Young people working with Dandelion Kenya articulating #SRHR during an adolescents forum in Nakuru, Kenya


One cool Tuesday evening a colleague whom I have grown to see as friend and i are sitting by the pool having a mesmerizing conversation over drinks.

The conversation took into account everything spanning from feminism, LGBT rights, HIV/AIDS prevention, vaccination to sexuality education. The agenda was hefty and all I hoped for was that we would atleast give it due attention. After all this was not a conference. Neither was it a training or was a strategy session. It was just a friendly chat.

After taking a stab at all the above mentioned subjects she leaned forward, shook her head and asked, “I really am curious what it is about rights, their mention, articulation or even just hinting that makes leaders especially political leaders so uncomfortable?”

This got me thinking… a nagging kind of thinking that wouldn’t let me just jump in and out rightly give my answer.  Let’s face it, the very mention of rights makes people in high places quite uncomfortable.

There comes a time when it is necessary to lay bare the facts, have difficult discussions and determine a way forward.To me now sounds like such a time. What with the controversy surrounding human rights  in general and sexual and reproductive health and rights in particular?

Are they as hideous as a huge section of our policy makers would want to portray or have us think?

From what I understand, it is important that we define for ourselves what this means and how to interact with this concept.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights is a plethora of issues comprising both sexual rights and sexual and reproductive health including sexual health. This package has in it a number of things namely; right to access highest attainable standards of health including sexual and reproductive health, the right to access contraception, maternal and child health and also couple’s health. The sexual and reproductive health and rights extend to the affordability, acceptability and availability of the services being offered, the right to live free from violence and discrimination despite one’s sex, gender, sexual orientation, race or socio economic status. The right extends to access to safe abortion both comprehensive abortion care and post abortion care, treatment of STDs and STIS including access to information on prevention, transmission and treatment, respect for and right to exercise sexual orientation and gender identities , right to be free from harmful traditional practices and societal discriminatory practices, access to adolescents and  youth friendly information and services . The right includes right to negotiate safe sex and at the core is the issue of power relations that have plagued our sexuality especially in light of how we fit in the patriarchal power system we find ourselves in.

The list could go on and on however we get the gist and have an understanding of the issues at play. We have over time perpetuated the notion that these rights are radical, yet from the elaborate list we find that young people need information to live healthy lives and continue their education which then translates into their economic empowerment, delayed sexual debut including when and with whom to have their first child and eventual enhanced societal contribution. These issues are those that we embrace and interact with everyday right from morning, lunch time, noon to evening, Hence if they are radical then our very existence including our health is radical

Rights are implicit , on this basis when delivering sexual and reproductive health and health in general, rights cannot be separated from the people and no one should attempt to strike a move against this. Otherwise such attempts will necessitate actions and measures bred by discontent coupled with other emotions ( as activists we cannot guarantee what emotions will flood us while expressing our discontent). We need challenge any discrimination on any basis and hold governments to account so that the rights of all including their SRHR is respected, upheld and promoted.

To quote a feminist friend from Senegal, there should no if and buts when articulating rights because we all lives multiple and intersecting lives. This cannot be belaboured enough because it is on this basis that SRHR have been alienated and separated from the larger human rights conversations by our policy makers.

I rest my case and hope we can continue to explore the journey of what SRHR is, how we should advocate for SRHR and what implications come from the respect or violations of these, have more discussions and join the various multiple platforms on #SRHRDialogues that will be monthly supported by various organizations such ours, Dandelion Kenya, the Kenya SRHR Alliance, Network for African Youth and Adolescents (NAYA) amongst others.


Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1

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