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The mind of a teenager and sex

Health & Science - By Standard Digital | March 6th 2012 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

By Joyce Gathu

When she got pregnant at the tender age of 13, Tabitha Mugure was in shock. At that age, she had hardly thought hard about the consequences of her active sexual life.

Motherhood is not something she had ever given a serious thought to, but she had no option but to ‘grow up’ before her time.

Her childhood in Karatina, Nyeri County, took a drastic turn especially because she had scandalised her family and tongues were wagging in her small Sagana village.

"The psychological torture that a teenage mother goes through is shocking. Other parents don’t want to see you even talking to their children and everyone treats you as if you are an outcast," Mugure explains.

Mugure woes begun when she went to visit some young people in the company of a trusted friend. Unknown to her, it was a match-making arrangement that left her literally holding a baby.

Luckily, her father believed in education and gave her a second chance.

"Life in school was different. My mind was that of a child, but my body was that of a woman. I could see the physical marks that child bearing had left on my young body and I didn’t want my schoolmates to see them," she recalled.

Nonetheless, life in school was uneventful until when she was in Form Three, Mugure became pregnant again.

"This time, there was no going back to school, I got married and began living with my husband," she says.

Tabitha Mugure in a workshop. [Photo/ Joyce Gathu]

One would imagine that after her first pregnancy, Mugure had learnt her lesson but, unfortunately, she is in good company.

"A good number of teens who get pregnant, often get pregnant again and not long afterwards. In fact, even those who procure an abortion get pregnant sooner than you might think," explains June Kahara, a teenage counsellor in Umoja, where she runs Uzima — a youth friendly clinic.

She demonstrates this complex scenario by explaining that last year in February she took a 14 year old girl under her wings. The girl was pregnant and desperate, but she was still counselled and supported till she delivered her baby in August.

But, something went wrong and her baby succumbed to some illness and was buried a few days later.

"As we speak now, this girl is four and a half months pregnant," Kahara says.

She goes on to say, "The mind of a teenager who has had at least two pregnancies before the age of 20 years is complex. In this case, my girl says she felt an unexplainable source of loss and sub-consciously she wanted to fill that void."

Unfortunately, most teens fill this void in the arms of yet another man, sometimes even several other men, tempting fate even further. More often than not they become pregnant.

There are those who are able to quickly get their life back on track, while others like Mugure take a while.

After leaving Form Three she got married. Many years Mugure tried going back to complete her secondary studies but she was informed that the curricular had changed drastically for her to catch up. But the desire to go to school refused to die and in 2010 she decided to join Kaheti Youth Polytechnic, Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County for a two year course in metal processing and fabrication.

"I’m back to school at 43 years and it is difficult. I often have to compete with my school going children for resources. I have come close to dropping out many times," says Mugure.

In fact, were it not for Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando, who heard about her and gave her a scholarship from the Constituency Development Fund kitty, she would have already dropped out of school.

She is now in her second year of setting up her own welding workshop and hopes to employ people in order to expand her business.

Although her husband has never accepted the pursuit of this dream, he nonetheless has not stopped her from pursuing it.

Apart from the challenges of catching up with time, many children born of teenage mothers suffer psychologically.

"They often do not fit in because they are shoved from one guardian to another. My son found out I was his mother when he was in Standard Seven. He tells me that he feels like an outcast, as if he doesn’t fit and belong with us or any another person. It’s hard for him," Mugure explains.

Kahara concurs "Most of these children feel like they are a thing to be ashamed of. Although the society has become more tolerant and even accepting of teenage mothers, the stigma and shame that befalls them is still crippling."

Mugure’s advice to the youths who may have made regrettable mistakes in the past is, "Don’t lose hope because it is never too late to put your life back on track."

She is now more focused than ever.

On occasions when Mugure looks back at past mistakes and youthful errors of her judgment, it is not to indulge in regret, but to draw strength from the bumpy ride that has brought her this far.

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