International Youth Day at the Githurai Youth Empowerment Centre: Meet Joan Mutheu

Last week, the Githurai Youth Empowerment Centre in Githurai, Nairobi County, Kenya celebrated International Youth Day and hosted a panel to discuss vital issues affecting youth in Kenya, namely teenage pregnancy, youth unemployment, and access to family planning measures. Photographer Brian Otieno interviewed participants about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them personally, how access to information on family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) has been impacted, and what they hope for the future.

Watch this space to meet the youths facilitating change in Githurai!

Joan Mutheu, photographed by Brian Otieno for DSW.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of things have changed, for example, my source of income has reduced since I go door-to-door looking for my customers for my hairdressing work. Now no one calls me to ask for my services because they are afraid I might take the coronavirus to their houses. When we are out distributing HIV self-test kits, people won’t talk to us for fear that we have COVID-19 and might transfer the virus to them. Also, most youths are now staying home and others have travelled back to rural areas because they cannot afford to pay rent or sustain their lives.

Access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights have reduced during the pandemic. Now you find that many girls are getting pregnant since they do not have access to family planning services and contraceptives. What worries me the most is that teenage pregnancy has risen by over 50% and that has affected the lives of many girls in my community.

To ensure that the rights of women and girls are respected, I would like to see a safe place for youths where they can go and talk about sexual and reproductive health. Sexual and reproductive health is a human right! When young people go to health facilities, they should take their time to understand all kinds of contraceptives, their effects and what’s good for them.”

Joan Mutheu, 25, is a community health volunteer and a member of the Link Empowerment Initiative in Githurai, Nairobi, Kenya.

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