TEENAGE PREGNANCY IN KENYA: GLOOM AND DOOM IN EDUCATION, HEALTH
By GLORY NGATHA MUTURI
The thought of this proverb ‘The pumpkin gives birth and the fence has the trouble’ is a constant reminder of the present situation of our teenage girls. The government, civil society organizations, faith based organizations, stakeholders and persons of interest have not been deaf and blind as teenage pregnancy gets rife in Kenya. On 3rd March 2020, the government of Kenya launched a National Campaign against Teenage Pregnancies, through the National Council for Population and Development seeking an end to teen pregnancy. The campaign is focused on galvanizing communities on the need to end teen pregnancies through awareness and advocacy citing its negativity on socio-economic growth.
Data from Kenya Data and Health Survey (2014) show that 1 in every 5 girls between 15-19 years is either pregnant or already a mother. As of 2019 latest statistics from the Global Childhood Kenya has the third-highest teen pregnancy rates with 82 births per 1,000 births. According to the United Nations Population Fund Report, Kenya has recorded 378, 397 adolescent and teenage pregnancies for girls aged 10-19 years between July 2016 and June 2017, specifically, 28, 932 girls aged 10-14 and 349,465 girls aged 15-19 became pregnant.
Concurrently, over 13,000 teenage girls drop out of school annually because of pregnancy. (Kenya Data and Health Survey, 2014). Recent media reports show that 449 girls are failing to sit for their final examinations while others write examinations in maternity wards. This is a red flag on the girls’ education, health and opportunities not to mention a failure on the society as whole. The case of Narok County is an eye-opener with 40% of the teenagers being pregnant compared to Garissa, Wajir and Lamu at 10%.
Global Childhood Report ranks Kenya highest in East African Community in other social protection aspects. However, this might be a faded glory because of the teenage pregnancy, new HIV/AIDs infections and sexual abuse among others. Kenya Launched Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy and Adolescents Youth- Friendly Facilities to bring issues of adolescents and youths’ health and development into the mainstream. The society is also slowly deviating from the conservative traditional values and attitudes on safe sex discussion/education. Men and boys should be engaged as advocates against teenage pregnancy too. There is an urgent need to address poverty as one of the root causes of teenage pregnancy, sensitize and create awareness on the School Re-entry Policy and engage teenage girls as stakeholders to develop interventions tailored towards their needs and concerns. Bottom line is bold strategies to implement our policies for every girl at the risk of teenage pregnancy for realization of her full potential.
By GLORY NGATHA MUTURI