Kenya has made huge strides and progress when it comes to the health and education of women and girls. In spite of the tremendous progress made, adolescent and teenage girls still remain the most vulnerable group in this country. Teenage pregnancy is one of the main problems affecting the social, economic and political progress, empowerment, health and education of young women and girls of this country.
The teenage pregnancy and motherhood rate in Kenya stands at 20% (KDHS 2014). This implies that about 1 in every 5 teenage girls between the ages of 15-19 years, have either had a live birth or are pregnant with their first child. KDHS 2014 indicates that these rates have remained unchanged since 2008, implying that many girls continue to drop out of school, continue to experience health related challenges including mortality and morbidity due to birth related complications and unsafe abortion and are in some instances forced into early marriages.
According to the ministry of education, 13,000 girls drop out of school annually due to teenage pregnancy.
Counties with the highest burden of Teenage Pregnancy and Motherhood above National average of 18% include Narok 40%, Homabay 33%, Migori 24%, Siaya 38%, Westpokot 29%, and Tanariver 28%.(KDHS 2014)
Poverty, harmful cultural practices such as child marriages, lack of education including education on sexual and reproductive health, sexual abuse or violence, barriers to access to sexual and reproductive health services and early sexual initiation are some of the main drivers of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in Kenya.
This cannot be the future that we prepare for our daughters. To address the challenge of teenage pregnancy and motherhood and its adverse consequences:
Both County and National governments and non-state actors, should integrate age appropriate comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education/ information into the school curriculum and other platforms such as health facilities, youth empowerment centres, churches and mosques. Information is power. With the right information, young people are more likely to make informed choices concerning their sexual and reproductive health and rights hence reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
The government should fully implement and enforce all relevant laws and policies that address the issue of teenage pregnancy. These laws and policies include: the constitution (article 43 ), the sexual offence act 2006, the children act 2011, the National Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Policy (ASRH 2015), the National Reproductive Health Policy and the Education Sector Policy on HIV and AIDS (2013).
Since health is devolved, county governments should ensure that public health facilities are adolescent and youth friendly and are equipped with essential medical supplies including contraception free of charge at all times.
Campaigns and community dialogues to address harmful cultural practices such as child marriages, FGM and disco matangas, which drive teenage pregnancy, should be initiated by both county and national government.