As the Executive Director of Lwala Community Alliance (Lwala), I lead a team of 160 people who are fighting to advance access to a full spectrum of reproductive services in Western Kenya. Lwala has seen a 300% increase in family planning utilization, compared with a no change in service visits at control sites. In 2016, Lwala will conduct 450 safe deliveries and provide family planning services to over 2,500 women and girls. Prior to Lwala, I served as the Director of Operations for Segal Family Foundation, overseeing an $11m grant portfolio with a key focus on reproductive health and sexual rights. That portfolio was responsible for connecting over 1.5 million people to a family planning method annually.
As a new mother, I've felt the joy of having a child when I was prepared to care for him. In my early twenties, I relied on nonprofit providers for all of my reproductive health needs. Those services allowed me to pursue a career and build a family in a time that was best for me. Every girl everywhere should have that opportunity. In places like Western Kenya, where maternal mortality in 20 times higher than the US, access to family planning not only opens opportunities, it saves lives.
Family planning is often a politically charged issue, evoking the emotions of gatekeepers of health access. The struggle is to help people see reproductive health access as an essential package of services designed to women and babies. At Lwala, we fight to make sure every delivery is a safe delivery, which has cut infant mortality in half. That effort takes place alongside family planning outreach. In this way, we're framing reproductive health services as an essential public good.
Men & boys are essential gatekeeper to health access for women and girls. The challenge is to engage men & boys as allies, while continuing to advance family planning as an individual human right. At Lwala, all of our programs are community-driven, meaning that they are designed, implemented, & evaluated by community members. This means that change happens slowly, but it also means that change is more lasting. We're engaging in multi-demential dialogues aimed at bringing in men as FP champions.
By 2020, my team will drastically reduce teenage pregnancy and adolescent HIV infections in our region of 100,000 people. At the same time, we'll ensure a 95% skilled delivery rate and a 50% reduction in under 5 deaths. Even more, we'll build a model of community-led reproductive health care that can be shared with other communities.