Position: Executive Director
Organization: Lwala Community Alliance
As the US-based Executive Director of Lwala Community Alliance, Ash Rogers leads a team of 160 people who are fighting to advance access to a full spectrum of reproductive services in Western Kenya. Prior to joining Lwala, she served as the Director of Operations for Segal Family Foundation, overseeing an $11 million grant portfolio with a key focus on reproductive health and sexual rights. She has a master of public administration degree from the University of Washington.
“Ash works with the families of Lwala to promote access to critical medical care and educates the local community on essential public health issues in maternal and child health.“
– Carrie Rubury, Special Assistant to the CEO at Global Health Corps
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.
As the Executive Director of Lwala Community Alliance (Lwala), I lead a team of 160 people who are fighting to advance access to a full spectrum of reproductive services in Western Kenya. Lwala has seen a 300% increase in family planning utilization, compared with a no change in service visits at control sites. In 2016, Lwala will conduct 450 safe deliveries and provide family planning services to over 2,500 women and girls. Prior to Lwala, I served as the Director of Operations for Segal Family Foundation, overseeing an $11m grant portfolio with a key focus on reproductive health and sexual rights. That portfolio was responsible for connecting over 1.5 million people to a family planning method annually.
What sparked your passion for family planning?
As a new mother, I’ve felt the joy of having a child when I was prepared to care for him. In my early twenties, I relied on nonprofit providers for all of my reproductive health needs. Those services allowed me to pursue a career and build a family in a time that was best for me. Every girl everywhere should have that opportunity. In places like Western Kenya, where maternal mortality in 20 times higher than the US, access to family planning not only opens opportunities, it saves lives.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?
Family planning is often a politically charged issue, evoking the emotions of gatekeepers of health access. The struggle is to help people see reproductive health access as an essential package of services designed to women and babies. At Lwala, we fight to make sure every delivery is a safe delivery, which has cut infant mortality in half. That effort takes place alongside family planning outreach. In this way, we’re framing reproductive health services as an essential public good.
What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?
Men & boys are essential gatekeeper to health access for women and girls. The challenge is to engage men & boys as allies, while continuing to advance family planning as an individual human right. At Lwala, all of our programs are community-driven, meaning that they are designed, implemented, & evaluated by community members. This means that change happens slowly, but it also means that change is more lasting. We’re engaging in multi-dimensional dialogues aimed at bringing in men as FP champions.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
By 2020, my team will drastically reduce teenage pregnancy and adolescent HIV infections in our region of 100,000 people. At the same time, we’ll ensure a 95% skilled delivery rate and a 50% reduction in under 5 deaths. Even more, we’ll build a model of community-led reproductive health care that can be shared with other communities.