238647 A Community-Based Approach to Improving the Lives and Well-Being of Young Women in Rural Kenya: The Athi River Female Empowerment Program

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Leah C. Neubauer, MA, EdD (c) , Master of Public Health Program; Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Andrew J. Riplinger, MA , Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Raphael Gakinya, BA , Youth For Life-Kenya, Athi River, Kenya
Gary W. Harper, PhD, MPH , Master of Public Health Program; Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Alexandra G. Murphy, PhD , College of Communication, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Peter Kilonzo, BA , Youth For Life-Kenya, Athi River, Kenya
Kenya is home to over 38 million people, with the 6th highest HIV prevalence rate in sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 3 out of 5 HIV-infected Kenyans are female. HIV prevalence rates among women (ages 15-64) are 8.7% compared to men (ages 15-64) at 5.6%. This disparity is worse among youth; young women ages 15-24 are 4 times more likely to be HIV infected. Community assessment findings demonstrated that young women miss school when menstruating or engage in sexual acts with older men in exchange for money to purchase sanitary towels (maxi pads) so they could attend school. Over half of Kenyans live on less than $1/ day; many young women lack sanitary towel access. To address human rights and STI/HIV risk for vulnerable women, international partnership members developed an HIV prevention and reproductive health program designed to increase: a) feminine hygiene product access, b) self/community awareness, c) education/school attendance, and d) income-generating opportunities.The multi-session critical health education program combines Kenyan and US evidenced-based approaches with peer training, sanitary towel distribution, a health resource center, and school/community-based health fairs and awareness campaigns.In 2010, the program reached over 1100 young women, dispersing over 12,300 sanitary napkins. Decreases in school-based teasing and increases in school attendance, confidence in addressing one's reproductive health, and participant and community member involvement were reported. Tackling gender disparities is enriched with collaborative, multi-level approaches involving individuals, schools and key community sectors (including men/young boys). Additional programming on life skills, sanitary-towel creation, and income-generating projects are in progress.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
To describe the role of critical health education in addressing gender disparities for young women in Kenya To identify the key components of the community-based Athi River Female Empowerment Program To describe the community-based action research process utilized by the international, collaborative partnership

Keywords: Women's Health, Community-Based Health Promotion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator of this study
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.