When Jane Otai walks through the Nairobi slums, she is no stranger. No stranger to the women living in corrugated-metal shacks or worse, no stranger to the poverty, overcrowded conditions and health problems devastating families.
Most of all, she is no stranger to the huge boost that family planning services can provide for the urban poor. “I really lived within the urban slum growing up, I am a product of this community,’’ says the 47-year-old mother of three. Raised in a churchgoing family with seven children, Jane got the opportunity to go to school through support from her church. Although she was afforded this opportunity, Otai recalls that as a young girl she had neither shoes nor a uniform, and getting enough to eat was often an issue for her and her family.
Otai attended Makerere University in Kampala and got her master’s degree from United States International University in Nairobi. It wasn’t’t until she finished her education and started a job that Jane had children. She credits access to family planning as the reason for her success. “Because somebody told me about family planning very early I was able to take it up and be able to space my children and delay my first pregnancy. And that is the reason I am here,” said Otai.
Today Otai is an Adolescent Health Advisor for Jhpiego, a non-profit global health affiliate of Johns Hopkins University. Currently she is working on Adolescent Health and supporting Jhpiego offices globally to ensure adolescents have access to health services and information, including reproductive health services. This will ensure that young girls are empowered to make informed decisions concerning their health. Under Jhpiego, Jane has worked to provide women access to family planning, prenatal care, HIV counseling and testing, screening for cervical cancer and sexual abuse, immunizations and sanitation just to name a few. After identifying rape as a significant cause of unwanted pregnancies, she started a program to fight sexual violence.