At the end of the day, we only have one life to live, and one body for it By Victor Sijenyi

Courtesy of Read A Hand Uganda.
The kind of experience a young person often has when visiting a Kenyan health facility is just a nightmare. This is even more the case if you go for reproductive health issues. Some young people report that health officers become arrogant. We have had young people failing to go for their health checkups because of the incompetence of health officers and lack of confidentiality. Some young people have had health officers even come out of the office, and announce their diagnosis to the entire clinic. This is humiliating, stigmatizing and against every ethical code of conduct.

We often encounter long queues, receive improper drug prescriptions of drugs, face drugs being out of stock, and generally receive poor services. We may blame the health officers for all these situations, and for their lack of “know how” to speak to and support young people, but that is not enough. It is actually bigger than that – it is all about funding; government priorities and the real needs of the people. Most government priorities are never directed into investing or allocating funds to the services for the people, drugs and service providers we need; instead they channel most of their allocated funds towards roads and construction that may never reach completion.

The government also pays health service providers very low wages, which causes health officers to lose their passion and lack motivation. This in turn leads to the poor services being offered. We see each year the nurses association on the roads demonstrating against poor working conditions, poor payment structure and un-honored memos between them and the government. The health officers also have had issues with the decisions that the government makes in their field without inviting them to contribute.

In order to create change on these issues, as a popular youth reproductive health initiative, we have independently worked with our member organizations in different counties and regions to advocate for funds to be responsibly and accurately allocated for youth friendly services in our health facilities.

We advocated for health budgets in over five counties to increase the amount of money set aside for contraceptives and general youth friendly services as well as youth-only spaces within heath facilities to provide a safe and welcoming space. We also stressed the need for the government to provide better motivation to health workers, to employ a specialized team to handle youth issues and to provide training to health officers.

Because we understand how important health care is to each one of us. Each Kenyan citizen according to our constitution should have access to standardized health care, and we will not sit quiet and hope that someone else makes our constitution a reality.

Victor Sijenyi is the Chair at Kasarani Youth Empowerment Centre and a volunteer at OAYOUTH Kenya | Email: thelegendsartsproduction@gmail.com

DENTS THAT AIL PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN NAIROBI By Ken Ogembo


Four months since Railways bus terminus became my drop off here in the CBD. One noticeable aspect was the dents on public transport vehicles at the stage, which can only be associated to either inadequate transport policy or failure in the implementation. Almost 85% of the public vehicles using the stage have dents and it’s a miracle that they are able to move. Most of the vehicles are in deplorable condition.

Over time, on my daily commute, I have observed the presence of at least two police officers at the stage, including Sundays, but this does not change the chaos unfolding in front of your eyes, obstruction and competition to leave the stage has allowed me to understand the dents that appear on these vehicles. And every day the policemen stand there, they are to maintain the law but one wonders whether for them maintaining law and order is not part of their job description.

Compounding the problem further was an incident where a driver just knocked the other in front of a police officer and nothing happened. Neither the drivers of the two vehicles nor the police talked about it as the police officer walked away smiling. From the look on his face, it was a normal thing. As the vehicles leave the station while approaching the roundabout just before they join Haile Selassie Avenue, a person normally boards, and in many instances as the vehicle moves, they’re given money and immediately alight before the vehicle moves too far. It concerned me who the person could have been and why the conductors gave money without any difficulty hence the reason I had to inquire. I would ask the driver every time I got the opportunity to seat next to the drivers who the people were. Their response were too proverbial as they were either called the agents of city owners or the stage owners.

Finally, through persistence with the drivers, I came to understand that they were agents of either the city council or the police for protection. One of the drivers added that there was no way a vehicle could operate without being loyal to the agents but refused to indulge more on the same.
Another peculiar norm at the stage is the removable side-mirrors. If you are keen, one will notice that some of the vehicles would remove their mirrors in the struggle to leave the stage and return them when it is clear. Additionally, hiking of bus fare at will is often evident. There is a culture of people asking how much they would be charged which for me was strange until I had to learn the hard way. In three occasions, I had to pay up to Ksh 100 for Kibra that is normally Ksh 50 during peak hours.

Boarding the moving vehicles is the art at the stage, it is learned, and an accepted offence that police are never bothered about. The public are forced to board the vehicles while they are moving without consideration of the risks involved. What if one misses the step and falls? What about people living with disabilities?

Thus my reflection on several attempts by the county government to bring order in the city. For instance, the recent order by the county to block public vehicles from accessing the CBD. What was the basis and were the stakeholders involved in coming up with the decision as provided for in the constitution?

My question led me to ask a few people who have been in the city longer than me if they had ever been involved in such decisions and they were equally surprised that I didn’t understand how the county made decisions. My next stop was the County website to look for either data or statistics or expert advice on how they arrived at the decision and nothing was available. A violation of Article 35 of the constitution that requires government to provide information to the public

Seeming to be a welcomed problem but how could the county administrators correct a major problem like traffic with agents collecting money from the same matatu for protection while the same police own matatus as was recently alluded to by President Uhuru Kenyatta?

And from nowhere, a new rule of car free days starting February 1st 2019 was announced with majority of stakeholders asking how they came about the decision and still there was no consultation or if there was then it was selective public consultation. Siasa Place conducted a twitter poll just a day after the announcement, asking if people in Nairobi would support the decision and 66% said no. The decision may succeed if the county takes note of what they had ignored in the past or the decision may as well form part of a statistic of failed decisions.

The county requires good will in their approach of public engagement where the public are truly involved. They further have to invest in working with experts in the sector otherwise they will make the same mistake repeatedly, with no result for any of the decisions they proposed.

Written by Ken Ogembo
Program Manager at Siasa Place