Activists opt for online campaign to push government's action on teenage pregnancy

Activists and Nguvu Change Leaders Tasline Otieno, Sylvia Awinja and Dambalash Ermiyas Males display zero pregnancy placards. [Courtesy]

A group of rights activists is now banking on an online campaign aimed at pushing the government to address teenage pregnancies.

Dubbed ‘BreakTheCycle’ the activists under the Nguvu Change Leaders initiative, the activists said the seek to highlight the seriousness of the crisis and urge the Kenyan government to introduce Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools.

The three, Dambalash Ermiyas Males, Sylvia Awinja and Tasline Otieno all championing Comprehensive Sexuality Education in the country put out silent videos across their social media appealing for '0 Teenage Pregnancy’ to #BreakTheCycle of gaps in sexual and reproductive health rights for young people.

With placards, the videos are an urgent appeal to destigmatise sex education in a conservative society, inviting people to demonstrate their support through a simple gesture.

“I was raised by a single mother who faced the harsh realities of early pregnancy, and I've witnessed the struggles and sacrifices firsthand. No one should endure what my mother went through or what countless young mothers face today,” said Sylvia Awinja who is an Adolescent Health Advocate.

Awinja said they launched the #BreakTheCycle as a powerful collective action because they believe every young woman deserves to know her sexual and reproductive health rights.

Along with fellow Nguvu Change leaders, Tasline and Dambalash, she has been shedding light on the common yet unsafe behaviours prevalent across Kenya which often lead to a higher risk of STIs and teenage pregnancies.

“The #BreakTheCycle movement aims to amplify the critically important conversation around Comprehensive Sex Education through similar videos across their social media platforms,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Tasline Otieno, a Gender Advocate who took cognisance of the teenage pregnancy crisis in her village called Kosoko, in Homabay County, and emphasised its risky consequences, including birth complications, HIV/AIDS infections, postpartum depression, and gender-based violence. 

“As someone who has seen the impact of teenage pregnancies up close, I can't stay silent. I've watched dreams crumble and we need to urgently #BreakTheCycle by providing education, erasing the stigma, and offering hope to make sure every child's future is defined by opportunities, not obstacles,” she said.

All three Nguvu Change Leaders started the movement earlier this year through online petitions which have gathered support from over 3,000 people.

Ermiyas Males said it is not just about signing a petition but a gesture of solidarity where they all extend a helping hand and compassion to every single youth.

“We are appealing to the National Assembly and the Ministry of Education to grant access to age-appropriate human sexuality education both for school and out-of-school programmes,” she said adding, “Our digital campaigns are a pivotal step in our #BreakTheCycle movement and we hope more people will join us with their stories to drive change,” said Dambalash, a Youth advocate with Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa.”

Kenya is currently grappling with spiraling teenage pregnancy rates with data published by the Kenya Health Information Systems, in the first five months of 2023 recording over 110,821 pregnancies among adolescents aged between 10 to 19.

Of these, 6,110 were in the 10 to 14 age group, whereas 104,711 were between 15 and 19 years.

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