The Ministry of Health on Tuesday unveiled the National Reproductive Health Policy.
Whereas it was long overdue the revelations on the travails teenage girls undergo is appalling. Isn’t it shocking that Kenya is ranked third in the world in teenage pregnancies?
Girls are paying the price for ignorance and being taken advantage of. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics a whopping 317,582 teenage girls got pregnant in 2021.
Adolescent girls are said to be vulnerable. They are under pressure from their peers or from parents to marry early due to poverty and are more often ignorant of use of contraceptives.
This number could be higher as these are the ones who sought medical attention. A sorry example is Likuyani Constituency where up to 30 per cent of pregnant women are girls aged between 10-18.
Out of the 317,582 pregnancies, 23,290 are girls between the age of 10-14. A ten-year-old girl is a baby and is now being forced to look after another baby with her future in tatters.
These pregnancies could be the result of defilement or teenage experiments but the high number shows the society has dropped the ball. When girls present pregnancies they are regarded immoral and outcasts.
Some have even used this to justify retrogressive acts such as Female Genital Mutilation or expulsion of the girls from their homes. These have never brought any solutions to the malaise. Girls are still getting pregnant and contracting diseases.
It is time to educate girls on their bodies, their rights and consequences of their actions. Worth noting is that with the early sex come myriad diseases.
Of interest is the fact that majority of HIV/Aids infections in the country today is among those aged below 25 years. Up to 98 adolescents get infected with HIV weekly in the country.
It is time to liberate our youngsters. Teach them the ways that will protect them from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
The casual approach to this problem will put a whole generation in trouble. There is no joy in children getting babies and having to defer their dreams because of mistakes they can avoid. The law should also come down very hard on men who prey on under-age girls.
It is a welcome relief therefore that the policy provides for avenues to address quality of contraception, counselling and mentorship among other support care for women and girls.
We urge both healthcare workers and education officials to prioritise protecting girls from these problems but should a girl get pregnant she should not be shunned or made to pay more than she already has.
Guidance and proper socialisation for teenage mothers will go a long way in reintegrating them back to society.