One in every three adolescent girls and young women in Nairobi County has had her first sexual encounter by the age of 18 years.
This represents a whopping 33 per cent of the overall population of women in the city, according to the latest statistics by the Performance Monitoring Action (PMA) report, released last week by the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH).
At the same time, five per cent of the adolescents and young women in Nairobi are married by age 18. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) as females aged 10-24 years.
The report further reveals that for the adolescents who have ever had sex before attaining the age of 18 years, nearly half of them, 44.3 per cent, were motivated by curiosity.
A third of them, 37.4 per cent, got carried away (lost self-control) and another 15.1 per cent were forced to have sex against their will.
About 10.6 per cent of the girls during that study said they were doing what is expected of them, whereas 8.6 per cent were under the influence of a substance like alcohol and/or marijuana.
On the willingness among adolescents and their partners to have sex, the report shows that more than half, 62.4 per cent, of their partners, were willing to have a sexual encounter.
The girls were asked to reflect back on their actions and decide if, given a chance to wait a little longer before having sex with anyone, they would have taken the option.
Surprisingly, nearly all of them, 94.7 per cent, said they would have waited longer, whereas 5.3 per cent of the young women said they would not have waited for so long as it was the right time.
“About three in every 10 adolescents were sexually experienced at the time of the survey, though 95 per cent of the sexually experienced adolescents would have preferred to wait longer before they had first sex,” said Prof Peter Gichangi, the PMA principal investigator.
“Only 10 in every 100 adolescents and young women were using contraception by age 18. About 12 per cent of all adolescent girls aged 15-19 years are using modern contraceptive methods, while young women aged 20-24 years stand at 45.6 per cent,” he added.
According to the PMA report, 47 per cent of the young girls used male condoms during their first sexual experience to prevent pregnancy, 31 per cent did not use any method, 7 per cent were using injectables, 4 per cent were on implants, while the remaining 4 per cent used withdrawal method.
Another 4 per cent of them used the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex or a birth control mishap. While birth control pills are taken daily to prevent unplanned pregnancies, their usage stood at 4 per cent and emergency pills at 2 per cent.
“About 3 in every 10 adolescents did not use a method during the last sex, with 5 in every 10 of them using a male condom during the last sexual encounter. Only 6 in every 10 adolescents used contraceptives to prevent pregnancy the first time they had sex,” said Prof Gichangi.
“Use of contraceptives among adolescents is much lower (12 per cent) than that of other women. Targeted programmes to address inequalities in the use of family planning methods for those deserving it is required.”
Prof Gichangi said 87 per cent of the adolescents would be interested in receiving information on family planning methods via voice or text message on a mobile phone, with another 59 per cent preferring to receive the same information through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
However, the Ministry of Health maintains that it is illegal to offer family planning methods to children below 18, with severe consequences for culprits found doing it.
On the flipside, the report further revealed that married women and sexually-active unmarried women in Nairobi County have increased their use of contraceptives in the last eight years, with the most preferred methods being implants and injectables for family planning. But unmarried ones go a step higher and include condoms into the mix.
Despite the progress, data shows unintended pregnancies – mostly unplanned and mistimed than desired – were on the rise. According to the report, at least 34 per cent of all pregnancies recorded were unintended.
“About one third of the women have a pregnancy, which was unintended. About three in every 10 women do not want to have another child. For those who want to have, majority want the child after 24 months,” said Prof Gichangi.
He added: “There are many reasons why pregnancies may be unintended. Provision of effective family planning methods is central to helping women prevent pregnancies. Advocacy efforts, as well as a programmatic targeted intervention, should continue to be prioritised to address this challenge.”