Women’s Right to Health – A workshop for students by students

As a part of my public health exchange in Nairobi, Kenya we developed a workshop for medical students on the topic of “Women’s Right to Health”. About 20 medical students from the University of Nairobi, including two other exchange students from Germany and Belgium, came and participated in the workshop.

The preparations of the workshop turned out to be quite challenging, as no one at UoN seemed to be willing to give us a venue for our event. After several days of waiting, asking around and so much more waiting, I finally got the message from the dean’s office, that they would allow us to use a lecture room.

The afternoon started out with me giving a general overview of challenges, which women globally face, when it comes to access to healthcare. Topics included violence against women, child marriage and sexual and reproductive health rights.

I also devoted some time on the situation of women in the health workforce. About 70% of the healthcare workers are women and they contribute about 3 trillion US$ annually to global health. At the same time only 25% of the senior roles in healthcare and only 5,7% of the best-paid healthcare jobs are in the hands of women.[1]

After I had given a general overview of the topic, Dr. Alice Kaaria continued to talk about her own personal experiences as an OB/GYN Doctor at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Like many other African countries Kenya was a signatory of the Maputo Protocol in 2003, which calls for the strengthening of women’s and girl’s right to health. The Maputo Protocoll explicitly says, that access to abortion in cases of assault, rape and danger to the physical and mental health of the mother should be available to all women.[2]Even though Kenya has signed and ratified the protocol, this sadly is not really the case in Kenya.

In many hospitals, especially in rural areas, the access to safe abortion depends on the personal opinion of the physician. Since many physicians in Kenya believe abortion should be illegal, they often times deny women access to it.

After we’ve heard from Dr. Kaaria, the participants were asked to find ways to use their new knowledge and think opportunities to speak up for women’s rights. The groups came up with very inspiring ideas, like using social media campaigns to draw attention to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, or creating safe spaces for female students at the university. In January 2020 the Public Health Club of UoN will do another community outreach program, where they will also talk to teenage girls about Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and continue to spread the word about this very important issue.

The whole afternoon was very successful and I really enjoyed the discussions with these motivated, critical and smart young students. I’m truly happy, that they will keep working on these topics after I have left Kenya and gone back to Germany.

[1]WHO (2019): Delivered by Women, led by men: a gender and equity analysis of the global health and social workforce; Human Resources for Health Observer; Genf 2019. Online: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/ffa4bc_1fd58cb6a73449b682d188ac54d30a94.pdf

[2]Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol Text). African Union; 2003.

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