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Research Article

‘What are you doing here?’: (mis)trust, COVID-19 pandemic, and sexual reproductive health rights

Winstoun MugaWinstoun Muga

Winstoun Muga is a researcher officer (MA Project Planning and Management) at the African Population and Health Research Center in the Sexuality Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Adolescents Health unit. Currently, Winstoun is involved in projects that focus on expanding access to reproductive health services in under-served communities. This includes working closely with healthcare providers, community leaders, and policymakers to design and implement programs that enhance access to contraceptives, antenatal care, and maternal health services. He has facilitated training sessions to empower healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to provide quality SRH care. I have actively contributed to initiatives promoting gender equality and addressing the unique SRH needs of marginalized groups, recognizing the intersectionality of reproductive health with broader social and economic factors. This has involved collaborating with stake-holders to design inclusive interventions that prioritize the rights and health of all individuals, regardless of their background or identity.

,
Emmy Kageha IgonyaEmmy Kageha Igonya

Emmy Kageha Igonya is an Associate Research Scientist (Ph.D. Medical Anthropology) at the African Populations and Health Research Center in the Sexuality Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Adolescents Health unit. Emmy’s research interests overlap issues of sexuality, epidemics, care, gender, economic empowerment and social justice and inclusion. She has conducted a series of research on health and social related issues such as communicable diseases [HIV, COVID-19, tuberculosis], support groups, digital finance services and mental health, m-health, social protection, sexual reproductive health and rights, drug use, sex work, and sexual and gender minorities. In her current position, she has worked on three projects: maternal mental health; COVID-19 and sexual reproductive health; and challenging the politics of social exclusion. For the COVID 19/SRHR study conducted in five countries, as the lead researcher, she provided technical support to the research consortium. In her current project: challenging the Politics of social exclusion, Emmy is the sexual and gender minorities lead working in Kenya and Rwanda. Her most recent work is on sexual reproductive health and gender transformative approach, political economy analysis of social exclusion among sexual and gender minorities, and public perceptions and lived experiences of sexual and gender minorities. For research uptake, she works closely with the healthcare workers, advocacy actors, and sexual and gender minority organizations.

Abstract

We explore how the government’s messaging on COVID-19 pandemic response perpetuated mistrust and impeded people’s ability to access and utilise sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. While the need for SRH information increased, public health messages fostered mistrust in sexual and reproductive health services. We draw on in-depth interviews and focus group discussions conducted among women, girls, and healthcare providers in five African countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda) between May and October 2021. We show how trust was largely eroded through preventive measures, such as stay-at-home directives, social distancing, curfews, and lockdowns. We argue that, on one hand, while state-led epidemic preparedness and response were geared towards the common good, i.e., controlling the virus, on the other hand, de-prioritisation of much-needed services for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), as well as a lack of transparency among some of the service providers, bred mistrust in healthcare. We conclude that ambiguity in communication and implementation of COVID-19 prevention measures further compromised access to and utilisation of sexual and reproductive health services.

Keywords

COVID-19pandemic response(mis)trustaccesshealthcaresexual and reproductive health and rightsAfrica
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Published on: 19 December 2023
Volume: 11
Issue: Supplementary issue 6
Article ID: 049
Pages:49 - 67
Copyright statement
© The author(s) 2023.
Cite this article
Muga with Igonya (2023), ' ‘What are you doing here?’: (mis)trust, COVID-19 pandemic, and sexual reproductive health rights ', Journal of the British Academy, 11(Supplementary issue 6): 049 https://doi.org/10.5871/jba/011s6.049

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‘What are you doing here?’: (mis)trust, COVID-19 pandemic, and sexual reproductive health rights

Winstoun MugaWinstoun Muga

Winstoun Muga is a researcher officer (MA Project Planning and Management) at the African Population and Health Research Center in the Sexuality Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Adolescents Health unit. Currently, Winstoun is involved in projects that focus on expanding access to reproductive health services in under-served communities. This includes working closely with healthcare providers, community leaders, and policymakers to design and implement programs that enhance access to contraceptives, antenatal care, and maternal health services. He has facilitated training sessions to empower healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to provide quality SRH care. I have actively contributed to initiatives promoting gender equality and addressing the unique SRH needs of marginalized groups, recognizing the intersectionality of reproductive health with broader social and economic factors. This has involved collaborating with stake-holders to design inclusive interventions that prioritize the rights and health of all individuals, regardless of their background or identity.

,
Emmy Kageha IgonyaEmmy Kageha Igonya

Emmy Kageha Igonya is an Associate Research Scientist (Ph.D. Medical Anthropology) at the African Populations and Health Research Center in the Sexuality Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Adolescents Health unit. Emmy’s research interests overlap issues of sexuality, epidemics, care, gender, economic empowerment and social justice and inclusion. She has conducted a series of research on health and social related issues such as communicable diseases [HIV, COVID-19, tuberculosis], support groups, digital finance services and mental health, m-health, social protection, sexual reproductive health and rights, drug use, sex work, and sexual and gender minorities. In her current position, she has worked on three projects: maternal mental health; COVID-19 and sexual reproductive health; and challenging the politics of social exclusion. For the COVID 19/SRHR study conducted in five countries, as the lead researcher, she provided technical support to the research consortium. In her current project: challenging the Politics of social exclusion, Emmy is the sexual and gender minorities lead working in Kenya and Rwanda. Her most recent work is on sexual reproductive health and gender transformative approach, political economy analysis of social exclusion among sexual and gender minorities, and public perceptions and lived experiences of sexual and gender minorities. For research uptake, she works closely with the healthcare workers, advocacy actors, and sexual and gender minority organizations.