Beneath the glamour and glory of the exotic sandy beaches in Kilifi are gloomy patches of child exploitation and sex tourism.
Young boys and girls aged between 12 and 17 years flock the beaches in search of old tourists for sex in exchange of money.
Sex tourism in itself has made towns like Watamu and Mtwapa very famous and older foreign tourists prefer these towns the most.
With Kilifi grappling with escalating cases of teen pregnancies, the governor Amason Kingi in his wisdom initiated a task force to unravel the cause of the many teen pregnancies.
The taskforce domiciled at the Gender and health departments started work last month with sensitization meetings in all the seven counties.
The county in collaboration with other partners also initiated a media campaign by placing billboards titled ‘Zuia Mimba za mapema’
The billboards have however been criticized by residents who claim the message may not reach the targeted audience.
For the past one week, several Kilifi WhatsApp groups have been awash with criticism on the effect of the taskforce to the matter at hand.
“Most of the teenage pregnancies were recorded in rural areas where most of the girls have never been to Kilifi. Schools should now organize school trips so that students can come and see ‘zuia mimba za mapema billboards’. This is a misuse of public funds,” wrote one of the Kilifi resident.
The residents raised fears that the taskforce is just a way of embezzling funds.
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The biggest issue with the billboards however is the photo used. The billboards have a photo of teens (a male and a female) seated ‘romantically’ by the beach.
A picture is worth a thousand words, the photo on the billboard contradicts the zuia mimba za mapema message on the billboard.
“What are two minors seated together in a secluded beach planning if not a romantic affair? Our beaches are associated with romance and here we are as a county claiming we are fighting teen pregnancies yet we are encouraging them. If sitting in that position is permitted by our county then our teens will treat that as a cool thing and they will go ahead and practice it,” said Kenneth Kahindi from Mnarani.
In any media campaign, the choice of pictures and words is vital. The picture in the billboards distorts the intended message.