Narok County Ministry of Education reported that 741 school going children were impregnated and out of that number 409 were below 18 years. It’s good to note that the data shared is only for the girls who have attended different health facilities and there could be many other pregnant girls who are not counted because they have not been to the health centers. Mukuru hasn’t been left out or spared by this teenage pregnancy pandemic. There’s no data indicating the number of teenage pregnancies for Mukuru but we can tell that we have young mothers around. This week’s #CofffeeBarTuesday focused on some of the contributing factors that could lead young girls to be pregnant and get solutions on how we can continue protecting young girls.
Some studies indicate that 1 in every 5 teenage girls between the ages of 15-19 years has already given birth or pregnant with their first child. Kenya’s Ministry of Health reported 45,724 pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 19 in January and February 2022. This is worrying and needs a lot of attention from the government, stakeholders, communities and parents. Teenage pregnancies are a major challenge for socioeconomic development.
Through the discussion poverty, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, peer pressure from the family and friends, early sex initiation, sexual violence such as defilement/rape, harmful cultural practices such as child marriage, lack of goodwill from the government in prosecuting perpetrators, social media, technology- having too much accessibility to internet, drug abuse and substance abuse, societal pressure and recent demolitions in Mukuru Kwa Njenga were some of the contributing factors to the rise of teen pregnancies in Mukuru. In addition, lack of empowerment among young boys was cited as a reason why the numbers are rising.
“Young boys are not well informed on how to handle an empowered girl. It may happen that a girl visits her boyfriend and he does not understand how they can have safe sex. The girl will just accept whatever the boy decides, putting all of them at risk.” Participant said
Participants pointed out there are a lot of barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health services. Some of the barriers are that Embakasi South doesn’t have any youth friendly center where young people can seek SRH services, the already existing private ones are not conducive to seek services and there’s less information about what kind of information someone can inquire from those centers.
In September 2021, part of Mukuru Kwa Njenga was demolished leaving residents homeless and not able to access basic services such as education, water, housing among others. Majority of private schools were demolished leaving thousands of pupils not attending school. With only 2 public schools, this couldn’t accommodate the majority of the girls and this led to many girls getting pregnant, dropping out, getting married and others using drugs.
With us understanding the problem, it’s easy to know how to get a solution. One of the solution raised by the participant was for the government to enforce its well outlined policies and laws addressing child marriage, defilement and access to highest attainable health. The government needs to work hand in hand with communities in prosecuting anyone having sex with children. For a relationship to work, there must be a boy translating to boys also needs to be empowered and with both genders empowered, it will be easy to curb teen pregnancies. As parents, you need to be watchful of what your children are searching online and who they talk or engage with. Sex education continues to be resisted by parents, religious leaders, political leaders and other stakeholders despite data showing that young people are engaging in sex earlier than in the past. Parents also need to be close to their children in order to share some of the changes our girls experience puberty.
For us to end teen pregnancies, it is essential that we confront the hard truths of the issue in an honest and open manner. It should be noted that teen pregnancies hinder our girls from maximizing their full potential, which impacts their socioeconomic development as they are unable to further their education or achieve their career goals. However, some do come back strong and achieve everything they ever wanted. We all have a role to play in ending teen pregnancies. A key component of the solution is making sure that those who commit teenage pregnancies face the full force of the law. Also, we must ensure that all pregnant girls go back to school as soon as possible. See you on Tuesday!