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The Journey of A Thousand Miles…; the 1st Ever Advocating for Adolescents Toolkit in Kenya

 Advocating for change for adolescents is a global toolkit that was developed by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (PMNCAH) in partnership with World Health Organization (WHO) to act as a practical guide for the young people in advocating for improvement in adolescent health and wellbeing. The Organization of Africa Youth Kenya being a member of Partnership under its Adolescents and Youth Constituency, and having actively participated in the development of the toolkit, was one of the five organizations within five countries graced with the opportunity to spearhead the testing of this global toolkit in its early stages to prove its practicality in country. This bore the need to adapt the toolkit into the Kenyan context, so that the young Kenyan advocates got to use a tool that pointed to the areas in which the adolescents and youth in Kenya were most pressed. And this is where the journey begun.

Domestication of a global toolkit is vast, and it is not a task an organization can do singlehandedly no matter how big it is! It requires positive criticism, input and views from different people in different parts of the country (those working in advocacy in matters affecting adolescents and youth, and different stakeholders working young people), and numerous technical support. Because of this a partnership of 17 organizations was created, and it is these organizations, among them being the Ministry of Health Kenya, that have driven the whole contextualization process of the toolkit into a massive success!

The very first meeting was to do a situational analysis, an assessment of the health situation within a country at a given time. Thorough research was done, and shocking facts were unveiled. Numbers don’t lie, and believe it or not, the statistics revealed a sad reality that 50% of all new HIV infections in Kenya happened among young people aged between 15-24 years and with the higher rate being among female adolescents; Kenyan adolescents fertility rate was found to be double the global rate and with a very high unmet need for contraception! Facts have a way of messing with timelines and there was a need for contextualization to be completed and the toolkit put into use sooner!

A question on everyone’s mind was: Aren’t there any existing policies in Kenya that give any directions on these issues? Of course there were, very many of them! And the partners devoted their time and energies into analyses of policies among them being the National Youth Policy 2006, National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy 2015 and the National Guidelines for Provision of Adolescents – Youth Friendly Services 2005. This revealed that Kenya actually has no shortage of laws and plans to address issues of adolescents’ health and wellbeing, but lacks proper implementation, financing mechanisms and accountability frameworks.

An advocacy action roadmap was then developed for implementation, with 4 distinct objectives that would drive this desired change core of them being “To work meaningfully with the government, service providers, and other key stakeholders to advocate and improve implementation of the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy (ASRH) in order to increase access to SRH information and services among adolescents in Kenya”.

Crowning the domestication process was a grand launch on 20th March, 2018 in Kilifi County, which was an overflow of success! The journey does not stop here though, as the work is just beginning: Dissemination and implementation of the toolkit. This goes beyond the partnership, and every organization working with young people is called upon to have long look at this wonderful toolkit and be counted among those who brought the long awaited and desired change in the lives of young people!

 

Pauline Anyona,#OAYouth Advocate

Organization of Africa Youth Kenya.

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