Women And Children in Kenya
Millions of women and children in Kenya are at risk of death due to the most severe drought experienced in four decades, the United Nation reported in January 2023. The drought has forced families to migrate away from health facilities in search of food and water, which means the rate of skilled birth attendance has reduced, increasing the risk of maternal mortality. Kenya’s maternal rate is 342 mothers per 100,000 live births and could increase due to the drought’s impacts. The United Nations Population Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) created an innovative motorbike emergency ambulance service to reduce maternal deaths in Kenya. Furthermore, the World Food Programme (WFP) partnered with the national government to provide various aid services to women and children in the most vulnerable regions, thus, minimizing the impact of Kenya’s drought on the population’s health.

The Long Drought

Before Kenya’s drought, health facilities in Kenya supported an average of 411 births per month, which amounts to a 70% skilled birth attendance rate. However, deliveries at these facilities drastically decreased to 100 per month by November 2022, equating to a 24.6% skilled birth attendance rate. A lack of skilled maternal care via trained professionals contributes to Kenya’s high maternal mortality rate.

Regardless of technological advances, Kenya consistently maintains a high maternal mortality rate. The government of Kenya has made efforts to train more health care professionals, but low-income people located in rural areas must still undertake arduous journeys to health centers due to the country’s complex geographical layout. Access to timely and routine health checkups at a closely located health facility is out of reach for many pregnant women in rural areas.

The drought has caused severe nutritional concerns for children and pregnant women due to food shortages. In particular, the drought has led to the deaths of 1.5 million livestock, which served as a primary source of food and income. By July 2022, more than 9,000 Kenyan children under 5 and 135,000 pregnant/nursing mothers suffered acute malnourishment.

The UNFPA and the WFP

The UNFPA created an emergency motorbike program, operational since November 2022, that transports pregnant women to health centers and significantly reduces the delivery time of emergency medical supplies. In the past, some pregnant women in rural Kenya delivered on the side of the road as they could not reach a health facility in time. The emergency motorbike ambulance program aims to help about 135,000 pregnant women/new mothers in Kenya who have difficulty accessing essential health care.

 The UNFPA provides reproductive health care services every two weeks to 15-20 pregnant women in the most rural parts of the country. Furthermore, the UNFPA also provides nutritional and immunization services to these communities. To continue its critical work amid Kenya’s drought, the UNFPA is appealing for $113.7 million to finance its Response Plan for the Horn of Africa Drought Crisis 2022-2023, with particular emphasis on supporting women and children in Kenya.

Amid the drought, in July 2022, the WFP partnered with Kenya’s government to transfer emergency cash and food to 19,000 families and implemented resilience programs to support more than 300,000 people. Moreover, the WFP also appealed for $130 million more to expand the aid to further families. The call for extra funding aimed to “cover food and cash for 960,000 and blanket supplementary feeding for 486,000 children and 122,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women in the worst affected counties.”

Kenya’s drought directly threatens the health of pregnant women and children in Kenya. However, by establishing programs and funding to increase access to health care and nutrition, the UNFPA and the WFP are providing life-saving services. The work of these intergovernmental organizations improves countries’ health, leading to more prosperity worldwide.

– Andres Valencia
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Botswana
Botswana, considered one of Africa’s most politically stable countries, has seen a recent victory in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. Here is some information about women’s rights in Botswana.

A Recent Victory

In September 2020, President Mokgweetsi Masisi amended the 2015 Land Policy to give married women in Botswana the right to own land. Previously, married women were only eligible to own land if their husbands did not. The policy excluded not only married women but widows and single mothers as well, which left millions of women affected.

Tshegofatso Mokibelo, a 38-year-old widowed financial analyst, received a denial when she applied for a residential plot of land, as her late husband had owned a plot previously and his family had since claimed it. “Women also have the right to own land,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

This recent amendment gives both men and women equal rights to own land.

More Good News

“Botswana will be a society where all men and women have equal opportunity to actively participate in the economic, social, cultural, and political development of their country.”

Botswana’s Vision 2036, one of its various initiatives towards improving the republic, promises progress for women’s rights. Since the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, the country has made several commitments to gender equality and women’s rights in Botswana. These commitments include its ratification of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1996, The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme and the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015.

The progression toward women’s rights in Botswana has led to notable successes in education. Botswana has almost equal enrollment rates for girls and boys at every level in school. In fact, a Gender Parity Index report in 2012 favored girls at both the secondary school and tertiary education levels. More recently, UNICEF reported the GPI for primary education in 2014 as favoring girls, indicating improvement. However, according to the Sustainable Development Report, challenges remain in this area.

Other positive strides include equality within the labor force, reported as achieved in the Sustainable Development Report and having one of the lowest adolescent birth rates in Africa at 50 per 1,000 population, ages 15-19.

Gender Equality

According to the Sustainable Development Report, significant challenges remain in the effort to achieve the gender equality goal. Seats that women held in parliament, for example, are reported as stagnating with “major challenges remaining.” According to statistics from the World Bank, the proportion of seats that women held in parliament has decreased from 17% in 2000 to 9.5% in 2018.

The dual legal system in Botswana, a consequence of colonization, also creates complications in achieving gender equality. Customary laws that currently exist in Botswana discriminate against women. However, Botswana’s government has engaged itself in talks with traditional leaders since 2012 on how to bring women’s rights into customary law. This has resulted in several community groups establishing Gender Committees to open discourse around gender inequality.

Gender-based Violence

One of the greatest remaining challenges, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, is gender-based violence. In July 2020, the current Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi, revealed an unprecedented increase in reports of gender-based violence since the April 2020 lockdown.

According to The United Nations Population Fund, over 67% of women in Botswana have experienced abuse. In order to combat this, the UNFPA is working with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and several organizations to provide gender-based violence prevention and access to services for those at risk.

One of the NGOs working to eradicate gender-based violence in Botswana is the Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre. It offers prevention programs such as community outreach and education, as well as several services that gender-based violence personally affects. Kgomotso Kelaotswe, Counselor Supervisor for the NGO reported that during the lockdown period, 155 clients sought shelter at the organization, 67 clients received hotline counseling services and a further 50 obtained assistance through the short line message service.

Botswana continues to face challenges in the fight for women’s rights. However, the government’s commitment to tackling these challenges remains promising.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr