On November 13, 2019. Brian Odhiambo Otieno was a guest at Consolata Safe House, in Caren Nairobi.
He was in the company of Ida Odinga, wife to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Here, they came face to face with the dragon of sexual exploitation of teenage girls.
“There were girls aged between 14 and 16, pregnant from their fathers and people close to them,” he said.
And after a brief session, Mama Ida came up with an idea that would help the society slay this dragon.
This is how Linda Kesho program was born.
Mama Ida Odinga Trust
It became one of the programs implemented by Mama Ida Odinga Trust.
Odhiambo Otieno, as he is commonly known, is the Linda Kesho program Lead.
Linda Kesho, a Swahili word which loosely translate to ‘secure tomorrow’.
The program seeks to mentor young students to focus on education, provide comprehensive Sexual Reproductive Health education, and help them identify and build talents.
At 25, I had lived my life to the fullest, and I started thinking about tomorrowOdhiambo Otieno
When Lake Region Bulletin caught up with him, Odhiambo Otieno was taking a rest in Kisumu after a successful Linda Kesho activity in Migori the previous day.
At 29, talks about young girls and their future has become his cup of tea.
But how could such a young man be so engrossed with such talks?
“At 25, I had lived my life to the fullest, and I started thinking about tomorrow,” he said as we settled down for the interview.
Odhiambo Otieno was born on September 8, 1993 to Mzee Paul Okombo and Julita Matete.
“I was the third born in the family, but the first among boys,” he said.
But it was his grandmother Lewnora Ongili who inspired him into this new found love.
At 103 years of age, she is still so much attached to the future, and she pays school fees for some childrenOdhiambo Otieno
“My grandmother is still strong and alive at our Miriu village home in Kabondo Kasipul,” he said.
“At 103 years of age, she is still so much attached to the future, and she pays school fees for some children,” Odhiambo Otieno added.
According to Odhiambo, at young age, he used to have chats with the grandmother, whom she discovered was so visionary.
Apart from encouraging him to always work for his future, the old woman would support him whenever she could.
And after completing his Media and Communication degree course from Maseno University at the age of 22, he started working towards realizing that future.
After three years in employment, he felt he had achieved that future.
“I was already living what I had envisioned as the good life,” he said.
And at 25, he begun to think about getting a better future, not for himself, but for the other young people he interacted with.
For me, tomorrow is not time, but a place. So how do you get to that tomorrow?Odhiambo Otieno
It was here that he joined the Mama Ida Odinga Trust, and would soon be appointed to be the program lead for the Linda Kesho.
The program targets teenage girls and boys, with the aim of securing their tomorrow.
“For me, tomorrow is not time, but a place. So how do you get to that tomorrow?” he posed.
Odhiambo says broken ties between teenagers and their parents have led to the teenagers lacking support systems.
With this breakdown, the teenagers get out there to experiment life, and find themselves in the bondage of early pregnancies, drug abuse, among others.
Linda Kesho program hence came up with a strategy which involves the young people in chatting the solutions to the challenges they face.
According to Odhiambo Otieno, one of the methodologies of doing this is through community engagements.
Here, leaders within various locatities come together to have candid discussions with the teenagers.
“We have chiefs, politicians, religious leaders, and opinion leaders within the communities joining hands,” he said.
The method, he said, has seen many teenagers open up, and share so much to the shock of these stakeholders who sometimes mistake them for being too young and clueless.
The program also utilizes the media to hold engagement forums, with Odhiambo Otieno saying parents are gaining interest in this.
“We have had over 380, 000 direct impressions, with another three million impressions through the media, especially radios,” he said.
The program initially focused on six counties of; Nairobi, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Nakuru and Siaya, which had recorded high numbers of teenage pregnancies.
“But recent reports have indicated that the graph is going down in these areas, and this calls for rolling it in other counties across the country, which are now showing exponential increase in the cases,” he added.
Breaking the cultural norms on speaking about sex has been the greatest achievement.
“When starting the discussions, the teenagers appear timid and closed, but with time, they open up and talk their hearts out, including sex positions,” he said.
He adds: “These youths speak a different language. I love them. They know what they are doing. All they need is guidance so that they understand the impacts of what they do.”
A word from Mama Ida
Mama Ida has committed to improve the policy framework that will see the Mama Ida Odinga Health Clubs in all primary and secondary schools to help access to information on reproductive health as they share on mentorship.
She urged parents to eat together with their children on the same table to increase the bonding and encourage their children to open up.
“Parents must also be vigilant by befriending their children to understand the intrigues in their daily lives,” she said.
She committed to promote both girls’ and boys’ affairs as shed urge teenagers to abstain from sex.