Treaty on reproductive health can cure teen pregnancies
According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 2014, 18 per cent of adolescent girls and women aged 15 to 19 years are already mothers or pregnant with their first child.
In Africa the main causes of teenage pregnancy include sexual exploitation and abuse, poverty, lack of information about sexuality and reproduction, and lack of access to services such as family planning and modern contraception.
Access to reproductive health education for girls has been a concern for those in the marginalised areas.
While schools in such areas are poorly equipped and under-staffed to meet the physical, intellectual and emotional needs of girls, on the one hand, violence against girls in and out of school, widespread harmful cultural practices and beliefs are equally a hindrance.
The Sustainable Development Goals III and IV recognise sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as a key strategy to promoting health and wellbeing, and gender equality.
In particular, SDG III sets out to reduce global maternal mortality and ensure universal access to SRH services; while SDG IV promotes universal access to SRHR, the elimination of harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation and advocates for policies and enforceable legislation that promote gender equality.
Within east and southern Africa, the rights are contained in several regional agreements, including more recently, the 2013 Ministerial Commitment to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and SRHR services for adolescents and young people in East and Southern African countries.
In December 2013, ministers of Education and Health from 20 ESA came together to endorse and affirm commitment to better health outcomes for adolescents and young people in the region.
This was a culmination of efforts led by Unesco, UNFPA, UNAids and Regional Economic Communities in the region towards charting the path to economic and social wellbeing for youth, through securing sexual and reproductive health and rights.
In the agreement, now commonly known as the ESA Commitment, the ministers pledged to increase coverage of comprehensive sexuality education, increase access to sexual reproductive health services, reduce unplanned and unintended pregnancies and eliminate child marriages and gender-based violence among youth in the region by 2020.
Central to the commitment are time-bound targets which guide national efforts and the agreement to scale up comprehensive sexuality education and SRHR services for adolescents and young people in the region.
By the end of 2020, the ESA Commitments had the following targets amongst others: Increase to 95 per cent the number of adolescents and young people, aged 10-24, who demonstrate comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge levels; reduce early and unintended pregnancies among youth by 75 per cent; eliminating gender-based violence; eliminate child marriage; increase the number of all school and teacher training institutions that provide CSE to 75 per cent.
As one of the signatories to the commitments, Kenya has made strides in the targets but a lot more is needed to ensure all the adolescents and youth in their diversities are able to live freely from any social and health challenges that are preventable. — The writer is a Reproductive Health Youth Advocate