Responsible parenthood entails bearing and rearing children in a way that ensures they are provided with basic human necessities in a conducive environment that facilitates normal growth and development. This cannot be achieved if parents are not financially stable and prepared to raise their children.
Kenya has a high teenage pregnancy prevalence rate with about 1 in every 3 adolescent girl having had a live birth or being pregnant with her first child (KDHS, 2019). The survey also indicates that 13,000 girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancy. The high teenage pregnancy situation in Kenya has persisted for a while despite the public outcry each time such data is released.
Adolescent girls who fall pregnant are exposed to several risks. According to World Health Organisation, ‘complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15-19-year-old girls globally’. This means that these girls might not carry their pregnancy to term or might not make it past childbirth. In addition, teen pregnancies deprive adolescent girls of opportunities to further their education, build a career and realise their full potential. This in turn affects the socioeconomic development of the country.
Some of the causes of teen pregnancies in Kenya include:
- Lack of information and knowledge on adolescent sexual and reproductive health. This makes adolescents unable to deal with the challenges they face during adolescence.
- Poverty often leads girls from low income households into transactional sex where they have sex in exchange for money or sanitary towels.
- Adolescent girls are more likely to be victims of sexual and gender based violence than their male counterparts. The perpetrators of the violence are usually relatives or family members. Such cases end up being settled out of court and thus makes it hard for the victims to receive justice and for this vice to be nipped in the bud.
- Socio cultural influences
In 2019, the Youth in Action launched a youth-led advocacy campaign SAUTI SASA. The campaign’s purpose was to call upon duty bearers to adopt a multi –sectoral community wide approach in addressing teenage pregnancies in Kenya. The campaign recommends the following actions which can be taken by several stakeholders to ensure reduced teen pregnancy rates in the country:
- Involving parents, guardians and older peers to create a sense of ownership and to help in increasing of access to and sharing messages on sexual responsibility among adolescents. This is one of the areas that the Faya project is investing in and a Parent’s Life Skills Education toolkit guide has been developed to facilitate the process.
- Increased advocacy around harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, Early marriages and beading which are some of the key contributors to teenage pregnancies
- Ensuring that there is an effective structure that offers help to adolescent girls who are victims of Sexual Gender Based Violence. Currently there are gaps in how such cases are reported, profiled and documented. Courts should consider waiving the charges for such cases to discourage out of court settlements.
- Make available menstrual hygiene products for in and out of school adolescent girls to discourage transactional sex
Every member in the society has a role to play in putting an end to teenage pregnancies. It might take time to realise zero teen pregnancies but you as an individual can make the time to SPEAK UP and FIGHT for the future of our adolescent girls because they too deserve a bright future.