To reduce poverty, address menace of adolescent pregnancy
Teenage/Adolescent pregnancies refer to pregnancies carried by adolescent girls especially between the age of 10 and 19 years. This basically affects girls who are between standard six and form four in high school. In Kenya, the rates of teenage pregnancies are estimated at 18% which translates to 1 in every 5 girls being expectant or being a teenage mother.
Studies estimate that in Kenya, in the year 2016/17, around 378, 397 teenage girls became pregnant. This narrows down to around 8051 girls per county, 1305 girls per constituency and 261 girls per ward. In addition, it is estimated that 13000 girls drop out of school every year due to teenage pregnancy related problems. This translates to around 277 girls per County, 45 girls per constituency and 9 girls per ward. In essence, these are not mere statistics but an indicator of how prevalent the issue of teenage pregnancies is in Kenya.
There are several factors attributed to be the causes of teenage pregnancies including; lack of awareness amongst the girls, poor parenting, cultural ties, unstable families and government laxity in punishing defilement offenders. Besides, poverty is the leading cause attributed to teenage pregnancies by various studies. However, the question is on what leads to the other. Does poverty lead to teenage pregnancies or do teenage pregnancies lead to poverty?
The answers to both questions are correct as both are interrelated. Of importance to all of us however, is how to reduce the poverty whether it is leading to or has been caused by teenage pregnancies which in turn calls for efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies.
The ripple effect of this menace is high levels of poverty among affected families since in many cases, education for the affected girls comes to an end. The poor parents to the teenagers find themselves taking care of their children and their grandchildren. In several instances, this has made life difficult to an extent of the families lacking the most basic needs. This vicious cycle continues as the children born to the teenagers may not get quality education and may end up getting trapped in teenage pregnancies too.
To reduce poverty, the society from various angles, must address the issue of teenage pregnancies. At the community level, let community leaders including parents overcome the cultural barriers that hinder creating awareness on this topic and speak up to girls on how to avoid adolescent pregnancies. Charitable organizations and the media should play a role and create awareness. These organization too can support the girls in matters education and coach girls on how to avoid this scourge as well as rehabilitate teenage mothers as most of them have not lost it in life. The girls can be re-enrolled to school or even be supported to get business training. On the other hand, local administration should enforce the law by ensuring that men found culpable of impregnating teenage girls face the full force of the law as stipulated in the Sexual Offences Act (2006) as read with other laws of this country.
Parents too need to ensure that their daughters (victims) and their sons (potential culprits), have the right footing in values and morals that will guide their steps in the right direction. Spiritual guidance and parental counselling including in institutions of learning should be embraced.
The government through the ministry of gender affairs should also try to roll out initiatives that will ensure girls remain in school especially by providing sanitary towels and support organizations that run anti-teenage pregnancies campaigns in their activities.
With these combined efforts, the society will have informed girls will who will be empowered girls and who will in turn transform the society.
Founder, Dear Little Sister Foundation and Author, Dear Little Sister Novel