#16Days: Alex Omari, Kenyan SRHR activist

As part of our #16Days of Activism series, we're showcasing inspirational activists from around the world. Alex Omari is a youth activist and works as a Field Officer with the International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya. Alex speaks about the cross-cutting issues affecting women and girls in Kenya, and how young people can help.

What kind of activism work are you involved in?

Service to humanity is the backbone of my advocacy. I am a youth advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with a focus on girls and women. 

Giving a voice to the girl child is my goal - I would like to see a society where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. 

Sexual reproductive health includes addressing high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality due to unsafe abortion – the right to safe pregnancy and childbirth is a human right that must be upheld with uttermost dignity.  

At the International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya, where I work as a Field Officer, we work towards improving maternal and child health, adolescent health, sexual & gender based-violence (SGBV) response, HIV/STI treatment and care services for vulnerable populations.

How did you begin working as an activist?

My journey as a youth SRHR advocate begun in early 2013 when I volunteered as a youth peer educator, and later interned with Family Health Options Kenya (an NGO in Kenya) which works around sexual reproductive health mainly focusing on youth.  I was inspired while directly working on youth programs because of the youth involvement aspect in issues affecting them.

Including youth in youth programs is a major driving force with “Nothing For Us Without Us” as the slogan of choice and action.

My passion of working with the youth took a higher step a year later when I joined the Reproductive Health Rights Alliance (RHRA) as a trainer of trainees on how to address unintended teenage pregnancies. I later got engaged with Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) Global Legal Program as communication intern and blogger on the magnitude and consequences of unsafe abortion in Kenya, as a result of unintended pregnancies. Including youth in youth programs is a major driving force with “Nothing For Us Without Us” as the slogan of choice and action.

What are the main challenges facing girls in your sector?

There is no global development without the girl child at sight. Young girls face milestones of issues in the current society ranging from unintended teenage pregnancies, forced early marriages, school dropouts and harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

In Kenya, teenage pregnancy is not only as a reproductive health issue, but is also a cross cutting issue as it directly affects the current and future socio-economic well-being of women. Early childbearing deny girls the opportunity to complete education hence miss out on the necessary skills which are critical in the labour market.

Young girls should be hearing school bells, not wedding bells. Girls empowerment requires a multi-facet approach in order to unleash their untapped potential.

Given the absence of welfare benefits and child support, teenage pregnancies lead to increased dependency, and are likely to perpetuate poverty and low status of women. In Kilifi County, Kenya only one out of five girls proceeds to secondary school and only 25% complete secondary or higher education and as few as 2% have joined university.

How can we empower girls and young women to overcome these?

Young girls should be hearing school bells, not wedding bells. Girls empowerment requires a multi-facet approach in order to unleash their untapped potential. This is only achievable if strategic investment in girl child education, health and addressing of violence and discrimination takes place.

Young people are the drivers of the changes we want to see - young girls needs a voice!

Read the rest of our #16Days series here.