In Vihiga County, teenage pregnancy has been a significant obstacle preventing our youth from realizing their full potential and becoming productive citizens. Factors such as social influences, weak enforcement of policies, poverty, and peer pressure contribute to this challenge.”
– Miss Abigael Osendi, Head of the County Reproductive Maternal Health Unit, Vihiga, Kenya
Recognizing the critical need to combat high teen pregnancy rates, Vihiga County, Kenya, partnered with The Challenge Initiative (TCI) to develop a comprehensive approach. TCI is a platform focused on achieving greater self-reliance for local governments by supporting them to lead the implementation of evidence-based family planning (FP) and adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) practices.
Abigael Osendi, Head of Vihiga County’s Reproductive Maternal Health Unit, shared:
TCI came to Vihiga County with an innovative approach to addressing the sexual reproductive health needs of young people, and it caught our attention. Their adolescent and youth (AY) multisectoral engagement intervention emphasized the importance of involving other line ministries beyond health to create a comprehensive solution.”
Inspired by the success achieved in TCI-supported cities like Migori, Vihiga County embraced a Sisi Kwa Sisi (peer-to-peer) learning strategy facilitated by TCI to transfer knowledge and skills through coaching and mentoring to overcome similar challenges faced by Migori. During a learning exchange visit to Migori, Vihiga County learned how to develop a multisectoral action plan to guide their implementation process. Polycarp Opiyo, Deputy Director of Health in Vihiga, said:
The learning visit in Migori on the development of the AY multisectoral action plan prompted and motivated us to develop our own roadmap in addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people. Teenage pregnancy, which is becoming a concern in our county, is a key priority area.”
The support provided by the Sisi Kwa Sisi coaches in Migori throughout the journey was invaluable to Vihiga’s progress. The development process commenced with stakeholder and partner mapping, followed by active engagement through consultative and coaching meetings involving internal and external stakeholders. Osendi noted with satisfaction:
The multisectoral action plan helped us prioritize initiatives, allocate resources and monitor the implementation outcomes of the AYSRH program. This framework also serves as a resource mobilization tool for potential donors, partners, and other ministries.”
She acknowledged the support received from TCI and Migori County, highlighting their ability to now coach other local governments in developing their own multisectoral action plans.
With extensive coaching and support from TCI, the multisectoral action plan was finalized and launched in June 2023. Its ultimate goal was to improve the health and well-being of adolescents and youth by addressing several pressing issues in Vihiga County. Specific objectives included:
- Reducing teenage pregnancy rates from 29.6% to below 15%
- Decreasing HIV/AIDS and STI incidences
- Strengthening reporting and management of sexual and gender-based violence
- Enhancing the management of drug and substance abuse
- Promoting nutrition and non-communicable disease screening and management among young people by 2028
A significant change began to take root through the collaborative efforts of Vihiga County and TCI with support from the valuable lessons learned from other regions like Migori. The multisectoral action plan became a catalyst for transformation, empowering stakeholders, mobilizing resources and fostering a collective effort to uplift the lives of adolescents and youth in the community. With determination and dedication, Vihiga County embarked on a journey towards a brighter future where the youth can thrive and achieve their aspirations.