On September 23, DSW’s Brussels and Kenya offices co-organised the online webinar “A Conversation on Digitalising SRHR in Kenya”, to discuss the role of digital technologies in promoting the access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) among young people in Kenya and what the international community can do to support digitalisation efforts.
The webinar was also an occasion to launch DSW’s latest factsheet on the topic, which features insights on how digitalisation can strengthen access to SRHR, including some recommendations on how the European Union in its external action can support and facilitate this process.
A great variety of experts joined the conversation and provided different perspectives, including civil society organisations, researchers, representatives from the EU and UNFPA, as well as DSW Youth Champions based in Kenya.
Digital technologies and SRHR
Moderated by Imali Ngusale from DSW’s regional Eastern Africa team, the webinar kicked off with an intervention by Mwikali Kivuvani, National Program Coordinator at SRHR Alliance Kenya, highlighting the importance of comprehensive sexuality education, and the challenges posed by pre-existing cultural biases. Given the difficulties that young people face in accessing accurate information on SRHR, Mwikali Kivuvani stressed the importance of providing information at school, putting the Kenyan progressive legislation on SRHR into practice.
Dennis Oroo Mwambi, Senior Programs Manager at Population Reference Bureau (PRB) Kenya, stressed how the digital transition presents an opportunity to digitalise health systems and access to SRH information and services. Unfortunately progress is slow, with glaring gaps in access to SRH information and services being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, services such as the Digital Health Compendium developed by PRB can contribute to access to SRH information by collecting good examples on digital health.
DSW’s Youth Champion Mercy Kioko looked at how digital technologies are used by her peers, especially in terms of access to SRHR information. During her intervention, Mercy talked about young people finally having the opportunity to talk online about SRHR, using digital platforms such as Facebook and TikTok.
Dr. Tallarico from the UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office stressed the need for information on SRHR to be accurate, non-judgemental and up-to-date, as well as being anonymously accessible, presenting the Tune Me mobisite as an example of good practice.
Dr. Caroline Free, Professor of Primary Care and Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), shared some of the findings of her research, looking at the risks connected to digitalising information, such as misinformation and issues related to privacy, as well as at strategies aimed at avoiding such downsides of digitalisation.
The role of the EU
Jacob Acholla from the HENNET Coalition, a leading Kenyan NGO network working in the health sector, called on the EU to invest in digital platforms and to work with young people in developing digital tools that share accurate information in a youth-friendly way.
Line Urban, from the EU Delegation in Kenya, recognised the importance of digitalisation, which should be part of the EU’s Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for Kenya, and hoped for an increased collaboration with CSOs, including through upcoming consultations. Talking about the Gender Action Plan (GAP III), Line Urban shared that work is ongoing to develop a gender country profile for Kenya, aimed at assessing the situation of women and girls in the country.
Finally, the need for safe, accessible and reliable information was also stressed by Milcah Krop, DSW Youth Champions from Kenya, and by Lisa Goerlitz, Head of DSW Brussels Office, while wrapping up a conversation which is definitely not over yet.
Cover photo: © Brian Otieno/DSW