Opinion: State must act fast to protect our teenage girls

Opinion: State must act fast to protect our teenage girls

The government’s health survey recently attributed a spike in teenage pregnancies to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Since the pandemic hit Kenya in March, social workers have been warning us about the potential of increased teen pregnancies.

The government demographic data shows that 15 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 had already given birth and 10 per cent are pregnant.

With the lockdown and cessation of movement, organisations that would have provided free sanitary pads are locked up so young girls tend to use other means to attain them where they are exposed to exchange of sex for financial assistance.

The leading causes of teen pregnancies especially during this pandemic is poverty, defilement, rape, child marriage and lack of youth-friendly services.

School closures have interfered with education system cutting off girls from their daily routine to school and exposing them to abuse at home. The cases have increased due to idleness of students at home leading to early pregnancies.

Already the counties of Machakos and Kajiado have reported at least 4,000 and 5,800 pregnancies respectively since March this year. Coast counties combined have a total of 4,000 cases.

The youth now have a lot of time and nothing to do with it, hence are prone to engage in immoral activities with their peers away from the watchful eyes of their parents. 

Restrictions on movement have also contributed to early pregnancies since it became difficult for girls to access contraceptives and family planning services.

Challenges related to the rise of teen pregnancies include insufficient funding for reproductive health services, lack of comprehensive sex education in schools and the failing economy pushing most into poverty. 

The government should come up with interventions to curb teenage pregnancies by holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions. This includes banning alternative conflict resolution methods in cases of sexual abuse. 

Parents and guardians should also be held responsible for their children. Some help conceal the perpetrators of sexual violence as they are either part or friends of the family, claiming reporting acts of sexual violence would bring the family embarrassment. Such parents should be charged together with the abusers.  

Civil protection agencies need to protect the girls from being abused and denied their rights.

Girls who get pregnant also need support to continue with education after delivery. 

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