Building hope, Giving back power

Yesterday was a powerful day, that once again filled me with sadness, hope and admiration for the courageous work of my colleagues at the Ipas Africa Alliance office. I’m still processing my thoughts and emotions and will write more later, but for now I want to share a story from an interview with an Ipas community partner. His ally-ship to women, and the way in which it builds hope in his community and gives power back to the women he supports, is changing the lives of Kenyan women and girls, and it’s safe to say, the world as well.

While the 2010 Kenyan constitution permits safe, legal abortion in cases of rape or risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman, I’ve changed some of the details below to protect his privacy and the privacy of the young girl he supported. (For more on the legal status of abortion in Kenya, see here).

April 28th, 2017*

“We carried out an outreach in Kipsongo area. Kipsongo is one of the slums in Trans-Nzoia county, it’s near to the urban center and when we went there, first we went there with information on contraceptives, that was… some time back in last year, and getting there after addressing, passing information, getting questions and answering them, we left. So, after leaving, one of the girls got confidence and called me through my contact because we usually give our contacts (to the youth) in case there is an issue. And this girl told me, “I have a friend of mine who wants the contraceptive method.” I told her, “That’s good, how old is she?” (She answered) “She’s just 16 years, she is in class 8, and she is sexually active, she has a boyfriend.” So I told her, “It’s okay. We’ll come to you so that we can help you get the services.”

But unfortunately, when getting there, the girl who called me was herself a victim. She was a victim in a way that she was already pregnant. She’s 16 years, she’s already pregnant. She’s come from far away to visit her parent during the December holiday. Her parents don’t stay together. So, her dad is married to a different woman elsewhere, but her mother stays on this side, so she has come. She has been impregnated by a very close person, whom she thinks was a relative staying at her mother’s house. So, she is pregnant, plus she is worried. She has just finished her class eight, and she has passed… She’s supposed to go back to her father so that she can continue her studies, but now she’s in a dilemma. What can she do?

So, now that we were engaged by Ipas in the first program, on the issues of unsafe abortion, so we still had that concept, and when we tried to get one or two people for help. We reached a nurse, who told us that we can take her there. So, I took her personally to the health center, which the procurement was to be done late, because of the issue of stigma among staff, among service providers. The nurse said she would be on staff, on duty at night, so I took her around 7 PM.

I organized with another colleague. We took her, and… she procured an abortion. And after two days… it was successful and she herself suggested that she wants a Jadelle, a long-acting method of contraception. She was given the service, so she was very happy. Then she went back to high school.

She is in form two (10th grade) now. She gives us phone calls every now and then, telling us that she believes it’s through our work, the work that Ipas is doing that she’s now in school. Because if it wasn’t that she could have either been beaten by her Dad badly, or either thrown out of her home. And now when she comes to where her mother is, her mother is not that well-off, so she thought about how she could (have gone) for an early marriage or engaged in prostitution for her survival, but now she believes that through our work, through the work that Ipas is doing in Trans-Nzoia County, she’s in school today.”

– Nicholas, Team Lead, Choice for Change Project

*Written permission was given for this story to be shared.

Trans-Nzoia County, Kenya, where Nicholas and his colleagues work , knocking on doors and mobilizing community members in order to connect women and girls with life-saving reproductive health information and services.

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