Faith to Action Network together with the consortium partners are implementing “Delivering Equitable and Sustainable Increases in Family Planning” (DESIP) project conducted an assessment to identify the key factors that limit the uptake of Family Planning in Marsabit County in Kenya. Interesting analogies emanated from the assessment which measured for both quantitative and qualitative data. The main objectives for this activity was to understand key causal drivers among pregnant girls and their decision to opt or not for family planning.
From the investigation, we understand that at least 20.6% of our respondents indicated that they are not keen on using family planning mainly driven from the nomadic culture of these communities. The respondents argued that husbands go away for long periods of time in search for food, water, and places for their animals to eat. This is a common practice among the residents of Marsabit County and is part of their strong and rich history and culture.
Additionally, the residents also view polygamy as normal. As such, there is an inherent societal construct among the men and women which views having many children as a mark of being husbands’ favorite wife. This construct is also attached to the belief that the larger the family—the more blessed you are. And, in fact couples without children are stigmatized and looked down upon
Moreover, from the assessment, we unearthed the unequal power balance between Women and Men. Women admitted to having low voice and agency with regards to ideas around Family Planning. The arena of Family Planning proved to be the domain of men among this community and women admitted to having low to no decision-making role on this. In other sessions convened for teen mothers, the young mothers mentioned that the other barrier they face is the fear of side effects from the family planning methods. There is a general fear of the unknown which the respondents confirm. Here is what Rael, 16 years old and married into a forced marriage as a 4th wife, had to say;
“I don’t know about contraceptives. Both my husband and mother in-law oppose the use of contraceptives…I am actually scared to even imagine the thought of experimenting with them”
In response to this, Faith to Action Network is responding through an array of initiatives ranging from facilitating direct service access to family planning service delivery to advocacy. Faith to Action Network has partnered the Ministry of Health in Kenya to create interface platforms for health professionals to engage the communities.
We are also engaged in advocacy and lobby which seeks to deconstruct the socio-cultural ideas and attitudes towards family planning that are inherent in this community. We are engaging change champions, who are women from this community who use family planning to come and share their experiences as part of demystifying the fears of using family planning. During the same platforms we conduct male engagement as they were cited as part of the barriers given their chauvinistic tendencies towards women’s voices in Family Planning.
In Conclusion, this project seeks to foster a culture of progressive and sustainable uptake of family planning methods in low Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) counties in Kenya, in line with Kenya’s ‘Vision 2030’. The five-year project covers 19 counties with the lowest CPR and will run from 2019 to 2024.