Holistic approach needed to tame teen pregnancies

Monday, September 23rd, 2019 00:00 |
Pregnant mother. Photo/Courtesy

Chege Ngugi

Year in, year out, hundreds of girls are forced to drop out of school, after falling pregnant. We hear of cases of teenage girls who give birth while sitting the national exams. Unfortunately, this is slowly becoming the norm with similar scenario played out every year. The magnitude of this problem is indeed alarming. 

Unfortunately, this is slowly becoming the norm with similar scenario played out every year. The magnitude of this problem is indeed alarming. 

More than 11,000 girls in primary and secondary schools got pregnant last year, latest statistics from the Ministry of Education show.

The data shows that out of the 11,950 girls who fell pregnant, 2,885 of them were in primary while 9,065 were secondary school students.

The government has come out strongly to condemn and stamp out this vice and to support the sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) of girls in various ways.

An example is the provision of free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child enrolled in a public basic education institution who has reached puberty. 

As much as this is a laudable initiative, it is still not enough. In order to decisively deal with teenage pregnancies and other challenges related to the sexual reproductive health of girls and women, there is need to address the underlying causes and adopt a multi-disciplinary approach that will steer us in the right direction towards fulfilling the rights of all women and girls. 

For example, at ChildFund, we have adopted a proactive and holistic approach that not only focuses on behavior change and sensitising girls on their sexual and reproductive health, but also addresses the fundamental issues.

These include poverty, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), gender inequality and other retrogressive socio-cultural practices that belittle the girl child thus limiting their access to educational opportunities and overall empowerment.

Such issues cannot be addressed by working only with girls; we have to work with all members of the community, including the perpetrators. 

While addressing the issue of teen pregnancy, we must hold all involved parties responsible and accountable.

Several entities have a role to play in combating this vice. We must ask ourselves; are parents talking to their children about these things, the dangers of risky behaviour?

Are schools sensitising both male and female teenagers about sexual reproductive health?  Are the police arresting the perpetrators? Are the perpetrators being prosecuted?

Are schools making the reentrance of girls into school as easy as possible? Is the community involved in protecting its children? 

In addition, there is need to streamline primary and technical and vocational training policies so that school drop-outs can have a seamless transition.

The government should consider having integrated vocational training centres where out-of-school youth can be trained on various skills and income generating activities.

In November, Kenya will host the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) themed ‘Accelerate the Promise.’

The ICPD was a 1994 meeting in Cairo where 179 governments adopted a revolutionary programme of action and called for women’s reproductive health and rights to take centre stage in national and global development efforts. 

In line with the theme, we urge government and stakeholders to prioritise sexual reproductive health rights for women and girls.

In order to drive development, we all must commit, fully and actively, to ensuring that access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls, regardless of their economic status or where they live becomes a basic human right. — Writer is the Country Director, ChildFund Kenya

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