr Neil Datta. ACCAF was well represented by Prof. Patrick Muia Ndavi an Associate Professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and epidemiologist, at The University of Nairobi, and consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.

Main Messages
In her presentation, Dr. E. Sleurs stated that SRHR policy should be anchored by scientific research and not based on political intuition and considerations while emphasizing that politics and science must not be isolated or practiced in isolation, from each other. On his part, Dr. M. Ali summarized the: WHO/HRPs core functions of capacity building, global leadership and research for attainment of the highest standard of SRH; WHO/HRPs results framework that includes impact, outcome and outputs which require activities and inputs and finally the nine key areas for research.
The ANSER coordinator, Dr. Olivier Degome, provided the intertwining of policy research, training and service delivery as the aim of the network. This would be achieved through the operations and or activities of five thematic working groups viz: abortion, contraception and family planning, SRHR monitoring and evaluation, adolescent SRHR, sexual health (including sexual-well being, sexual identity, gender identity), interpersonal violence, gender and rights. To be included in the conceptual framework are online modules, policy makers and internship programs, and the community.

Interactive Dialogues
A debate followed involving Dr. Mozzammi Ali, Mrs. Steneker, Mr. N. Datta and Ms. De Rycke (Medical Student University of Gent) and moderated by Mr. S. Spanoghe. The issues that informed the animated debate and considered as the biggest challenges were reliable information, good translation into policy, limited funding and resources, whether innovation was having impact, gender equality between countries, that policy makers are looking for information, digestible results,  what the expectations are, evidence based policies, benefits for working together, and evidence to policy. With unfinished work on all these issues the role of ANSER is defined.
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Monday, 28 November 2016

CELEBRATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD AND LAUNCH THE NATIONAL NETWORK OF ACTIVISTS AGAINST FGM


Since 2012 the United Nations has marked 11th October as the day to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC). The day is set aside to raise awareness of gender inequalities that the girls face based on their gender, like girl child marriages and Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting.  It is also with the aim to support more opportunity for girls to be able to access education, stop violence against women, easy access to medical care, legal rights and good nutrition. The theme for this year’s IDGC was Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls. This year ACCAF joined the Samburu Girls Foundation’s Girls’ Rescue Centre in Loosuk Ward, Samburu County, Kenya in celebration of the achievements made towards empowering the girl child and outline more opportunities available for the girl. The ACCAF’s participation of Prof. Patrick Ndavi Muia, Dr. Jane Wambui and Dr. Tammary Esho brought the high level of FGM/C in the county to the attention of the local leaders and the community.

The celebrations
The celebrations were very successful with good representation of young girls, parents, teachers, community elders and other community members including young boys. There were also a number of local and national organizations as well as NGOs in the celebrations. The program of the day begun by the guests being entertained. The entertainment was very good and informative with appropriate themes in line with the topic of the day. The young boys and girls sang, acted skits, narrated poems and danced to tunes focusing on the importance of educating a girl child and not subjecting them to harmful practices.

The speeches by various community leaders including men followed. There was emphasis for the community to collaborate and together own Samburu Girls Foundation because it is making a difference in their community. These were followed by speeches from the organizations working for the girl child against child marriage and FGM/C.

FGM among the Samburu
videoIn Samburu FGM is considered as a rite of passage. The Samburu practice the most severe type - infibulation on girls at pre-puberty after reaching 10-years-of-age and sometimes younger mainly as a rite of passage and preparation for marriage. The female cut determines maturity in girls after which the next stage of honour is forced marriage and motherhood. In her speech Dr. Tammary Esho of ACCAF provided the current statistics with regard to FGM/C in Kenya. She mentioned that the Samburu community has 86% prevalence and is ranked second to the 94% among the Somali community in the country. Furthermore, she pointed out that the largest representation in this cluster of women with FGM/C is young girls between the ages of 10-14 years old. Dr. Esho finalized her speech by urging the Samburu people to stop harmful practices and allow girls to get an education which will give them better leverage in their future life hence benefit their families and the community as a whole. She reiterated that the Samburu people are lagging behind because Kenya now has a prevalence of 21%, a steady drop marked over the last two decades.

Samburu’s value their cultural traditions and would like to keep them intact so as not to lose their identity. It is in this view that the efforts towards abandonment of harmful traditional practices towards girls feel strenuous, but with subtle persistence and more evidence based success stories girls and women will be free to embrace what the world has to offer.

Thus the ACCAF’s participation in the IDGC brought the high level of FGM/C in the county to the attention of the local leaders and the community pointing out what needs to be done to prevent violation of the right of the girl. As ACCAF we are more than delighted when we see young girls achieve their education dreams by escaping the cut. We have been able to succeed so far in the communities we are working in. However a lot more still need to be done to fight the tradition that still takes place behind hidden doors. We need to work together to empower the women and men in the community to know that FGM/C is not a measure of maturity but a rogue custom that needs to end.




Tuesday, 8 March 2016

RESTORING GIRLS’ AND WOMEN’S DIGNITY

In honor of International Women's Day, Prof. Guyo Jaldesa (from the University of Nairobi) wrote about ACCAF’s work with support from the USAID, JSI’s Advancing Community Partners (APC) project .

In many places around the world, the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women are tenuous at best, and years of progress can be washed away instantly by socio-political changes. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we must remember that preserving—or reclaiming— the dignity of girls and women requires continuous efforts, even when it seems like the battle is already won.

The Africa Coordinating Centre for Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (ACCAF) supports cultural change and relationships and information sharing between professionals and community members, and strengthens the health care sector’s capacity to care for women and girls who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Africa.

Over the last two years, the centre has been working with a Kipsigis community in Kenya. ACCAF became interested in this community when it heard that married women were getting cut. The Kipsigis have a tradition of cutting young teenage girls, but anti-FGM/C campaigns and efforts to increase girl-child education had significantly reduced the prevalence of this practice. When ACCA F members started talking with Kipsigis women, they were astonished to hear that the women being cut were in their twenties, married, and/or pregnant. Many of these women had basic and secondary education, had escaped cutting during their teenage years,  and married men who accepted them as they were. Yet pressure from the community and these same husbands were contributing to this resurfacing practice.

Community members explained that a change in perception of men’s status led to the reemergence of cutting. After post-election violence hit the region in 2008, the Kipsigis clashed with people from another ethnic background. During the weeks-long civil war, Kipsigis men who wanted the honor of fighting had to fulfill certain requirements, including being married to women who were cut. Men married to uncut women were not considered ‘man enough’ and were left behind in the village. Although the factions are currently at peace, it is likely that fighting will break out again should differences emerge in future political elections. The Kipsigis are maintaining their army and the community is pressuring women to get cut to elevate their husbands’ social status.

In pursuit of its goal of restoring the dignity of girls and women, ACCAF has trained 2,000 Kipsigis community leaders. Training seminars covered aspects of FGM/C including legal; social-cultural; medical, psychological, and sexual complications; and human rights. Deliberate efforts to have gender parity and age variation in these seminars were effective; the youngest participant was 17 and the oldest 60.

After each training, participants developed plans to encourage FGM abandonment in their communities.  ACCAF continued to support these leaders with occasional field visits to monitor progress and challenges. One of the male political leaders who attended the first training has been at the forefront of this effort for two years now, and was even recognized as an anti-FGM champion by the county governor.



ACCAF interventions have been sustainable because they use community resources and operate at pre-existing meetings and venues such as administrative chief barazas, political rallies, schools, and churches. Using community leaders as change agents has resulted in easier acceptance that FGM/C is an unnecessary procedure that causes adverse health consequences, and has raised awareness of the laws around FGM/C and the penalties for those who break them. In fact, some have been so successful in changing attitudes that families who wish to cut girls and women travel to neighboring counties to have the cut done there. This shows that efforts to stop FGM/C must expand to reduce the likelihood of cross-county operations. Accordingly, ACCAF has begun similar efforts in neighboring areas to create a critical mass of converts and home-grown activists who will end FGM/C.