OPINION: Denying boys and girls timely information about reproductive health is a tragedy
By Elijah Magaiwa
Last year, a 17-year-old girl from my home area of Kuria West in Migori County, got a backdoor and ended up losing her womb.
When she found out she was pregnant, she went to her friend who advised her to take a certain tablet. She started feeling strong abdominal pains, but didn’t share with anyone.
The situation got worse and she ended up in the emergency room, where she was operated on and her uterus was removed. I believe that if she had the proper information about abortion, she would have made better choices and would not have lost her ability to bear children in the future.
Within the same area, just a few weeks later, a 14-year-old girl gave birth and died the following day. A man had convinced her to have sex, promising her that she would not get pregnant since she was young, but she ended up paying with her life.
I believe that if the girl had the right information on reproductive health, about the age of conceiving, and family planning options, she would be alive today.
Adolescents make up more than 24.5 percent of Kenya’s population. This same slice of the population is at the highest risk of sexually transmitted infections STIs including HIV, while female adolescents face additional risks of early pregnancy, unsafe abortions, and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Teen pregnancies either unwanted or wanted increases the risk of maternal mortality and morbidity including prolonged labor pain and delivery, complication of unsafe abortions, and deaths.
Further, teens who get pregnant are more likely to drop out of school and reduce career progress and economic empowerment, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and high rate of violence between partners.
Evidently, teen confinement due to pregnancy is associated with adverse health, education and economic outcomes. This is largely due to inadequate access to information about sex and family planning, leading to a spike in teen pregnancies.
According to the 2010 constitution, all have a right to get information held by another person and which is required for their protection. The National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy 2015, similarly, promotes provision of accurate information and services to prevent early and unintended pregnancies among adolescents.
Many parents do not want to talk to their children about sex, because they feel it’s not the right time. It is taboo to even mention sex before marriage, and many feel ashamed to bring it up.
A 12-year-old adolescent needs a lot of counseling and guidance from parents and other mentors. Parents should create some time to interact with their children to understand their challenges. They should not be surprised that some of their daughters engage in sex to get money for basic commodities.
County governments should train teachers on sexual and reproductive health and rights as well equip them with youth peer provider skills. This will help them understand how to handle them and educate them.
Finally, we should also train more youth peer providers and community health volunteers to help in educating youths in the village. Parents should also be educated to understand the importance of parent- child talks and importance of family planning uptake to their sexually active children.
Mr. Magaiwa is a youth advocate at NAYA Kenya