I remember my teen years. The rush of energy and the need to be noticed by boys who I had a crush on. Unfortunately, my unfeminine looks ensured none of my Prince Charmings’ heads would turn in my direction. I had very short hair, which grew unevenly on my scalp, giving me an unprofessional Mohawk look. My awkwardness was topped up with glasses balancing on my button nose. Yeah, I was a real nerd and a popular one too, a girl focused on being a scientist and a writer. Right now, I am both (minus the popular).
Many teenage girls in Kenya are experiencing the same thing; the great hormone rush, the need to be noticed and craved by men, attention seeking and finding ways to enhance their beauty. However, many have fallen into pregnancy traps due to all those listed above.
It is estimated that 13,000 girls in Kenya leave school due to unplanned pregnancy, the age being at 12-16years. 2018 recorded the highest teenage pregnancies in primary schools all over the country, several of them giving birth during the national exams, KCPE.
Last year, Narok was leading in teenage pregnancy by 40% followed by Homa Bay at 33% as indicated by Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS). The prevalence rate spikes during November and December holidays, after schools close.
One might ask why teenage pregnancy is growing in number in such a developing, economically strong country? Your time for answers is finally here.
The rural areas are plagued with this misfortune, with more than half of Kenyan population living below a dollar per day. Men take advantage of this if it involves getting what they want at a very low price. A girl who is struggling to put herself through school or to provide for her family will accept as low as Ksh50/= gift after or before sex just to get by.
Local traders, boda-boda riders and matatu drivers together with their touts are being widely blamed for enticing desperate school girls with free services for sex. Others trick the girls into sex after promising marriage to provide a better life. All which are just pure lies.
Parents, especially those of Narok, Kilifi and North Eastern counties, have been known to give their daughters’ hands in marriage to men responsible for their pregnancies since traditional influence is strong in those regions. The girl is given in marriage irrespective of her young age and this prompts her to abandon school and take up motherhood.
Poor parents, with the absence of unplanned teenage pregnancy, tend to agree to the early marriage in exchange for dowry. Money or cattle paid is of high economic value.
Fear of contraceptives
Lack of knowledge on family planning methods in teenagers is one of the common reasons for unplanned pregnancy, therefore the youngsters do not use efficient methods to prevent it.
In places where contraceptives are widely distributed or given, the problem facing these kids is accessibility and cost. The hospital or clinic can run out of contraceptives or the available options can severely dent the teen’s savings, forcing them to do without.
Others choose to not use contraceptives for the fear of suffering undesired side effects. Some partners are stubborn and ‘stone age’ minded to the extent that they bar their female lovers from accessing contraceptives because it goes against their beliefs and natural laws of ‘be fruitful and multiply’.
Modern misguided Parents
Modern parents know the necessity of sex education in the teenagers’ lives but many find it hard to include contraceptives in their speech. Why?
The common denominator to such a dividing question is ‘It may encourage immorality in their children’s lives’.
With the world of social media and the internet, accessing pornography or sexually explicit videos is as simple as saying “Achoo!” in less than a minute. Teens rarely listen to their parents and they end up eating from the bitter spoon of experience.
It is in their best interest to be educated on the available options of contraceptives as soon as they are of age, despite a parent’s fear. It’s for their own good.
Female genital mutilation is shockingly practiced in this 21st century. It is one of the major contributors to early child marriages. Such traditions are die-hard cases, eradicating them takes effort and education.
Culturally, ‘circumcised’ women are married promptly after the rite. FGM is usually done to girls as young as 7yrs old. The girls are forced to abandon school in order to fully serve their husbands according to their traditional practices.
As an African nation, it is time to stand up against pedophiles, early marriages and misguided child practices that turn teenagers into young mothers.