I want to eliminate gender-based violence in Kisumu
Sharon Jesscah set up Peperusha Binti to expand access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information to empower girls and women in her county.
Milliam Murigi @millymur1
Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Services (SRHR) are central to health rights and well-being of women and girls.
However, not all women and girls are able to access these services, consequently, leading to exacerbated maternal mortality and morbidity and increased rates of adolescent pregnancies.
The need to close this gap saw the establishment in 2017 of Peperusha Binti, a Kisumu-based non-governmental organisation that provides access to adolescent’s SRHR information with an aim of ending gender based violence among young women and girls.
Sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) refers to the rights of all human beings to receive comprehensive sexuality education, choose their partner, have respect for bodily integrity, decide to be sexually active or not, have consensual sexual relationships and marriages, decide whether and when to have children or not and to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.
Founded by a social entrepreneur Sharon Jesscah, the organisation, whose activities are funded by friends and well-wishers, has managed to impact over 4,000 young women and girls.
It also educates the girls on menstrual hygiene and donates sanitary towels in rural primary schools and informal settlement areas.
“Learning that three out of five women and girls in the informal settlement areas have no access to information on SRHR, gender based violence and menstrual hygiene leading to abuse and lack of knowledge on what to do about motivated me to start this organisation,” says Sharon, who also double up as a social worker and a counselor.
According to her, SRHR learning should begin early in young people’s lives. When done correctly, it has the potential to influence young people toward positive lifelong sexual reproductive health.
Myths and misconceptions
Sharon journey started in 2016 after she attended Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) online course on Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls.
After the training, she started hosting menstrual education events to provide hygiene products to local schoolgirls to help them remain in school during their menstrual cycles. She later incorporated SRHR sessions.
She says lack of information on SRHR is the main reason behind high levels of early and unwanted pregnancies, which lead to early and forced marriages.
Lack of menstrual healthcare products such as sanitary towels has seen girls miss school or use unhealthy products such as pieces of mattresses, tissues, and clothes.
Some have been forced to engage in transactional sexual activities to afford the products.
“Myths and misconceptions around SRHR and menstrual hygiene have made it hard for the society to talk to girls about the two, hence we have taken it upon ourselves to create awareness and educate them. It’s evident that this is a topic many parents do not discuss,” she says.
To ensure she is able to reach a big number of girls and women, she holds events and conducts community awareness outreach programmes to preach this gospel.
The organisation has been targeting young girls and women from informal settlement in Kisumu, but plans are underway to expand their reach to the wider region of Nyanza.
“We also take our activities and programmes around the counties where there is need.
Currently, we are organising a pads drive that would encompass discussions around teenage pregnancies, GBV and menstrual hygiene in Rachuonyo, Homabay county,” se say.
For her, this is an important mission as it will empower women.
Sharon reveals that, once women and girls are educated about safe life practices, they are given strength and psychological support to pursue their dreams and contributing to the economy.
Unfortunately, some people have been against Sharon’s work thinking that she only provides information about sex and sexuality.
“We provide information not only about sex and sexuality, but also about young people’s rights to challenge power relations and instil agency for them to determine their needs,” she says.