Innovation for information: How hotlines bridge gaps in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) access
Like much of Africa, Kenya has a rapidly growing youth population. To negotiate a safe transition to adulthood young people have to overcome a range of sexual and reproductive health risks.
According to the most recent DHS Survey (2014), 15% of women and 22% of men become sexually active by the age of 15. Use of contraception is low for this age group - only 10% of young women aged 15-19 use some method of family planning and nearly one in five are pregnant or have had their first child.
How young people access SRHR information varies. Social, legal and cultural barriers can prevent them from gaining the knowledge they need to lead safe and healthy lives.
Despite Kenya’s National Guidelines on youth-friendly services, even if a young person has the right and the knowledge to decide about their sexual and reproductive health, they struggle to find appropriate services. Comprehensive sexuality education in schools is not standardised and the information provided falls short of international standards.
Operating within this context, organisations across the country have taken steps to improve the situation. Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH), a health rights civil society organisation and AmplifyChange grantee based in Nairobi, started an innovative approach to SRHR information sharing: the Aunty Jane Hotline.
The process is simple - individuals call the Hotline number and are connected to a team who provide non-judgemental information on SRHR. The information covers contraception, STIs, safe abortion, relationships, and safe sex practices.
The Aunty Jane Hotline is important because it provides an avenue where girls and women in Kenya can access safe reproductive health information, which is accurate and unbiased.
Mageda, manager of Aunty Jane Hotline.
The Hotline team collaborates with local health clinics who provide youth-friendly services, enabling them to provide referrals for callers. If phone lines are busy, calls and text messages can be connected via a computer system, allowing for a secondary method of response. During closing hours, callers can engage with the Interactive Voice Response system, which provides options to select SRHR information. Callers can also request a call back.
Beyond providing information and referrals, the Hotline allows individuals to speak with a friendly voice.
“The Aunty Jane Hotline is important because it provides an avenue where girls and women in Kenya can access safe reproductive health information, which is accurate and unbiased. [It] goes back to African cultures of learning and listening to each other in a safe and non-judgmental space, which was traditionally the role of our Aunties. They helped us understand our body changes and how to take care of ourselves,” says Mageda, manager of Aunty Jane Hotline.
“Aunty Jane Hotline is a pioneer when it comes to mobile health because it fills the gaps between demand and access to supply. Young people have access to mobile phones and the internet, so it is also very sustainable going forward.
People should take up this tool and call the hotline!”
Building a movement for better SRHR information through hotlines
Through AmplifyChange support, TICAH and Aunty Jane Hotline have grown to become a pan-African provider of mentorship to other hotline operators and activists.
TICAH’s role as the lead on the MAMA Network, which unites organisations across the region to eliminate barriers to safe abortion, means they are a key resource for other organisations planning to start their own hotlines.
Jade Maina, the executive director of TICAH, explains, “TICAH is currently implementing a mentoring system whereby organisations hosting hotlines or interested in hosting hotlines meet regularly through webinars or an online platform called Loomio to share best practice.
From these conversations, MAMA members get to hear what others are doing and identify strategies to improve their hotlines.”
The Ms. Rosy Hotline in Nigeria is an example of the collaboration’s success.
Another approach taken by TICAH’s Aunty Jane team is engaging young people through social media, where most callers find out about the hotline number.
Connecting through social media allows information to reach individuals who may not otherwise call a phone hotline. By posting content on Twitter and Facebook, the Aunty Jane team destigmatise the topic of SRHR and talk about it in a fun, non-intimidating way.
What’s next for Aunty Jane?
The team are working to reach more rural areas where women and girls have less access to SRHR resources. This includes improving marketing strategies and materials; collaborating with new partners to disseminate the hotline number; improving monitoring and evaluation to tailor information to callers’ needs; building their social media strategy; and negotiating a switch to a toll-free number, eliminating costs for callers.
Aunty Jane Hotline is contributing to a future where all people - regardless of age, gender, and location - can access the information they need to fulfil their sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya – and beyond.
Are you thinking of setting up your own SRHR hotline to #AmplifyYourMovement?
Download our infographic to see top tips from the experts, including AmplifyChange grantees, TICAH, GIWYN, and Samsara