Kenya health and education programs
AMURT Supports Samburu Development
AMURT is establishing a number of regional hubs in Kenya that will serve as engines of development into the foreseeable future. These development centers reflect AMURT’s commitment to long-term dialogue and action with local communities to support their efforts to improve life.
One such development center is located in Wamba in remote Samburu district that serves as the tribal homeland of the Samburu people. AMURT began working there in response to severe drought conditions in 2011, providing emergency food and medical relief to the affected population. Since then AMURT has supported projects that have developed vegetable gardening, strengthened women’s groups, built school infrastructure, changed attitudes towards the roles of women and children in society, and improved maternal health care.
The more recent projects are described below
Jamii Bora Project (2013 – 2015)
The Jamii Bora project was a three-year European Union funded activity implemented by a consortium of four Kenyan NGOs: GRACE Africa, N.O.P.E., Matibabu Foundation and AMURT Kenya as the lead organization. The project was implemented, supervised, and evaluated in partnership with the Kenyan Government through the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Jamii Bora means “Happy Family” in Swahili and refers to the project’s goal to reduce maternal mortality by two thirds and child mortality by three quarters in Samburu County by the end of 2015. Jamii Bora also aimed to bring greater awareness to men and women in Samburu who still live in a very traditional society, where unsafe home births are common and where women lack independence.
High new born and mother mortality
Samburu people are bonded to their strong culture, where gender roles are distinct. Men are responsible for the welfare of the livestock, while women take care of household chores. Even when pregnant, women have to walk long distances with heavy loads of water or firewood.
Child birth often takes place at household level manyattas (cow-dung twig huts) through the support of the traditional birth attendants who are unskilled. Hence, whenever a birth complication occurs, mother and baby are at risk of death. Change was required medically and culturally: men needed to become more aware of the health needs of their wives and unborn children.
Improving quality of, and access to, maternal health services
One of the objectives of Jamii Bora project was to support the existing health facilities and to increase access and utilization to health services. Hence, AMURT provided facility upgrades, medical equipment and essential drugs to 13 maternity clinics, and offered refresher training to 21 health care providers. In addition, AMURT nurses provided technical support to the 15 maternity clinics in the project area, making them more effective, safe, efficient and patient-centred.
To stimulate awareness and attract women to the maternal health facilities, AMURT conducted numerous community conversations in village meeting places and churches. AMURT sponsored an innovative maternal and child health radio program called Thamini Uhai, Okoa Mama (“Value Life and Save the Mother”), which offered listeners an opportunity to call in questions to the project nurse.
These endeavors have resulted in more women accessing antenatal and delivery services. Read more: Leading by example
Changing the attitude of men
The Matitabu Foundation provided training to existing community health volunteers (CHV) to prepare them for a huge outreach program at the village, compound and household levels. The primary objective was to change the attitudes of men, encouraging them to support their wives in safe pregnancy and safe delivery. Behavior certainly changed throughout the project area, with men helping carry water and firewood for pregnant wives in their third trimester, and keeping a goat to sell specifically for birth-related expenses. Read more: Changed attitudes, healthier people
Another implementing partner, NOPE, focused on peer education for youth and women. Trained youth peer educators established youth clubs to facilitate discussions on sexual and reproductive health, and substance abuse. They also discussed the need for male involvement in maternal health.
Three women peer educators took the initiative a step further. They formed the Nasham and Maram women’s support groups to provide 30 women with a social forum to promote maternal health, and a mechanism to generate much-needed income. (Read more: Ballast makers – One thing leads to another)
Strengthening economic foundations
Increasing income generation potential is an important element in any development project, to provide people with greater independence and quality of life. Hence, through GRACE Africa, the Jamii Bora project trained over fifty women’s groups, many of them already involved in small businesses, in the SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Communities) approach. SILC is an elaborate savings mechanism that enables members to take out loans at any time, and includes a social fund. It can build greater security and solidarity in a group, while providing capital for individual or group businesses. One group, Naretoi Women’s Group in Marelal, have increased their capital to $2500 over two years and invested in a group wholesale butcher’s business. Read more: Enterprising Women
Visit of EU commissioner
In September 2015 the EU commissioner, Mr. Neven Mimica, visited several EU-funded projects in Samburu, including AMURT’s. Executive Director of AMURT Kenya Mr. Jitendra Kumar had the honor to address the audience which included the EU commissioner, the Deputy Governor of Samburu County and other government officials.
Voices of AMURT Kenya team members
Let’s hear from David Kassiano Lenawasae (center), AMURT’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the Jamii Bora project. David is a Samburu and lives in Maralal with his wife and child.
Why have you taken up the challenge to help the Samburu people? I am from the community itself, and am now helping my own people who contributed towards my education. I would like to be a role model to the youth and next generation. I want to help my people abandon harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriage, and denying girls an education. I want to share information because information is power. Samburu people are cooperative and welcoming, hence it motivates me to help them. When I was young, they called me “tomorrow’s leader;” now I believe that tomorrow is here.
What have you learned personally? Personally, I have learnt that nothing valuable can be lost by taking the time to do something well.
Wasichana Wote Wasome Project
AMURT is mid-way through this project, the endeavour of a consortium of organizations financed by the UK government, that strives to improve the enrolment and retention of girls in school. This is especially important in Samburu where traditionally girls have not been given as much social importance as boys. The project includes extensive community dialogues around the issue of education, financial support for the girls’ parents, teacher training on gender and classroom management, and successful inter-school galas that enable the girls to express themselves creatively in public, thereby building self-esteem.
Sometimes, simple material support can make a huge difference in a girl’s educational life, as the following story demonstrates. Nabarin Lesowapir, a Standard (Class) 8 student, was one of 398 beneficiaries of a solar lamp. This is what she said about how it benefited her:
“ I am the fifth born in our family. I go to Golgoltim Primary School. l used to be late in submitting my homework, at times l would stay late in school to work on my homework since we don’t have enough lighting at home. The light we have is a tin lamp which is only used by my mother in our small kitchen; besides it produces a lot of painful smoke and makes me dizzy whenever l start reading with it. But it was still hard for me to always do homework at school, and I often submitted my assignments late, resulting in poor grades. But since l received the solar lamp (her face lit up with excitement when explaining this), I have never been punished for late submission of my assignments and our manyatta (hut) is now lit up with enough light for everyone, including my mother in her small corner where she cooks. My performance in our class has improved and in our last exam I managed 215 marks compared to my earlier result of 190 marks.”
AMURT has been able to enroll over 800 girls in school who would otherwise have stayed at home. These girls will not only open their minds to the world of knowledge, but will access the other benefits that accrue to an educated girl in Africa, specifically, a delay in early marriage and parenthood, greater economic opportunities and more potential to rise in leadership positions.
HIV and AIDS have wreaked havoc on the Kenyan population, leaving those affected by the epidemic with little hope and millions more at risk of contracting the infection. AMURT’s initiatives harness the drive of community members to care for each other and educate others on HIV prevention. Other highlights of the program include developing youth job skills, keeping children in schools and informed of their rights, and creating sustainable peer education groups … Read More