By John Kariuki
Girls in Kenya are facing double tragedy which is teen pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s). Emily Ochieng shares with us her insights on this phenomenon.
She says, “Kenya has the 3rd highest teenage( adolescents) pregnancies worldwide. Statistics show that in 2021, 21% ( 317,644) of all pregnancies were among adolescents aged 10-19.
One in every 5 adolescent girls age 15-19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. This is worrying.
Perceived determinants of teenage pregnancies include: lack of life and social survival skills, lack of knowledge on how to avoid pregnancy, low acceptance/use of contraceptives, neglect by parents, sexual abuse, pressure to contribute to family welfare through early marriage or sexual transactions, lack of community responsibility, media influence, peer pressure, cultural beliefs that promote early marriage/childbearing and lack of role models.
Other contributing factors include drug use among boys, poverty, late work hours, long travel distances, e.g., to school, and unsupervised locations.
Emily also Shared the impact of adolescent pregnancies. She urges that teen Pregnancies have a huge impact which includes Preventing girls from continuing with education leading to deprived and disempowered women, increase vulnerability to both mother and baby( both health risk to mother and baby), lead to mental health issues such as, low self esteem, suicide, feelings of rejection -Lead to poor health outcomes ( low birth weight, premature birth) The list of the consequences of teen pregnancies is endless.
Emily suggests this solution:
“First this is not a school only affair , this is a community issue. We need to have a sober discussion on CSE. We have to work to improve social development by incorporating responsible sexual behaviour education (Abstinence and consequences of having intercourse.)both in schools and home,( Teenagers must know the consequences of engagement in sex. This conversation shouldn’t just be don’t get pregnant (because then we miss out on talking about STIs) because this leads to abuse of emergency contraceptives or illegal abortions.) and improved contraceptive counselling and delivery including .
Also remind teens that contraceptives only doesn’t protect against STIs and that condoms do that.
Teenage pregnancy is not only a girls conversations but also with boys or men who also may coerce the girls in sexual intercourse. The boys and young men must also understand the impact of unprotected sexual intercourse.
And we also need focussed discussion in reducing child defilement and rape cases.
Teenage pregnancy shouldn’t be a norm. We must all take action. Casual sex is normal( they see and hear it).
The casual sex is triggered by easy access to pornography with very little conversations on what real relationship looks like.
Unfortunately there are older men and women who prey on teens and young adults for sex.