The news article by Citizen Digital- a local media house in Kenya- on 5th July 2022 about the alarming reality of HIV/AIDs prevalence in Kenya and teenage pregnancies has sparked discussions on social media.
The news article highlights the current statistics by the Ministry of Health in Kenya whose research found out that not only do 98 teenagers get infected with HIV weekly but also Kenya ranks third globally in teen pregnancies. The fact that every one in five adolescents aged 15-19 is already a mother or expectant sends an alarming message across parents countrywide.
Let’s debunk this dilemma of teenage pregnancies, shall we? For a woman to be referred to as a teenage mother, they fall between the age of 10-19 years. These are the formative years of a young girl who is most likely in school. Teenage pregnancies not only pose a great threat to the physical health of the developing young girl but also impacts on their mental wellbeing. Early child bearing increases chances of Low Birth Weight and high incidences of infant mortality. Young mothers are more prone to depression, anxiety and sadness as a result of money woes and harsh judgment from society.
Kilifi county, where our organization is based, has often topped the news as a result of recording a high percentage of adolescent pregnancies in the country. For instance, in 2020, a report by Kenya News Agency spotlights the records by Kilifi County Hospital that 3370 girls fell pregnant from the month of January to May with 75 of them being in the age bracket of 10-14 years. The article also points out that in 2019, 9480 cases were reported with 136 in the aforementioned age bracket. Although there has been a significant decline in the number of cases reported, one teenage pregnancy is one too many.
With living standards on a steady incline as an aftermath of the Covid 19 pandemic and further exacerbated by the Russian-Ukraine war, a spike in teenage pregnancies is almost inevitable. Poverty predisposes young girls to unwanted pregnancies. This can be attributed to early marriages where parents prefer to marry off their daughters to ease the household dependency burden. Additionally, older men are more likely to prey on young girls who may be in desperate need of monetary help and end up impregnating and defiling them without any real consequences. A news article by The Standard Newspaper: They Prey on our Poverty on July 2018, reports that 125 adolescent girls have claimed being sexually abused my men in exchange for favours just because they are poor.
Peer-to-peer relationships are undoubtedly the leading cause of teenage pregnancies countrywide. Lack of education on the effects of pre-marital sex and safe sexual practices is a factor contrbuting to an increase in early pregnancies.Cases of boys impregnating more than one girl have been reported. Sexual health education should therefore become an important element in the curriculum in order to curb the pandemic of early pregnancies.
Kilifi county over the years has been seeing a decline in the number of teenage pregnancies . Nevertheless, the current geo-political situation probably leading to a possible economic recession calls for vigilance in the fight against adolescent pregnancies. The County Governor Amason Kingi attributes the decline to the policies that have been enacted by the government such as prosecuting child difilers. The Center for Adolescents estimates that 13,000 girls drop out of school after giving birth to take care of their toddlers. Non- governmental Organizations in the county such as Organization Wings of Hope have been set up to provide a shelter for the toddlers during the day as young mothers continue with their studies. This has helped many young girls continue with their studies.
Our organization: Juhudi Africa, has also spearheaded the fight against teenage pregnancy through advocating for behavioral change and abstinence as well as having family planning conversations with adolescents. We have also created awareness on child abuse and encouraged young ones to report abusers. Through our visits to numerous schools we have created integrity clubs which allow peer-peer accountability among teenagers where they not only challenge and advise each other but also advocate for behavioral change among themselves. Education is the sure way to eradicate the disaster of adolescent pregnancies. Information is power!