Sexual and Reproductive Health, including HIV/AIDS
At Kakuma, ODWEP has pioneered in the area of sexual and reproductive health education, including education about HIV/AIDS. There is an enormous need for information and assistance in the camp, among both adults and youth.
Family planning workshops with adults
We hold workshops on sexual and reproductive health for both women and men. We invite male elders to come with the women of their families and communities; this is the only way, in many cases, that women, initially, can come at all. We recognize that we are breaking cultural norms with these presentations and discussions, and we approach our topics from the vantage point of the well-being of families and children. We teach to both men and women that women have the right to give birth, or not, emphasizing that women need to be full participants in decisions that will affect their own lives and the lives of their children.
Sexual and reproductive health workshops for youth
Our youth, and in particular the girls, face big challenges in the areas of sexual and reproductive health. Being pregnant before marriage is a shameful taboo in our cultures (including if the pregnancy is a result of rape), and in Kenya a girl who is pregnant is not allowed to continue her schooling.
Yet sexual relations, both forced and consensual, happen among youth, and may result in disease including HIV infection. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa, some 1.7 million young people (ages 10-19), are HIV+, with a ratio of three adolescent girls newly infected for every adolescent boy. We see the problem of HIV infection among youth at Kakuma – and this includes the special cases of those increasing numbers of young people born with HIV who are now reaching adolescence. In response to these multiple challenges, ODWEP proposed forming sexual and reproductive health clubs in the schools in Kakuma. We faced great opposition, but we persisted and now we have clubs in 19 schools. where girls and boys meet to discuss sexual rights, safe sex, family planning, and gender equality. (The Kenyan government, responsible for the curriculum in the schools of Kakuma, supports our efforts.) The young people are eager to talk and ask questions of our knowledgeable facilitators; they need information and answers to their uncertainties about their changing bodies and needs – and we take the opportunity to promote gender equality, fight gender-based violence and discrimination, and fight against ignorance about and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.
• We would like to print or purchase more educational materials.
• We would like to purchase HIV test kits, both to use as demonstrations in our workshops and also to do HIV testing. Currently, at Kakuma someone can be tested for HIV at the hospital – but the test is in a separate part of the hospital and there is a stigma attached to someone even going there.
• For both the adult and youth workshops, we pay facilitators who are experts in these areas, but we are also training peer leaders, to send into the school clubs and to establish groups in the community. We would like to be able to pay a small stipend to these peer workshop leaders.
• Kakuma Camp is spread out over a huge area, and we would like to purchase a few bicycles so that our workshop leaders can more easily travel throughout the camp.
• For the workshops held in different sites in the communities, we need protection from the sun – if not a structure, then at least umbrellas we can put up for shade.
• We would like to offer light refreshments at the workshops.