The role of men in achieving zero teenage pregnancies by 2030 in Kenya is paramount.
Players such as the government, religious organisations and civil society have put measures to this end but the extent to which men uphold the challenge is yet to be explored and exploited. And despite all energies being channelled into the challenge, no good news is forthcoming.
As the discussion on the subject matter spirals into a vicious cycle of clumsy results day in, day out, it is time we took decisive action: Challenge men to act or shut up. Of late, there have been hot discussions and suspicious figures of pregnant schools girls making rounds on social media. These girls do not get pregnant by themselves; there is a man involved, of whichever age.
Whereas, and reasonably so, no parent, despite our varied cultures, is delighted to see their underage daughter pregnant or married off, there is an urgent need for parents to change tack in their approach towards teenage girls.
The earlier the parents understand things are getting out of hand with the Information Age, the better. They must endeavour to understand their children and fit in the new culture; what worked in the past century in administering discipline to girls does not work anymore.
The parents of the present generation of teenage girls lived, and were brought up, in a communal culture. A child was everybody’s responsibility. But we are creeping into a lazy culture where a child is under total, if not absolute, neglect.
A parent throws a child in school and the teachers are expected to take care of the many children and run into all manner of blame in case things get bad.
While technological advancements herald a better life in many aspects, the misgivings are also on the rise. A little child in a remote village with access to the internet and in possession of a gizmo can communicate globally and probably get sexually bullied by an irresponsible adult from a far-off corner of Earth. But the internet is here to stay; we have to brace for worse and pick what we ought to from it to save our young girls and boys in the age of cyberculture.
But this is not the time to accept irresponsible cultures such as comprehensive sexuality education. Even the proponents of such outrageousness would not be happy to have their children on such programmes. What should be on the discussion table is age-appropriate sexuality education.
Let our professionals design a model of delivering sex education to children in the most appropriate way, not holistically swallowing mundane concepts and frames from a West that operates at different times and environment. Just as they rejected some of our cultures, we should shun some of theirs with no apologies.
As we rally support for the girl-child, let’s also put an equal emphasis on boys. From the outset, the boy-child must be taught responsibility. To put an end to early teenage pregnancies and child marriages, we must have a purposive and a candid dialogue with the boys.
Take the case of the 4,000 cases of teenage pregnancy reported in Machakos County recently: 4,000 families will face unprecedented financial constraints and life will never be the same again. But what if the men involved had said ‘no’?
The world over, there have been intersectional theorists who, knowingly or otherwise, are creating a strong girl-child while ignoring that this girl will live in a society with the boys. In the spirit of leaving no one behind, we must love both in equal measure. Unless we purposely create a balance, we will be handing the future generation a poisoned chalice.
The promise of a bigger and better future lies in everyone taking responsibility. We cannot afford to have a future without strong men and women. But most importantly, let’s flatten the curve on teenage pregnancy through a multisectoral approach where every man takes action.
Mr Mikwa, a communications practitioner, is a research fellow at The New School University, New York. @mwongelaf