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Author ORCID Identifier



Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jacqueline Mosselson

Subject Categories

International and Comparative Education | International Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion | Vocational Education | Women's Health


This dissertation examines young women’s school-based sexual and reproductive health (SRH) experiences in relation to a peer-led education program at a vocational school in Machakos, Kenya. The phenomenological study centers their voices to understand their SRH challenges and the program designed to meet them. Studies have noted the importance of school-based peer education programs in improving young people’s health behaviors. However, there is a dearth of evidence on how SRH peer-led education programs address SRH challenges in developing countries from young women’s perspectives. Additionally, while certain gender and cultural norms contribute to some of the unique SRH challenges that young women face, they are not the only contributing factors. Yet research about young women’s situations in Africa often reduces the challenges that young women face to “harmful” cultural and traditional practices. Guided by a Postcolonial feminist theoretical lens, this study recognizes that forces influencing women’s education and health operate at many levels; “the body, home, communities, nations, international political economies” (Stahaeli & Lawson, 1994, pp.98).

In the study, participants revealed that their experiences are influenced by a range of factors related to contemporary and historical social, political, religious and cultural structures in their contexts. At the macro level, poverty is a daily reality for young women and profoundly shapes their lives, including the choices they make to combat its effects. The SRH challenges that young women face include school dropouts, early pregnancies, lack of income opportunities, menstruation management problems, abortions and limited access to comprehensive SRH education and services. Additionally, teachers and parents experience discomfort in providing young women with holistic and comprehensive sex education due to religious, moral and cultural reservations. Through participants’ narratives, the study shows that when seeking to address SRH issues through peer education programs, there many cross-cutting issues emerge. These include poverty, gender dynamics, cultural and religious practices. Overall, the intersections of young women’s experiences underscore the need to have SRH education approaches that are participatory and inclusive of their voices to mitigate the impact of poverty on SRH.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License