Chief at forefront to end gender-based violence
As the ears and eyes of the Government, Chief Daniel Parsiato is a man on a mission. His main role is to maintain order in his area of jurisdiction, but he is also on a crusade to end gender-based violence among young people in his Njukini Sub location, in Kajiado county.
For the local administrator, teenage pregnancies have been a concern, leading to an increase in adolescent and young mothers who have suffered from stigmatisation, rejection and violence from family members and the community, which result in double victimisation and exacerbates their vulnerability.
“There has been reluctance and negative attitude from the community in general among parents to adolescents accessing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services.
Pregnant adolescents and young mothers have been inflicted shame and stigma for long and I think it is time we came up with local solutions under the law to fight this problem,” he says.
For the youthful chief, the biggest bottleneck when it comes to dismantling this huge yoke that continues to strangle the community has been on societal ignorance, lack of enough information and misinformation.
“We have a non-governmental organisation that has been working with the community, especially single parents and girls.
We did an outreach programme with them to raise awareness on the importance of family planning and we faced different challenges, but the biggest was lack of information and youth friendly service providers. Some reasons they gave included that contraceptives would leave them “cold” and undesirable to their husbands.
It has been a journey of fighting these myths which have chained our community in a retrogressive manner.
Inadequate resources, from personnel to supplies of pharmaceuticals has made the situation hard.
Older men in our community have been ignorant on this issue as they say it does not affect them in any way,” he states.
A study by the Presidential Policy and Strategic Unit (PASU) to document the experiences of adolescents in Kenya during the Covid-19 pandemic indicated that lack of access to family planning played a significant role in the increase of teenage pregnancies during the period.
The Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014 gave some worrying indicator, ranking teenage pregnancies at 20 per cent in Kajiado county.
“As a youth, I know currently there is a steady increase in the use of modern methods among adolescent girls.
However, this is limited to towns and the facilities which are a few, are not youth friendly.
Our sisters are met by hostile, judgmental nurses and doctors who dismiss them as being too young to need contraceptives, or the services needed are not available,” says Parsiato.
He also says as an administrator, acts of gender-based violence violate a number of human rights principles enshrined in international human rights instruments, something he is keen to prevent in his home area.
Parsiato is among local administrators playing the role of societal actors in the Power to Youth project, an advocacy programme on policy that seeks to highlight adolescent girls, young women and youth from underserved communities to help them make informed choices to enjoy their sexuality, and are free from harmful practices in gender-equitable and violence-free societies.
The project is funded by the Dutch Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The reason for this programme is to strengthen the capacity of societal actors on SRHR and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Reporting and referral while at the same time Identifying opportunities for collaboration with societal them,” says Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa, Kajiado County programme Coordinator Dominic Kimita.
Given that only 10 per cent of hospitals are offering youth friendly services in Kenya despite a national guideline, Kimita says it is imperative that stakeholders put efforts that help the youth, adolescents and young women to access the correct information on sexuality and reproductive health.
“We need to consider things such as confidentiality, privacy, safety, dignity, opinion and choice for these groups as well as a multi-sector prevention and response to GBV.
This response should include action in a number of sectors such as healthcare, psychosocial support, security and safety, legal justice (legal and traditional) and education,” he says.