A participant in a sensitization session shares his experience using contraception.

Efforts to counter persistent myths and misconceptions around family planning in Kenya recently received a refresh after the introduction of community “sensitization sessions” to improve knowledge and awareness of family planning methods and services in Kilifi and Nairobi counties.

Retrogressive cultural practices, exacerbated by local myths, had been hampering efforts to increase access to family planning services in Kenya. For example, in Kilifi County, Amina* received an implant without proper pregnancy screening and later realized she was already pregnant. Because of the myriad misconceptions surrounding family planning in her community, Amina’s friends wrongly warned her that the implant would cause birth defects to her unborn baby, frightening Amina unnecessarily. In other parts of the country, the myths surrounding family planning are no different.

To counteract these myths and misconceptions, the Ministry of Health recently organized community sensitization sessions in Nairobi County. The sessions were designed to educate and counsel potential family planning clients, identify and clarify rumors about contraception, identify available family planning methods and where to receive them, support couples to improve communication, and conduct learning sessions for participants.

“I was told my body will become big as blood will not flow out when I use an implant, is that so?” asked a young women attending one of the sessions.

“Demystifying myths on contraception is a challenge. To get ahead, we are going to have to continue the discussion we have started here,” said Julia, the Community Promotion Officer in Nairobi County, at one of the sensitization events.

Just like her counterpart in Nairobi, Dr. Anisa Ahmed Omar, the County Executive Committee Member for Health Services for Kilifi County, hopes that through Tupange Pamoja, The Challenge Initiative’s (TCI) urban reproductive health program in East Africa, the sensitization sessions will help improve access and use of family planning methods. The community leaders can then share these important messages and help change attitudes towards and myths around family planning.

“This opportunity is very important for me because it has opened my mind. I will now be able to get counseling on the best method for me,” said one of the male participants.

To learn more, read “Stop Rumour Get the Facts: Myths and Misconceptions about Family Planning Methods” available on TCI’s online tool collection.

*Names are changed to protect privacy.

Contributors: Levis Onsase, Kenneth Owino and Njeri Kairo