Teen pregnancies and early marriages continue to rise in some counties and remain stagnant in others. These represent significant challenges to adolescents’ rights and sustainable development that the government should urgently seek to address.
A study conducted by JIACTIVATE in June 2019, established that out of the 4000 youth surveyed, 48% of young people identified HIV & STIs as key information that they would want to access followed by relationships at 34%, contraceptives 31%, sex 26%, their rights 20% and puberty 4%.
According to a report by the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), pregnancy among teens aged 15-19 stands at about 18.1 percent — an insignificant change since 1993 when it was estimated at 20.5 percent.
“A striking number of teenage girls are being impregnated and as a result their schooling gets disrupted, they are exposed to health hazards due to complications from pregnancy and possibly abortion which is illegal and often fatal,” explained Grayson Marwa, Chairperson, JIACTIVATE at a forum in Kilifi County adding that practical solutions can only come from collaboration, co-creation, and adolescent-centered approaches.
Additionally, young girls aged 12 to 19 expressed that older women are so harsh hence the girls consider them unapproachable, they also lack counselling programs in schools making peer pressure the biggest influence and most teenagers cannot afford to buy contraceptives.
According to a 2018 report by the Kilifi County District Health Information System (DHIS), there were 17,897 teenage pregnancies in Kilifi. In this regard, JIACTIVATE has since June 2019 engaged three counties namely Kilifi, Narok and Homa Bay bringing together county government officials and youth in and out of school to discuss these issues, strategize on how to tackle them, and learn from best practices within the respective counties.
The study by JIACTIVATE further noted that 30 percent of young people have learnt how to use contraceptives from the internet and Social Media with 28% from medical practitioners, 11% from friends, 10 per cent from school and only 2% from parents.
To this effect JIACTIVATE representatives took time to help women from the said counties understand contraceptives and how they work in an effort to encourage them to discuss the same with their sexually active daughters. The women were also encouraged to be at the fore front in the fight against teenage pregnancies.
JIACTIVATE’s youth engagements for reducing teen pregnancy was well-documented in a public online poll conducted with 14,372 youth aged between 18 and 34 between June and July 2019. Survey responses showed that 8 out of 10 youth support teaching sex education in schools and information provided should include skills for building healthy relationships, signs of harassment and abuse as well as consent.
“Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is essential at an early age for girls and boys because it goes beyond biological reproduction to ensure that young people are equipped with a solid foundation for their choices when it comes to sexuality and reproductive health,” emphasized Michael Asudi, JIACTIVATE representative.
“Contrary to popular opinion, providing CSE does not increase the chances of early sexual activity debut, but rather empowers the youth to take charge of their own health. Abstinence-only education is not effective in delaying sexual initiation, reducing frequency of sex or reducing the number of sexual partners,” he added.