Student takes first place at Kenya Scholars and Studies Association conference

Ayieko, Sylvia A
Sylvia Ayieko

Sylvia Ayieko, a doctoral student studying health promotion and behavioral sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, took home top honors for her presentation detailing the impact of the “What Women Want” campaign in Kenya, at the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association conference Sept. 13 and 14.

What Women Want was a global advocacy campaign designed to improve quality maternal and reproductive healthcare for women and girls and strengthen health systems. The campaign was launched on April 11, 2018—International Maternal Health and Rights Day—with the goal of querying one million women and girls worldwide about their top priority for quality maternal and reproductive health services.

More than 130,000 women and girls across Kenya participated in the campaign by responding to one question: My one request for quality reproductive and maternal health care services is? 

Ayieko is a program officer with the White Ribbon Alliance in Kenya and helped coordinate the collection of ”What Women Want” surveys in her native country.

“The campaign was to ensure that the voices of women and girls were heard, and that maternal and reproductive healthcare services and programs should focus on the needs, preferences and values that the women articulate,” says Ayieko. “Although some services are extremely beneficial such as ultrasounds, women were only asking for basic things. Respect, sanitation in health facilities, sanitary towels for girls and better roads to health facilities.”

According to the White Ribbon Alliance, in Kenya, 8,000 women and 40,000 newborns die before, during or after pregnancy every year. The country also has an overall teen pregnancy rate of 18% – with some regions of the country reporting as high as 40%.