Recently, after a number of social media campaigns, protests, and petitions shared with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry’s division of Maternal and Reproductive Health called in stakeholders to share views on the controversial National Reproductive Health Policy.
I personally had reservations with the policy as it were for the reason that it evaded stakeholder engagement, including young people in all their diversities for whom the policy would be addressing their needs. I still hold the view that the Ministry of Health Policies MUST be informed by science, evidence, and facts.
10 years is a Long time to suffer a poorly drafted document that explicitly masks the issues that need to be addressed and also leaves out certain groups of people in the society.
The Ministry of health finally agreed to go back to the drawing board after a number of submissions were shared and in the realization that more public and stakeholder engagement is needed, the division responsible for the development of the policy agreed to look into the submissions and amend as agreeable to all.
We continue to demand the intentional, meaningful, and deliberate inclusion of youth in all their diversities.
Policies and frameworks offer guides to the implementation and coordination of work anywhere and in any sector. Policies are like laws; guides on how to better achieve set objectives and goals of an intended problem or work. Health is one of the sectors that have seen the development of many policies, frameworks, and strategies owing to the many social and health issues affecting people in all their diversities. Good holistic policies achieve positive reproductive health outcomes.
In Kenya 25% of the Kenyan population comprises youths aged 18-34 years old, and 43% of the population falls below the 15-year-old age bracket. It is vital that young people play an equal role in decision-making spaces and tables. Decisions can also be made by young people, as opposed to adults making decisions for the young people who most of the time may not know what young people want. As it is always said there is nothing for us without us.
Adolescents and young people are huge assets in the decision-making process. In a current ongoing process, The National Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health policy (NASRH) 2015 is also being revised and it remains our call for the Ministry of health to not alienate any people, issues in this constitutional process that guide the priorities of a country in a given time.
Policies should remain holistic in issues and groups that they serve. Policies should aim to provide strategies that remain in policy-making processes, for instance, inadequate awareness of the existence of the policies, inadequate strategies to cater for the “left behind groups” of people like teenage mothers, adolescents, persons with disabilities, and the sexual and gender minority groups.
As the policy review process is set to begin, it is important that the Ministry of health, from the national level, is able to consult widely throughout the counties and all the way to the communities for them to be able to gather recommendations that are representative.
Implementation of these beautiful policies remains only but a dream, most of the time they only gather dust as the people they are intended for are being barred to access services and information for lack of wide dissemination and sensitization.
We have no future if we don’t think and invest in the present. Young people are not the future but the present! Meaningfully engaging young people increase their ownership of policies and initiatives and improve transparency and accountability.
Alvin Mwangi is a Nairobi-based sexual reproductive health and rights expert
Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation