The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey showed that rural women have a total fertility rate of 4.5 children per woman versus 3.1 for urban women, and the poorest women have more than twice as many children on average than the wealthiest. Meanwhile, unmet need for contraception among poor and rural Kenyan women is higher than any other groups. Clearly, innovative solutions are needed to support women and couples in poor, remote rural areas in achieving the number and timing of pregnancies they desire.
Written by Ahlam Kays, Project Director, Gender Department, FHI 360
In most primary and secondary schools in sub-Saharan Africa, girls and boys learn math, science, language, art and history along with other subjects. Seldom do they receive the critical information they need to keep them safe, healthy and able to withstand the challenges that threaten their well-being and basic right to education. Completing a full cycle of education can become little more than a dream.
Turning the dream of education into a reality was the driving force behind the Four Pillars PLUS project. With funding from the GE Foundation, FHI 360 launched this robust girls’ education, mentoring and empowerment project in the counties of Kisumu and Siaya in Kenya.
Written by Dominic Muasya, Co-founder and Country Director, Kenya Education Fund
If you were to ask 100 students in Kenya what their career ambitions are, there is a significant chance that at least 50 of them would say doctor or pharmacist. However, few understand what is really involved in achieving a health care career.
Even if students gain admission to university, they are often unable to afford it. And, should they overcome those challenges, they often make ill-informed decisions about what to study, because they are not given adequate guidance and exposure to their desired profession. The few who successfully complete appropriate coursework may still struggle to get hired. In Kenya, there are far more college graduates than can be absorbed into the job market. Without meaningful work experience, recent graduates lack any competitive advantage.
As co-founder and country director for the Kenya Education Fund, a scholarship organization that helps students living in poverty attend high school, I have learned firsthand the value of mentorship programs. Mentorships expose students to real-world professionals who provide the support necessary to help students realize their educational and professional aspirations.
Today, the Kenya Education Fund coordinates with Johnson & Johnson’s Bridge to Employment (BTE) program to provide a mentoring program and regional workshops focused on problem solving and life skills. This program brings together Phillips Healthcare Services, a distribution partner of Johnson & Johnson, FHI 360, three institutions of higher education and two secondary schools. Fifty young men and women participate in BTE, and it has been an overwhelming success.
Written by Trinity Zan, Technical Officer, FHI 360
FHI 360’s Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) project has been nominated for a prestigious 2013 Katerva Award, which recognizes “the most promising ideas and efforts to advance the planet toward sustainability.” This nomination adds to the considerable recognition that this innovative mHealth information service has already received. In June of this year, m4RH was one of ten recipients of the first African Development Bank eHealth Awards. Just a year earlier, Women Deliver 50! selected m4RH as one of the top 10 innovative technology programs supporting women and girls.
The Katerva Award nomination highlights m4RH’s innovative packaging of reproductive health information and behavior change components in a single mobile phone technology. Using mobile phones, m4RH disseminates family planning information to the general public, as well as information on the nearest clinic that offers these services. One of the few text-messaging services globally that provides family planning information as a means of education and behavior change communication, m4RH has revolutionized the concept of informed choice in the provision of family planning information. With m4RH, any person with a mobile phone can access standardized, essential and comprehensive information in simple language. One user said, “m4RH is using terms you can understand, it has clear knowledge on what you want to know. It is simple to understand, simple language that everyone can understand.” Given that more than 85 percent of global citizens have mobile connectivity, the potential impact of this simple service is truly exciting.
Written by Suzanne Fischer, Technical Writer, FHI 360
Having multiple sexual partners, particularly when relationships overlap in time, is a major driver of the HIV epidemic. Overlapping, or concurrent, relationships increase the number of people who are connected in a “sexual network,” and HIV spreads more quickly the larger the sexual network. Although young people report having multiple sexual partners, few HIV prevention programs for youth tackle this topic.
FHI 360, on behalf of USAID’s Interagency Youth Working Group, recently helped address this gap with a new publication, Promoting Partner Reduction: Helping Young People Understand and Avoid HIV Risks from Multiple Partnerships. The late Dr. Doug Kirby of ETR Associates was a major contributor.
Written by Dustin Andres, Communications Specialist, FACET Project, FHI 360
Inexpensive video production has become a viable way for agricultural organizations to communicate with beneficiaries, donors, and the public. And it’s not just posting on YouTube. Devices such as handheld projectors and tablet computers have come down in price, enabling practitioners to disseminate to farmers in rural areas with minimal technology. Social networks – just a few years ago only the purview of wealthy countries – are now truly global. In regions with electricity, a well-executed video can now go viral – and become more impactful than the slickest behavior change campaigns of decades past.
It is exciting, but that doesn’t make it simple. Organizations continue to make low quality videos that fail to engage their audience or reflect the core objectives of their project.
To help users learn the ropes, the Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET) project has developed an online toolkit that can help one through every stage of planning, producing, and disseminating agricultural videos. It is called “Integrating Low-Cost Video into Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners,” and is available for free download.
The toolkit is also the basis for a series of four workshops offered this month to USAID implementing partners by toolkit author Josh Woodard and myself, in Kenya, Mozambique, and Ghana. The first of the trainings was completed last week in Nairobi.
The workshop focuses on implementing your low-cost video vision, which requires skills beyond playing Spielberg: strategically thinking about message, storyboarding narrative concepts, planning dissemination, troubleshooting inevitably buggy software, and personal perseverance, all play a role in a video’s success or failure.
One participant, Victor Nzai, program assistant for USAID-funded Agricultural Market Development Trust of Kenya (AGMARK) project focused on agro-pastoral development, felt the training would improve his project’s ability to encourage farmers to efficiently integrate grazing range land and food production in Kenya.
“We have been doing dissemination via field days quite successfully, but with video, we can reach many more farmers than before,” said Nzai. “We shall shoot the videos ourselves, and edit them into comprehensive tools that can be presented by a facilitator.”
Agricultural development practitioners are looking for new ways to leverage video to circulate information and engage local farmers. Video can help them do it – but it is the holistic consideration of concept, design, and execution that will maximize chances for success.
“Not everyone will adopt our ideas,” said Nzai. “But when we multiply the number of farmers we reach, we are able to tune our message with video to encourage farmers and pastoralists to consider better ways.”
A great international exchange program goes beyond sharing knowledge and ideas. It empowers participants to become agents of change in their own communities. Through Felix Masi’s participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), he received leadership and media training from US Government officials and prominent youth and non-profit leaders. This training motivated him to document the story of a community’s personal response to the global AIDS epidemic.
Felix, a Kenyan-born American, used the ideas he gained through IVLP, funded by the U.S. Department of State, to share the story of a challenge he witnessed growing up in Kenya. In rural Western Kenya, many children lose their parents to AIDS, and grandmothers often assume the burden and care for the orphaned children. His documentary, “A Grandmother’s Tribe,” tells the story of resilience and sacrifice in the face of a lost generation.
Further leveraging the skills honed during his exchange program, Felix founded Voiceless Children to help teach Kenyan caregivers life skills that promote self-sufficiency. To date, Voiceless Children has helped provide education and shelter for over 40 families in Western Kenya and Kibera, Kenya’s poorest slum. We are proud of program alumni like Felix, leaders who use these exchange programs to develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills that benefit not only themselves but also their communities.
Please join us on Thursday, May 10th at 5:30pm in FHI 360’s Globe Theater for a screening of “A Grandmother’s Tribe,” followed by a panel discussion featuring Felix and other distinguished speakers. A special viewing of a follow-on video that tracks the progress of the grandmothers will also be shown. Please RSVP here.
In Kenya, where more than half of young people are unemployed, 22-year-old Boniface Kirang’a has watched many friends in Flax, his hometown near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, get involved in petty crime, partying and drinking alcohol.
But Kirang’a escaped the traps of crime and substance abuse. He went through a two-year automotive mechanic training through APHIAplus (AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance), a USAID-funded FHI 360 program to improve health in 16 Rift counties. Today, Kirang’a is a self-employed car repairman.
As part of its comprehensive commitment to health, APHIAplus prevents and treats communicable illnesses such as HIV, AIDS or tuberculosis; assists families affected by HIV; runs programs to reduce hunger; and develops economic opportunities for the region’s residents.
Like many Kenyan youth, Kirang’a had struggled to stay in school. His father was diagnosed with HIV, and when his condition worsened, the family lost vital income.
“My father started being sickly in 1999,” when Kirang’a was 10 years old. “He had two butcheries, but he shut them down because of his illness. He died in 2003. After my father died, we returned to our original home in Nyahururu [in central Kenya]. We lived in my grandmother’s home. Life was hard because we were many in the family,” he said in Kiswahili.
When the family returned to Eldoret, Kirang’a stayed with a relative until he finished primary school in 2004. The uncle “could not educate me after that. He had seven children of his own. I started keeping chickens, which I sold to buy food and clothes. I also worked as shamba boy,” tending crops in cleared forestland.
But Kirang’a’s uncle got him a scholarship from the Mission Sisters of Mary Immaculate, a community-based organization that partners with APHIAplus. With the bursary, he was able to go to the polytechnical institute, said Kirang’a.
Since graduating from the institute, Kirang’a joined a group of mechanics in the fast-growing town of Eldoret. He’s doing his share to make sure that young people have chances to learn and develop skills. With his knowhow and earnings, he is saving to build his mother a house and pay for his younger brother’s school fees. In the future, he plans to hire three apprentices from the mechanics institute.
Written by George Nyairo Obanyi, Information Officer, Kenya, FHI 360
I first met Fatuma Juma about a year ago in her home town of Nakuru, Kenya, a two-hour drive northwest of Nairobi. A 42-year-old single mother of three, Fatuma is naturally talkative and laughs a lot. Within minutes of meeting, we were chatting like old friends reunited. Fatuma told me how she overcame the shock of finding out she was HIV-positive to become a pillar of hope for many in her community.
Six years ago, Fatuma had a persistent cough. She visited the local public hospital where doctors discovered she had tuberculosis. Health workers advised her to take a test for HIV. She was HIV-positive.
She lived in denial until she met social workers in APHIAPlus, a USAID-funded program implemented by FHI in collaboration with the Kenya Council of Imams and Ulamas.
The social workers counseled and helped her to join a support group. Fatuma was trained as a peer educator and community health worker.
Due to her positive attitude and willingness to help others, Fatuma has established a reputation as a good counselor. Working with others in the program, she helps families, especially the children, get health care and other services such as education and business skills. Her inspiring story is one of triumph and resilience against major odds.