11 May 2023
Promoting gender equality through sexual and reproductive healthcare – CHASE (Community Health and Sustainable Environment) Africa
CHASE (Community Health and Sustainable Environment) Africa supports local partners in East Africa to start up and run community health programmes to reach remote, rural communities that have poor access to health services, and a high unmet need for family planning.
We support 13 organisations, primarily in Kenya, with two partners in Uganda and we are currently looking to start a pilot project in Tanzania.
In 2020 the Guttmacher Institute found that 218 million women in low- and middle-income countries have an unmet need for modern contraception, meaning that they desire to limit or delay childbearing but are using no contraception. In Kenya, among women aged 15-49, 1,800,000 (23%) have an unmet need for family planning, while in Uganda this figure is 2,400,000 women (43%) among women aged 15-49.
Our partners all run community health programmes, with a particular focus on women’s sexual and reproductive health – but also covering child health issues like immunisation and provision of general health services.
To date we have provided 1,587,245 healthcare and family planning services. We provide funding, as well as technical programme support, and support with organisational development.
How do we bring healthcare to rural communities?
Our partners do a lot of information and awareness raising, organising a wide range of community dialogues, and supporting Community Health Workers to visit people in their homes. This aims to tackle harmful social norms and generate demand for services, as well as addressing gender equity and gender equality. These activities are followed up with mobile clinics and backpack nurse outreach to deliver healthcare and family planning services.
Some of our partners also bring improvements to women’s lives through holistic programmes that tackle both human and environmental health at a community level. Through activities like building fuel efficient cookstoves, climate smart agriculture, and developing tree nurseries and woodlots, women can save time. They can also improve food security and build resilience to climate change, in parallel to improving their own and their family’s health.
Developing a thriving Partner Network
CHASE Africa and our local partners are immensely proud of our Partner Network. We build strong relationships with each partner and encourage multi-directional learning through a variety of means; funding trainings and partner exchange visits, as well as facilitating regular webinars and an annual conference in Kenya where the CHASE Africa Partner Network come together.
Collaborating with conservation organisations
We have supported seven conservation organisations, including Big Life Foundation and Save the Elephants, to start up a community health programme reaching the communities they are already working with. We have demonstrated that they are able to play a role in information provision, demand creation, and facilitating improved service delivery.
We would like to share this experience with other conservation organisations. In 2021 we developed a practical, step by step guide on how to set up a health programme, which explains the benefits of integrating family planning provision into conservation activities. You can read it here: Supporting community and ecosystem health.
Addressing the urgent needs of adolescents and youth
In the last few years, we have supported several of our partners to run adolescent and youth-focused programmes. The programmes raise awareness of their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and help to reduce the high rates of teenage pregnancy, school drop-out, early marriage and gender-based violence (including FGM). These programmes combine both in-school and out-of-school activities. All our partners take a rights-based approach.
Our latest project with Mount Kenya Trust, launched in 2022, addresses the increase in the number of adolescent pregnancies in Meru County. From January to June 2021 the Ministry of Health recorded 7,863 pregnancies among 10 to 19-year olds. 698 of these were in girls between the ages of 10-14.
Supporting women to advocate for gender equality in their communities
Nashiru*, a mother of five from the Maasai Mara, started using contraception after attending a mobile clinic run by our partner, The Maa Trust, where she heard a nurse talk about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
“I started using family planning after my fifth child. I had never used any family planning method, increasing my chances of getting unwanted pregnancies. I am now telling other women in the village that it’s very important that we go for family planning. The moment you plan your family size, you’ll have enough strength and time to go and do other activities which will improve the standard of your family. I don’t want any more children as I’d like to provide a quality life for my five children.
The project has been beneficial to me and for the whole community by providing services and information. There are so many women like me in the village who are not informed and cannot access the reproductive health services and lack support from their spouses and the culture.”
You can read more about Nashiru and our work to promote gender equality in the Maasai Mara with the Maa Trust on our website.
A year of change
2022 was a year of change for CHASE Africa and a step forward in maturity for the organisation. Our Founding Director retired after ten years in the role working pro-bono. We recruited a new CEO, and moved to new offices in Rode, Somerset. We have also grown the team, setting up the charity for its next phase of growth. We recently changed charitable structure from a charitable trust to a CIO.
Can you help strengthen our safeguarding practices?
We are in the process of strengthening our safeguarding and are seeking advice and collaboration with other organisations that have experience of safeguarding when working with local partners in East Africa; especially those working in health and working with young people.
*name changed to protect her identity
Blog and photo kindly supplied by CHASE Africa
Main photo- CHASE Africa; RCRA outreach in Rwenzori hills
Originally posted 7th March 2023
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