By Ritah Anindo
Talk of desperation, Talk of hope, talk of stigma, talk of loneliness; this is what runs in the mind of an adolescent mother; the context of motherhood is highly valued across cultures but for an adolescent girl, the value consequence a price to pay, unlike the father of the child she has to set aside her ambitions and embrace parenthood. The stress is unbearable, most of this girls are uncertain of what the future holds, they either chose to keep the child or terminate; all in the hope for a better future.
The conversation of teenage pregnancy is not new in the country; reports indicate that one in every five girls of age15-19 has begun child bearing or has had a child (KDHS 2014). It is sad that the victims of this menace are mostly adolescents living in slums; most slum areas in Kenya have a narrative of teenage pregnancy and gender based violence which in turn leads to rise in young mothers; generational transmission of poverty. Fact is, we are raising a desperate generation, a generation where the general society is bitter for the dreams not achieved. Mercy not her real name, is a 19 year old girl who lives in Mathare, she had undergone an unsafe abortion in one of the chemist in Baba Dogo area, Mercy says that she did what she could to save her future. Mercy laments;
“I got my first child at the age of 14, I cannot imagine bearing another one”
Mercy represent millions of girls who have unmet needs and are rendered hopeless to the extent of seeking backstreet services; she represents young girls who want to achieve their dreams despite the gaps that exist both in Sexual reproductive health and in the society.
It is worth noting that teenage pregnancies have more complications and that most young girls would opt to undergo abortions which are often unsafe; take a case in Korogocho where in the month of February three fetuses had been fished from a section of Nairobi River; an area that is baptized ‘Rowe’ by Korogocho residents. According to the area Senior Assistant Chief, Mr. Anthony Kanyiri Mwangi; all this is as a result of low value of self, the best approach to this is to change the attitude and make it clear that being in the slum is not an endorsement to ‘slum mentality’. Being in slum should not be a subjective element to prostitution, crime or irresponsibility to one’s health.
Numbers don’t lie; it is evident that teenage pregnancies is not just a problem in the slums; it is a national social problem that should be dealt with by all stakeholders. The ministry of Health and that of Education need to work together and speak in the same language; the government should encompass comprehensive sex education in the new curriculum, this will help young girls and boys to make healthy choices. Parents should be trained on how to handle adolescents; they should understand that adolescence stage is an exploration stage and that young people are seeking their identity; they need to be guided, given freedom, monitored and given the right information.
For the teenage mothers; stakeholders need to provide conducive and non-discriminatory environment that will enable them to enjoy their right to health as well that of education. Policies to support teenage mothers should also be put in place; as they are a unique group of people that need special care.
Lastly the gaps in sexual reproductive health need to be filled; stakeholders need to meaningfully engage the youth in providing solutions; come to think of it; why do we have many intervention that are not effective? Why do we still have teenage pregnancies rising yet their interventions to cub this? It is because key players who are the youth are not involved meaningfully in the programming. To the youth; ‘Anything for us without us is against us.