‘They prey on our poverty’, Kilifi teen girls narrate ordeal in the hands of men

Kilifi County is leading in cases of teenage pregnancies at 18 per cent.

A group of 125 adolescent girls in Kilifi County have claimed they are abused by men in exchange for favours because they are poor.

The girls, majority from rural areas in Kilifi South constituency, claimed men normally seduce them while going to fetch water, firewood or on their way to school.

The adolescent girls also revealed that lack of funds to buy basic needs such as sanitary pads force them to be lured into early sex and attributed the increased cases of teenage pregnancies and early marriage to the problem.

The girls, who were speaking during an adolescent summit organised by the rising Winners Youth Empowerment initiative at Makio hall in Kanamai in Kilifi South constituency, said orphans and those from poor families were at greatest risk.

During the summit, held on Sunday, the girls demanded to be protected so as to fulfill their dream careers.

A 15 year old orphan narrated how her parents died of HIV and AIDS and the grandparents cannot afford to facilitate her basic needs.

Speaking during the summit, the class seven pupil said sometimes she is forced to engage in protected sex with men to get money for buying such necessities.

However she said others who do not have such knowledge and engage in an unprotected sex which puts them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and AIDs or getting pregnant.

“We have girls who are pregnant in our school up to now and they are candidates because they engaged in early sex without protection,’’ she said.

The teenager said girls need to be empowered to be able to speak out and reject such offers which affect their lives.

Other speakers said they are often lured into sex by boda boda operators who offer them free rides while on their way to school.

The girls are members of a Non-Governmental organisation which is campaigning against injustices among adolescent girls in Kilifi County.

The aim is to ensure adolescent girls' voices are heard and to reduce cases of teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS spread and early marriages which are rampant in the county.

Traditionally many young girls suffer silently due to their poor backgrounds forcing them to engage in early sex for money which leads to teenage pregnancies and school drop outs.

Currently in the campaign dubbed ''Imarisha Msichana'' being spearheaded by Rising Winners Youth Empowerment Initiative Mission has over 125 adolescent girls who undergo training, counseling to enable them speak out against such forms of injustices.

Kilifi County is leading in cases of teenage pregnancies which now stand at 18 per cent.

Part of the group’s mission is to push for inclusion of the challenges girls face in the society in the new gender draft policy which is being formulated by the county government.

According to Doreen Maghanga, the chairperson of the program, they are currently working with the 125 young adolescent girls from constituencies in five zones who have been empowered and sensitised to know their rights in the society.

They meet on Sundays with the adolescents in their respective zones to exchange ideas and hear their voices.

“The girls we are working with can now confidently speak their minds on what they go through in the society,’’ she said.

Maghanga said the adolescent summits are meant to give them a chance to raise their voices so that they are respected and left to pursue their goals.

Halima Ali Aba, a sexual reproductive rights advocate from DSW and volunteer member of Imarisha Msichana project said the summit was meant to give girlsa platform to air their views on issues affecting them.