Empowering young women with family-planning services in urban Kenya.

The Challenge

Access to contraceptives and family-planning information helps women in developing countries lead healthier, more productive lives. Every woman should have the right to control her own future. In Kenya, however, only 53 percent of all women are currently using modern contraceptive methods, and the rate is only 39 percent among Kenya’s urban poor.

Misconceptions about sexual health lead to many accidental pregnancies and a culture of fear about preventative measures. A lot of myths also surround the use of family-planning methods. For instance, some women believe that if they use contraceptives, they will never be able to conceive, or they will no longer enjoy intercourse. 

The Jhpiego-Tupange Project

The Jhpiego-Tupange Project—which receives support from the foundation as well as the international nonprofit health organization Jhpiego—aims to increase contraceptive use among the urban poor in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu by 20 percent. By operating in 68 public and private health facilities, it is also helping change perceptions about contraceptives among Kenya’s most vulnerable women.

The Jhpiego-Tupange Project works toward these goals by using known strategies and innovating in the area of public health provision. The project emphasizes strong communications and aims to make family planning and contraceptive discussions a routine aspect of women’s health care.

One of the ways Tupange has done this is by integrating family-planning advice into postnatal checkups. Staff ensure that each mother and child is seen two weeks after birth and again six weeks after birth, when they discuss family planning with the mother. For many mothers, this is their first exposure to the idea of family planning.

Tupange has distilled lessons like these in an online toolkit to help other health care outlets adopt best practices and improve the overall quality of Kenya’s family-planning resources.

Impact: Ann Mitu's Story

By providing women with safe and healthy ways to control their fertility, Tupange—which means “to plan” in Swahili—is helping increase women’s educational and economic opportunities.

Ann Mitu’s story is typical of many Kenyan young women and illustrates Tupange’s impact. At 19, before she even received her school results, Mitu discovered she was pregnant. At the time, she had only heard of emergency contraceptives and had little understanding of sexual health. Instead of progressing to university as she had planned, she faced an uncertain future.

With no support from her parents and few other options, she moved in with the father of her child. Mitu’s life was thrown into upheaval again after her partner passed away and she became a single mother. But with Tupange’s help, Mitu was able to learn more about contraceptive options and take control of her life once again.

After Mitu’s positive experience with Tupange, she was inspired to start a project called Young Mothers Africa, which provides support, information, and community to young women who become pregnant unintentionally. “When she gets young mothers who are pregnant, she escorts them to the clinic and she makes sure she hands these sensitive young ladies to us so that we may do individual counseling,” said Tupange nurse Pamela Obuya.

Mitu encourages the women to stay independent by continuing their education or learning a trade. Her goal is to see a generation of Kenyan women with fewer teen pregnancies, and a generation of mothers who are self-confident and empowered. “If we have young mothers who are empowered, we have so many women who will be leaders of tomorrow,” she said.