Aspen Global Health and Development

Jane Otai

Jane OtaiCitizenship: Kenyan

 When Jane Otai walks through the Nairobi slums, she is no stranger. No stranger to the women living in corrugated-metal shacks or worse, no stranger to the poverty, overcrowded conditions and health problems devastating families.

 Most of all, she is no stranger to the huge boost that family planning services can provide for the urban poor.

 “I really lived within the urban slum growing up, I am a product of this community’’ says the 47-year-old mother of three.  Raised in a churchgoing family with seven children, Jane got the opportunity to go to school through support from her church, but recalls that as a young girl she had neither shoes nor a uniform and getting enough to eat was often an issue for her and her family.

 Otai attended Makerere University in Kampala and got her master’s degree from United States International University in Nairobi. It wasn’t until she finished her education and started a job that Jane had children.  She credits access to family planning as the reason for her success. “Because somebody told me about family planning very early I was able to take it up and be able to space my children and delay my first pregnancy. And that is the reason I am here," said Otai.

Otai is a Senior Program Advisor for Jhpiego, a non-profit global health affiliate of Johns Hopkins University. Currently she is working on the Gates Foundation funded and Jhpiego led Tupange initiative, an urban reproductive health project focused on improving the health of women and families in the urban slums of Kenya. As part of the Gates-funded and Jhpiego-led Tupange urban health initiative, Jane has worked to provide women access to family planning, prenatal care, HIV counseling and testing, screening for cervical cancer and sexual abuse, immunizations and sanitation just to name a few. After identifying rape as a significant cause of unwanted pregnancies, she started a program to fight sexual violence.