Most of the times we see women pregnant and depending on our relations with them, we either clap, we buy gifts, organize surprise baby showers and all manner of celebratory gestures. But for the most part, these gestures are only privy to middle class women and their rich counter parts. Women who come up from where I grew up, Mukuru slums and places of equal stature in society do not have the luxury of baby showers, hugs, gifts or expensive surprise events.

Taking this further and contextualizing it, we are more specifically talking about women’s empowerment in the era of sustainable development goals. SDGs 5 and 3 on health have a strong focus on women’s health and the overall target is to achieve gender equality for all women and girls everywhere with a special focus on reducing violence against women, redistribution of unpaid care work, improved maternal health outcomes amongst others.

The daily lived reality of maternal health

During CSW, a side chat with one of the fellow participants revealed to me, how elusive maternal heath rights can be. Sitting in a matatu (what in Kenya we use for public transport) my colleague was face with an emergency situation. An emergency situation where a woman was in labour and had opted to use public transportation to the hospital.  Catching up with her, my colleague found out that the woman could no longer get to the hospital; this prompted my colleague to act. The acting is by no means an indication that she is qualified, far from it, she has no health training.

Using polythene bags and tearing their own garments, the woman was assisted to give birth right there in the matatu. The unskilled birth attendance was purely an act of first aid. After the delivery the woman opted not to go hospital even for check-up because she could not afford it and in her own words, she and the child were safe.

There are many women who give birth at home, without the luxury of skilled birth attendance or even not having received pre natal care. Most of these women as in the case of the woman assisted by my colleague are women who have no economic means and for them even transport cost to the clinic is choosing between food and health. No woman should be forced to choose between what basic needs to give up in order to access quality maternal health.

Sneak Peak Context- The Numbers Side Of Things

According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health survey, maternal mortality rate is at 360 deaths over 100,000 live births. Main causes of maternal death in Kenya are severe bleeding 24%, obstructed labor 8%, eclampsia12%, infection 15% and unsafe abortion 13%. 98% of maternal deaths concentrated in 15 counties, most of them the poorest in the country such as Mandera, Turkana, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Taita Taveta, Isiolo and Lamu. Only 15% of the maternal deaths are recorded in the Department of Health Information System (DHIS) and only 60% of all deaths are captured by the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System (CRVSS).

This story does not even begin to cover the women who die from unsafe abortions due to restrictive laws that render lives of women worthless. The story of maternal health is dynamic and must be treated as such, hence putting our best foot forward to ensure that women and girls do not die from preventable causes.

Rights are interdependent, inalienable, indivisible and universal, and to assume otherwise when women’s rights are involved is our first bullet to the foot. Especially in this case when it’s about women’s rights as they give life…WE HAVE TO BE DELIBERATE IN DECIDING THAT WOMEN AND GIRLS LIVES ARE WORTH SAVING!!!!!

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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