Hello, my readers! How are you doing? June has gone by fast, right? Good thing is 20s doses comes bearing a reproductive health series for July!
I am so excited to share with you the first article of these series, and I would love, love, love to hear your opinion on this issue. Let’s dive in already, shall we?
Few weeks ago our country was confronted with a pandemic! 4000 teenage girls had been reported pregnant between January to March 2020 in Machakos County. This news grabbed the headline of every newspaper, radio, television, gossip, and social media with Kenyans expressing concerns over what is now one of the biggest headaches countrywide.
Surely the soaring under age pregnancies are the new pandemic within the Covid 19 pandemic!
A heart broken Education CS George Magoha, talked about the 3 form one girls who fell pregnant closing the door on the route out of poverty. This was after he fished them out of the slums and took them to schools with scholarship.
Over time early marriages, peer influence, drug abuse, and lack of youth friendly services have fuelled teenage pregnancies. Myriad causes of the alarming numbers of teen pregnancies have been highlighted both on and off social media. Some of them include:
- Over sexualized entertainment( genge tone). Now more than ever, our teens are exposed to sex. Eventually, they end up experimenting what they are seeing and hearing hence the worrying trend. Not to mention, the free time that the teens have for idling due to the pandemic.
- According to Shujaaz survey, poverty came up as a reason. Why? Because in a time where there is no money and people are going to bed hungry, girls are turning to sex for food, money, and sex.
- Some parents took their kids to ushago ( grandpa’s place) and left for the city to work. They believed that their kids would be safe from corona as at the time the cases were in Nairobi. Little did they know, that they had offered their kids to sex pests inclusive of relatives. Additionally, social distancing provided a favorable environment for sexual abuse.
- A bitterly disappointed Education CS placed the blame on parents saying that they had neglected their kids. He said, ” If you don’t have the time to look after a child then perhaps you have no business producing children.”
Reader, reader on my blog, do you think that teachers and house keepers are the ones taking care of the kids?
Did you know that complications during pregnancy are the second highest cause of death for 15 to 19 year old girls? Imagine a young girl, with most of them having under developed pelvises, trying to push a baby during birth! They are more likely to suffer pre-eclampsia compared to their older counterparts. This can result in premature delivery, low birth weight for the baby, as well as complications such as kidney failure, seizures, and stroke for the mom.
It can be difficult for teens to juggle books and the baby. Naturally as nurtures, most of them end up choosing parenting over books. There is a lot of pressure to transition from a child to a mother. As a result, it can be depressing to take up responsibility of parenting when the mind is not ready. Without parental support , depression can lead to suicide. Social consequences include stigma, rejection, or violence from partners, parents, peers, and community which may result in early marriages or school drop outs.
To add salt to the injury, approximately 3.9 million unsafe abortions among girls aged 15-19 years occur annually.
If our girls are busy raising kids instead of schooling and improving our economy, then teen pregnancies will continue being a wrecking ball to our national development goals particularly SDGs.
It’s saddening that teenagers are being lured by sexual perpetrators for basic needs. Furthermore, it’s the same girls who catch an STI or fall pregnant adding another mouth to feed. Coming from a poor background should not be a ticket for sex but a barrier to overcome through education and other sources of income! Despite the Sexual Offences Act, our teenagers still fall victim to sex pests who end up forcing them into early motherhood. It’s my hope that the wheels of justice will turn fast enough to punish those ruining those children’s future.
It’s not right to stigmatize these girls instead, as parents and the adults we are, we have to accept and find a way forward.
Pregnant teens ought to be handled delicately. As parents, siblings, teachers, and the society at large we have a responsibility of ensuring proper care to the girl. I mean teen friendly health care, proper diet, supportive environment, and advice inclusive of parenting, sexuality, prevention of future pregnancies, contraception etcetera. Furthermore, systems should be put in place ensuring that the teenager can return to school as the society members take care of the baby so that the girl does not drop out of school. After all, the child belongs to the society.
If it is true that parents have neglected their kids, then it’s high time they wake up from slumber land and start owning their responsibility.
I am not going to bury my head into the sand and pretend that this worrying trend is not happening! It is happening to our children, sisters, and even brothers. We need to deal with it because it is not going away! It’s high time we bury ourselves into the reproductive welfare of teenagers! It’s high time we stopped sweeping adolescent sexuality issues under the carpet!
The sex education curriculum ought to be revised by The Ministry of Education. We ought to look beyond male and female reproductive systems, and scary STIs & HIV& AIDS. A comprehensive curriculum should be established including sexual responsibility & consent, gender based violence, empowering teens to value their bodies, aftermath of teenage pregnancy, safe sex, and even self defense whenever necessary. These issues can be addressed during life skills or guidance & counselling which I think should be done by a certified counselor.
As long as the teens are provided comprehensive info, then it’s high time we settled the as old as the hills debate on whether teens should access contraception. Science has already simplified prevention of one teenage pregnancy!