A youth group from Kilifi county has launched an ambitious program that seeks to address the challenge of teenage pregnancies that has been blamed for deteriorating education standards in the region.
Despite continued efforts by the government and stakeholders to find solutions, many school-age girls in Kilifi still find themselves pregnant with teen pregnancy rates remaining stubbornly high.
While an estimated 18.4% of girls aged between 15-19 years across Kenya have begun child bearing, the percentage stands at 21.8 % in Kilifi.
According to 26-year old Mary Kazungu, the obtaining situation has prompted a group of youth in Kilifi County to take proactive steps to champion against the vice in the region.
And with boda boda operators receiving the blame for increased cases, Mary says a recent study conducted by a local organisation dubbed Kilifi Citizen Forum in partnership with Bunge la Mwananchi Sauti ya Wanawake appear to let them off the hook.
According to the survey, the operators are just messengers who are sent by those preying on young girls to transport them to their hideouts.
Mary says most girls fall prey to sex predators over lack of resources to buy sanitary towels which leads them to engage in early sexual practices.
Mary is among a group of young persons who have teamed up with fellow mentors to establish a group dedicated to championing for girls to get sanitary towels.
”We thought of looking for a person to train us on how to make the re-usable pads and give them to the girls” she says.
Mariakani ward, where she comes from, is comprised of Kawala Kadzonzo and Mariakani Mitamboni wards.
”Our aim is to conduct sensitizations to bring the girls together, train them on how to make the pads so that they can make them on their own at their homes,” she says.
25-year-old Judith Kambi, a youth champion who has been in the forefront in supporting young people particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, says their programme usually revolve around reproductive health, gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy and illicit drugs.
”Many youths have lost direction since they no longer go to school, you find young girls employed in restaurants, as housemaids, construction sites,” she observed.
According to Mariakani chief Harisson Katana, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated an already dire situation.
Katana says his office has been sensitizing village elders including members of the Nyumba Kumi initiative to report cases of teenage pregnancies or Sexual gender-based violence to authorities.
Kilifi county executive in charge of health Charles Dadu however says parents must be ready to play a role in ensuring that their children access sex education. Dadu says the county administration has put in place elaborate plans that have seen trained health workers as well as community health workers offers sex education to young people.