By Bradley Parks
Kenya's infant mortality shows the fastest rate of decline among the 20 countries in sub-Sahara Africa, according to the World Bank. Among the possible reasons for this decline are the efforts of public health workers like Aspen Institute's 2013 New Voices Fellow Jane Otai, and targeted new public health projects such as the Tupange initiative, an urban reproductive health project focused on improving the health of women and families in the urban slums of Kenya. "Tupange" means "let's plan" in Kiswahili. Otai's work with the Tupange initiative can be added to 20 years of her work in Kenya's slums, providing women access to family planning, prenatal care, HIV counseling and testing, screening for cervical cancer and sexual abuse, immunizations and sanitation. Growing up in a poor community in Nairobi, Otaiï¿½s memories of the difficult environment and lack of access to family planning techniques have helped shape her work. Otai spoke with allAfricaï¿½s Bradley Parks about her work in family planning with women across Kenya.
Tell me a bit about where you grew up. How have your experiences brought you into this work?
I grew up in a very poor community in Nairobi. The church helped me to go to school and I was able to acquire my primary and secondary school education and I succeeded to go to university. But it was a struggle with no school fees sometimes, no food sometimes. Clothing was a problem – all those things that a girl would need in life, it wasnï¿½t a given that I was going to get them. But through all the years I think the church stood with me and I was able to go through school and acquire my university education and came back to work in the informal settlement.
How would you describe the successes and the challenges of the Tupange initiative to this point?
We are covering five cities in Kenya. The program has so far been very successful with more women and girls having access to family planning, becoming aware of the benefits of timing and spacing pregnancies. We have seen an 11-percent increase in…