|MIT Department: D-lab, Linguistics, Philosophy
Faculty Mentor: Prof. Sally Haslanger
Undergraduate Institution: Earlham College
Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan
My name is Maida Raza, and I hail from Karachi, Pakistan. I am a rising Senior at Earlham College, pursuing a Bachelor’s in Economics and Mathematics. I have been interested in the issues of gender justice for as long as I can recall. I am specifically interested in how religious, political, and economic institutions impact women’s social life participation in Pakistan. And whether patriarchy thrives in economically dysfunctional institutions. I hope to ponder deeply on these questions as an economics PhD student.
In my free time, I enjoy reading newspaper and cookbooks, watching sci-fi and thriller movies/tv-series, listening to Pakistani classical music, and spending time with my friends and family.
Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Materials
Maida Raza1, Sally Haslanger2
1Earlham College, Department of Economics and Mathematics, Richmond, Indiana
2Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Development Lab, Boston, MA
Gender inequity is a pressing issue in Oyugis, Kenya. A widely cited reason for this is the relatively low level of secondary education amongst girls. One might wonder why girls drop out of school earlier than boys? There are several possible hypotheses, including: teenage girls get pregnant, or they contract HIV/AIDS (or other STIs). These hypotheses beg the question as to why girls get pregnant or contract HIV/AIDS. Several studies have found a link between lack of sexual education available for youth and higher cases of HIV/AIDS and pregnancy amongst them. We are interested in exploring how lack of access to tangible and intangible Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) resources might be responsible for higher school dropout amongst girls. Thus, we focus on the questions: What kind of sex-ed is being provided in schools and churches, if any? How influenced is it by religious restrictions and sex stigma? And lastly, what sort of policies and practices exist around the availability and pricing of contraceptives, abortion, and STI testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
As background, in Homa Bay County, of which Oyugis is part, 94% of boys and 69% of girls complete primary school. The Population Council reports that 66% of females between the ages of 13-19 cite adolescent pregnancy as an imperative reason for dropping out of school. Moreover, Kenya’s National HIV (2020) survey shows that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among women is 6.6%, compared to 3.1% in men.
It is hard to determine whether teenage pregnancy and/or STIs are causing lower levels of education amongst women, vice versa, or both, in a looping process. Therefore, we are interested in exploring whether youth access to SRH tangible and intangible resources – including sex education, contraception/abortion, and treatment for STIs – in Kasipul Sub County, Kenya, contribute to girls’ higher dropout rate.
Based on our findings, we will provide practical recommendations to our partners in Kenya to combat teenage pregnancy, rampant cases of HIV/AIDS, and other STIs amongst adolescents and keep girls in the school. We hope that these improvements will contribute to long-term improvements in gender equality levels in Oyugis, Kenya.