International Women's Day: Perspectives from Kenya

Elsie Minja-Mwaniki

CCP | Communications Specialist

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on Monday, I’m reminded of my recent trip to Kenya – my birth country – which really revealed how much work is still needed to enhance the situation of women around the world.

As part of the research team here at K4Health, I’m responsible in part for our in-country needs assessment activities that aim to uncover the health information needs of key audiences. Armed with qualitative research experience as well as an understanding that infidelity, or “dogging version 2.0,” has become rampant in Kenya, I started posing a question to myself day-in and day-out during my short visit:  “How many women can a married man possibly want in his bed”? The answer is discouraging.

In the three years that I had been away a lot has improved in the country – including the roads, dining out, and nightlife – but it has come with a price. The art of infidelity (especially in marriages) has been “souped up” and packaged as dogging version 2.0. This phenomenon is becoming rampant and many households in Nairobi are experiencing it in one way or another.

During my trip, I was taken aback by the laissez-faire attitude that married folks have about having multiple concurrent partners considering Kenya has one of the highest incidence and prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. Not surprisingly, conversations I overheard in pubs revolved around how many “chips funga,” which is street slang for easily available women, a man had had sex with.

This is incredibly detrimental in some African countries, like Kenya, where it is difficult for married women to negotiate use of contraception with their husbands due to cultural mores. So when unfaithful men come home after a date with “chips funga” and demand sex without protection, the situation becomes dire.

We as African women need to be empowered enough to ask our significant others to use protection if we feel that fidelity has been compromised! We need to be pro-active and protect ourselves from getting sick, even in societies that promote the submission of women and where women have no say when it comes to matters involving their sexual lives.

Although huge strides have been made for women worldwide and there is a lot to celebrate, we must remember that there is a lot more work to be done. Here at K4Health, we are trying our best to ensure that the work continues and the voices of all women are heard and their needs met.

If you want more information on multiple and concurrent partnerships, we recently published a new collaborative toolkit developed by Family Health International solely focused on the topic.

Elsie Mwaniki, MPH

Program Specialist