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Lisa MaryAnne’s Story

Exploring Family Planning And Reproductive Health In East Africa

Head antenatal nurse Margie Harriet Egessa providing antenatal counseling and checkups for a group of pregnant women at Mukujju clinic. Photo Credit: Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment

Consulting Professionals For Informed Decisions

When it comes to family planning, making an informed decision is of utmost importance. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, as individual needs, preferences, and circumstances vary widely. This is where consulting healthcare professionals becomes essential. Medical experts, such as doctors and nurses, are well-equipped to provide guidance and recommendations tailored to your specific situation.

Professionals can discuss various family planning options, educate you about their effectiveness, and help you understand potential side effects and risks associated with each method. Their expertise ensures that you receive accurate information, which is crucial for making the right choice for your reproductive health.


Diverse Family Planning Methods

One of the significant advantages of seeking professional advice is gaining insight into the wide array of family planning methods available. When health professionals are sharing information on the diverse range of options this allows individuals and couples to choose the method that aligns with their needs and preferences. Here are a few examples of contraceptive options to research and fully understand which services are most accessible and best suit your circumstances and preferences:

“It is important to talk to professionals about your need so as to make an informed decision. We have diverse family planning service options; it is not one method. The diversity in family planning methods helps us make choices. What might work for me may not work for someone else. One may for example opt for a daily pill because it fits their work schedule while another may prefer using a coil because it gives them a sense of privacy and freedom. All you need is accurate information.”

– Lisa MaryAnne

Lisa’s Family Planning and SRHR Story

Tell us about yourself, who is Lisa?

My name is Lisa MaryAnne. I work with Development Dynamics as a social impact consultant. I manage programs and new business development. I am a youth advocate for maternal health and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). I have a degree in counselling psychology from Kenyatta University. I am a Kenyan, a mum and a wife, passionate about making a positive impact in my community. I was recently awarded the Voices of BRAVE award by B!ll! Now Now, an African multi-sectoral youth SRHR movement, for my contribution to causing transformative change in my community.

As a young person in East Africa, how are you involved in the access and promotion of the use of FP/RH services?

I am a youth advocate for maternal health and sexual and reproductive health and rights with a keen lens on adolescents’ and young women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, gender equality and women’s inclusion in decision-making processes.

Immediately after I finished school, I was attached to a hospital where I worked for almost two years as a counsellor for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). In my work at the hospital, I met very many girls and women whose stories kept bothering me. They were not getting justice yet the impact of GBV on their lives was grave. When I identified these gaps, I knew sitting down in the hospital facility would not enable me to create a society free from GBV or make efforts to reduce it or assist survivors get justice. The hospital space was technical and mechanical. That made me research more about SRHR, gender justice, and maternal health. I needed to be at the centre of influencing policy-making processes or working with communities to create a shift. I started volunteering with a number of organizations. My goal was to learn and acquire as much knowledge as possible to be able to develop appropriate solutions to the problems I witnessed. That’s how my colleagues and I started a community-based initiative called Mothers and Daughters Care Initiative to create awareness around issues of SRHR affecting young women and girls and empower them with advocacy skills and cascade these skills to their peers. We mainly work in the informal settlements of Nairobi city.

Many young people in East Africa may not have open and honest conversations with their families or communities about family planning and reproductive health. How did you navigate these conversations and find support from those around you?

One of my favourite subjects is intergenerational dialogues on sexual and reproductive health and rights and equipping young people with tools and accurate information to be able to have these conversations not only at home with elders but also at the policy level. How I have managed to do that is I have had experience working with the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning and several other youth grassroots organisations where we have engaged county governments in Kajiado and Narok counties and tackled sociocultural barriers to reproductive health in communities. Through dialogue with community elders, we are able to explain why issues of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights are important.

In your experience, what do you believe are the most important factors for ensuring that youth in East Africa have access to the family planning and reproductive services they need?"

Young people need information and life skills. They also need opportunities to be able to use the information they receive; opportunities, for example, to engage directly with policymakers to share their human stories and know that their experiences can positively influence and shape their generation and the ones to come.

Partnership with service providers is also important for young people to get services. Through partnerships, for example, we have been able to organize free family planning days for young people.

Young people also need socioeconomic empowerment. Last year, in my social impact work, we conducted a study across East Africa to find out why young people were not prioritizing their sexual and reproductive health. We found out that when a young person wakes up, the first thing they think about is money and food, things around financial independence, never about sexual and reproductive health. If a young person does not have food and is offered to trade sex for food, they may not think about the possibility of getting an unintended pregnancy or an HIV infection or being abused in the process, but the money they are being offered. So, we realized that young people need socioeconomic empowerment and skills that they can use to generate income, or we will not be setting them up for success.

How do you envision the future of family planning/reproductive health services, and what role do you see yourself playing in this future?

Looking at the current political environment in Kenya, family planning and sexual and reproductive health is not a priority issue. It is also becoming less of a priority at the global level. Opposition against family planning, sexual and reproductive health and rights including safe abortion is growing stronger both locally and globally, which in turn affects political goodwill and how resources are allocated to such programs. From that lens, there is an opportunity to make an impact, but it won’t be easy. I love challenges though because that’s how you can cause sustainable change. In my work as a social impact consultant, I am focusing on empowering communities and organisations especially community-based organisations to focus on movement building because when you harness the power of critical mass, you are able to influence and make change at community and policy levels. I am also studying the opposition. I am a facilitator of opposition monitoring around issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Secondly, we are young people, and we are dreamers; we want to see success right here and right now. We want to see the family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights landscape change. However, we realized that change does not always happen so easily. So, we are focusing on having small wins, one win at a time. A small win could be changing community narratives around sexual and reproductive health and rights or generating new evidence because you will realize that most of the data, we use today are pre-COVID data. We need to work proactively to create a better future for girls, women, young people, and the entire population in its diversity.

Family planning and reproductive health are integral to the well-being of individuals and communities. To make informed decisions about family planning, consulting professionals is essential. The diverse range of family planning methods available ensures that there is something for everyone. Your choice should reflect your specific needs, preferences, and lifestyle. What truly matters is that you have access to accurate information and support to make choices that promote your reproductive health and overall well-being. Remember, your choices matter, and you have the power to take control of your reproductive future.

Brian Mutebi, MSc

Contributing Writer

Brian Mutebi is an award-winning journalist, development communication specialist, and women’s rights campaigner with 17 years of solid writing and documentation experience on gender, women’s health and rights, and development for national and international media, civil society organizations, and UN agencies. The Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health named him one of its “120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders” on the strength of his journalism and media advocacy on family planning and reproductive health. He is a 2017 recipient of the Gender Justice Youth Award in Africa. In 2018, Mutebi was included on Africa’s prestigious list of “100 Most Influential Young Africans.” Mutebi holds a master's degree in Gender Studies from Makerere University and an MSc in Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy and Programming from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.