Sexual and reproductive health rights for all in Kenya

The purpose of our trip this week is to evaluate projects using Freedom Fone in Nairobi, specifically to understand their challenges and constraints and to celebrate their successes.

We met today with one of two partners in the Aunty Jane hotline, after fighting through Nairobi traffic to get there – 28 km in 2 hours! The Aunty Jane hotline provides audio information on sexual reproductive health and women’s rights to a targeted audience of young women predominantly from the slums of Nairobi, where access to impartial and comprehensive information is limited.

While the service has been generally successful, the information accessed most frequently has been around safe abortion. We are told this stems from the fact that callers appreciate the anonymity the service offers, and while issues such as family planning may be discussed in a variety of spaces, sensitive and contentious issues like abortion are not. Which is possibly why this particular component on how to prevent unsafe abortion, of a large spectrum of information including sexually transmitted infections, contraception, post-partum haemorrhaging and women’s rights, was singled out for vilification in the local press as recently as last week. And while we do not wish to enter the debate in this forum, we must acknowledge the constraints this environment places on the effective marketing and feedback of this service.

Reproductive rights poster

The interview also revealed that adequate funding with regard to human resources and the retention of key, trained personnel, is crucial to the sustainability of the service. Recurrent training of personnel on the Freedom Fone platform would also be beneficial, serving to train new staff as well as updating and refreshing the skills of existing personnel. As it is, we found one of the hotlines’ Mobigaters out of order, probably due to a power surge. So, as I write, Brenda is upgrading the service to version 2.S.4 and the Huawei dongle – at least while the power lasts!