A platform for voices supporting women's rights
Whilst pregnancy is joyous time for any expectant parent, for women in Korogocho – one of Kenya’s largest slums – it means increased vulnerability to crime. For women who cannot afford to pay hospital bills, home births are nothing short of cotton wool and a razor, whilst those who are lucky enough to afford medical treatment, must make the treacherous journey to and from the nearest hospital, risking opportunistic assault.
For Aggrey Otieno, a human rights activist, this scenario is exactly what he is trying to prevent. Otieno is the founder of Pambazuka Mashinani, meaning “grassroots awakening” in Swahili. His organisation is based on the credo of empowering the poor of Nairobi’s urban slums. Offering a number of services around healthcare and reproductive health, Otieno’s organisation is now bringing healthcare directly to the poor.
In addition to community education workshops and mobile health units, Otieno has set up 24-hour medical centres called “telemedicine centres”. From these centres, medical advice can be distributed to women via text message and assistance can be sent to them via mobile units and women can even be transported to the nearest hospital, if necessary. Doctors review the texts messages sent in by women and offer medical advice and support. One doctor who works on the programme stated: “So many women are dying during delivery, dying during pregnancy…In the slums it is due to poverty and a lack of awareness and transport”.
Otieno has identified the ability of technology to empower urban healthcare services to the poor. 8% of Kenyans, regardless of income, own a mobile phone and Otieno hopes that by tapping into this technology he can prevent countless deaths during labour. He believes that his education programmes have the power to disseminate throughout Kenya’s urban areas: “I believe that by empowering one woman, I have empowered so many communities”.