Maureen Waititu gives her thoughts on worrying teen pregnancy trend

Maureen Waititu
Image: Instagram

Popular social media influencer and lawyer Maureen Waititu has penned an opinion on the worrying rate of teen pregnancies in Kenya.

The piece that ran on The Star Newspaper today details the effects of teen pregnancies on the girls and their furture.

Read it below.

Fifteen-year-old Victoria from Kangemi dropped out of school after falling pregnant and never returned.

Twenty years and five children later, Victoria struggles to make ends meet selling charcoal to residents of Kawangware.

Twelve-year-old Wanjiru’s small frame enabled her to hide her pregnancy for eight months. The shame and stigma she experienced hampered her from visiting a pre-natal clinic throughout her pregnancy. Fourteen-year-old Mary was married off to a 60-year-old man to ease the family’s financial burden and she died as a result of birth-related complications.

One in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother. The National Council on Population and Development recorded 379,573 teenage pregnancies in 2019. Every year, about 13,000 Kenyan girls drop out of school due to unplanned pregnancies.

As if these numbers were not disturbing already, Covid-19 is the curve ball none of us expected with around 152,000 cases reported in the first three months of the pandemic in 2020. Media reports indicate that 650 girls sat for 2020 KCSE exam in different hospitals after giving birth. These numbers are worrying!

Pregnancy is a major adjustment, even for older stable women and I cannot bear to imagine the mental and psychological toll on teenagers. Shame, depression, anxiety, abandonment, stress around the pregnancy, denial of the pregnancy is all too common for a teenager grappling with her new reality.

Many of them forced by pregnancy enter into early marriages where most times end up as victims of domestic violence. According to research, most adolescent girls who give birth for the first time do this with sparse knowledge, healthcare and support. Compared to older women, many adolescent girls are more likely to give birth without a skilled attendant, which further compounds their risks - complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 globally.

A year and a half into the Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to witness diminished parental income. The uncertain economic realities that many families are facing has led to reliance on children, especially daughters fending for the family.

Fending sometimes take the form of sexual exchanges which could not only lead to unintended pregnancies but sexually transmitted diseases as well. Early marriages and the ‘bride price’ they receive is also a feasible financial option for many economically depraved families. From previous experience, pandemics and disasters that have occasioned school closures, have witnessed a higher rate of girls dropping out of school and never returning. This is not a legacy we want to be a part of.

With International Day of the Girl behind us now, we need to ensure that young people have access to information and resources to help them plan their future. This allows them to stay in school, finish their education so they can help drive economic progress, for their families, communities and for our nation. Knowledge gives young people the power to plan their own lives, which is why this is not only better for them as individuals, it’s #Better4Kenya

The government of Kenya committed to ending teenage pregnancy by 2030 at the International Conference on Population and Development 25 and began mobilising high-level intergovernmental committees to develop and implement proven solutions.

These efforts ought to continue during this Covid-19 pandemic. As the government plays its part, we the parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, siblings, mentors are the village required to push the needle on this conversation.

We must engage in honest conversations around contraceptive use and access, age-appropriate sex education and interrogate retrogressive culture. It’s not just the responsibility of young girls, it’s a burden we all need to bear.

Teen pregnancy is not a girl issue, it is a society issue.

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