Improving contraceptive choice and access for young women in Kenya

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pregnancy at an early age can have long-lasting negative health, economic and social impacts. In Kenya, where the national teen pregnancy rate is 18 percent, the “Choice 4 Change” project is working to help young women aged 15-24 prevent unplanned pregnancies and avert unsafe abortions by increasing contraceptive uptake.

The project was launched in 2015 by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, working in partnership with the Ipas Africa Alliance, the United Nations Population Fund and Marie Stopes Kenya. Covering seven rural counties in western Kenya, Choice 4 Change aims to improve adolescent and young women’s awareness of and access to modern contraceptive methods, with a focus on long-acting reversible methods.

The Ipas Africa Alliance has provided training for health workers in contraceptive counseling and service delivery, and has also enlisted community health volunteers to  act as “referral agents” who identify adolescent and young women who may be interested in contraceptive care and provide them with referrals to health facilities. Ipas has also supported youth and other community organizations to conduct street theater, radio programs, social media campaigns and other events to raise awareness about contraceptive choices and services.

In Bungoma County, for example, Stage Media, a group of 15 young people, does community theater, radio dramas and other events to promote life planning among adolescents. They report that they can see the impact of their work: Community awareness about sexual and reproductive health issues is rising, and people are talking more about the consequences of unplanned pregnancy and unsafe abortion.

“A principal of a school informed us that, for the first time, they have registered zero school dropouts caused by teen pregnancy,” says one Stage Media performer. “He attributes it to our positive engagements and the right messages.”

Funding for Choice4Change’s work is from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), a global foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of children in developing countries who live in poverty. One key goal of the foundation is to see a generation where every teenage girl has the agency to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to access their sexual and reproductive rights.

“Choice for Change has used innovative and cost-effective strategies that give girls and young women true choice and access,” says Kate Hampton, chief executive officer of CIFF. “We believe that its success with hard-to-reach girls provides global lessons for achieving universal access to modern contraception, so that She Decides.”