Changing perceptions and norms on family planning

Nairobi, Kenya, 31 October 2019 (F2A) – Faith to Action Network recently launched a new project to increase more equitable and sustainable access to modern contraceptives in Kenya.

The Delivering Sustainable and Equitable Increases in Family Planning (DESIP) project awarded by the Department for International Development will be implemented in a consortium led by Population Services Kenya and will collaborate with Population Services International, AMREF Kenya, Options Consultancy Services, Health Rights International and Voluntary Service Overseas Kenya.

DESIP aims to ensure that women and girls can safely plan their pregnancies and improve their sexual and reproductive health. The project’s outcome is to achieve greater and more equitable access to and uptake of family planning services in Kenya especially rural women, adolescents and people with disabilities.

Kenya’s “Vision 2030,” which outlines the country’s long-term development blueprint, has moved Kenya toward a prosperous country where the workforce is skilled and healthy.

Gains in family planning uptake have been considerable, with the 2018 modern contraceptive prevalence rate amongst married women close to 59%, exceeding Kenya’s FP2020 target of 58.3%. Rather than adjust this target, the government has decided to focus its efforts to expand equitable access to quality care at the county level. [1].

Notably the number of counties that have family planning budget allocations has increased; however, many women and girls are still left behind, notably those in the 19 DESIP counties (S-curve, District Health Information System 2014).

Through innovative and evidence based market facilitation, and better targeted service delivery that reaches the poorest of the poor, we will work with the DESIP Team to develop a more sustainable and healthier family planning market in Kenya.

To achieve this, we have partnered with the Anglican Development Services Mount Kenya East, Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, Christian Health Association of Kenya, Organisation of African Instituted Churches and Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims to deliver family planning services through faith-managed health facilities and raise people’s awareness about family planning using faith platforms in Homa Bay, Migori, Narok, Turkana, Isiolo, Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera counties.

Faith organisations yield considerable social influence. Religious beliefs often affect individuals’ behaviours which impact health, including age at marriage, family structure and roles and preventive health practices like strategies couples use to achieve their preferred family size. Misinterpretation of religious teachings sometimes fosters harmful practices including child marriage and female genital mutilation. Faith organisations are essential pillars of Kenya’s public health system, and their health centres serve marginalized and hard to reach communities.  At the project launch workshop, Peter Munene, Chief Executive Officer at Faith to Action Network, emphasized that, faith organisations’ support in family planning is crucial for achieving sustainable improvements in focus counties – “faith organisations have been involved from the beginning in programme design, planning, management and implementation. Strategies are respectful of different beliefs, adapted to local context. This eye-level partnership will go a long way in reaching Kenya’s ambitious family planning targets”.

As a consortium, we will address social norms that create barriers to family planning through a variety of tailored strategies tailored. These include using faith platforms to sensitize communities and engage faith leaders to mitigate the effects of social norms that inhibit demand for family planning.

We will use a model that has resulted in a three-fold increase of family planning clients in four facilities between 2015 and 2017 (from 57% to 75% in Malindi and from 69% to 75% in Kilifi North, according to DHIS2 data). This model includes: engaging religious leaders and CHVs in monthly review meetings; community dialogue meetings to dispel myths and share family planning messages; and widespread radio and TV programmes that discuss the importance of family planning.

[1] http://www.familyplanning2020.org/kenya

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