Access to sexual and reproductive health services is limited for the poorest and hardest to reach communities in Kenya. Millions of Kenyans living in rural communities do not have access to family planning facilities. Teenage girls are the most vulnerable group that can benefit from family planning advice.
According to the WHO, about 17 million girls below the age of 19 give birth every year. The majority of these girls belong to low- and middle-income countries. Globally, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for girls aged between 15 and 19. Infants born to teenage mothers also have a substantially higher risk of dying than those born to older women.
Adolescence is the phase where children (boys and girls) can best focus on their education and acquire skills to be used as adults later in life. Teenage girls who become pregnant face considerable stigma and are often forced to drop out of school. In most cases, they end up in a life of early marriage and low-skilled jobs. An estimated 28% of girls are married off before their 15th birthday in Kenya.
This has an economic impact on the countries as well, losing out on the income an educated young woman should have earned if she hadn’t missed out on school. This is especially severe in Kenya as 40 percent of its population are below the age of 15, and the country needs them well educated.
Most recently 26 girls from the Narok province were forced to drop out of school due to pregnancy. They apparently got pregnant during the Christmas holidays after undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The horrendous practice makes girls feel they are old and mature enough and end up engaging in sexual activities. Officials blame this on the parents and the community, accusing them of abdicating responsibility and neglecting their children.
The patriarchal and male-dominated society hinders the empowerment of Kenya’s girls a lot. Myths about the use of contraceptives are entrenched in the Kenyan community. People often question the various methods used to prevent unintended pregnancies. They even have doubts about their effectiveness or whether the drugs and other methods of family planning will lead to sickness and death.
International aid agencies have long tried to educate girls on the several available options for family planning, saving many from the unintended pregnancies that often force girls to drop out of school.
Agencies like the Women Like Us Foundation are making efforts that can help change lives for the better. With some help, girls can stay longer in schools which open up a world of opportunity in life.