Efforts to curb teen pregnancies in Kilifi bear no fruit

Monday March 18 2019

Teenage pregnancy

Education and children officials say Kilifi County has recorded almost 3,000 cases of teen pregnancies between January and March. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BAYA SAMUEL
By BAYA SAMUEL
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We meet in a rundown hotel in Kilifi town and Kadii, 18, ask for the menu. She scans it hastily before ordering for tea and mahamri (buns).

Kadii fiddles with her fingers, appearing unsettled even as I assure her that the interview will be short and will not be intrusive.

“I need to go back home before my husband arrives for lunch. Let us finish this fast. He might not be happy to know I talked to you,” she says.

PEER PRESSURE

Kadii is a mother of a two-year-old girl. She gave birth while still in primary school.

“I was only 16 when I conceived. I succumbed to peer pressure for I was naive. Honestly, I didn’t know him very well,” she says.

Kadii adds that while at school, her friends kept showing her photos of their boyfriends and the gifts the men were buying them, including panties, food and clothes.

“I felt that I was missing out and gave in. A friend introduced him to me. He was my age mate but in a neighbouring school,” Kadii says.

When she became pregnant, the boy dropped out of school and offered to marry her. Intriguingly, their parents were not opposed to the idea.

The two are now living as man and wife, her husband doing menial jobs in neighbouring Mombasa County.

“After two years of playing mother and wife roles, I really do regret becoming pregnant. Many of my age mates who remained in school are way ahead of me in life but I will correct that. I plan to join a technical institution,” she says.

Kache, on the other hand, was not that lucky. The man whom made her pregnant took off and she had to turn to her parent for help.

DROP OUT

“After promising many things, he disappeared when I informed him that I was expectant. I had to drop out of school,” Kache says, adding that her mother looked after her.

The elderly woman is now looking after her child and grandchild. The girl plans to go back to school and pursue her teaching dream.

Kadii and Kache are just a mirror of the big problem facing Kilifi County, where girls drop out of school on becoming pregnant.

Education and children officials say the region has recorded almost 3,000 cases of teen pregnancies between January and March. Most of the girls are aged 15 to 19.

The major hotspots of teen pregnancies are Ganze, Bamba, Magarini, Mtwapa, Kilifi town and Malindi.

Kilifi Women Network (Kiwnet) chairwoman Esther Kondo told the Nation that the situation is terrible.

"The numbers could be far much higher, given that some cases go unreported,” she said.

“It is true that teen pregnancies have been on the rise in Kilifi. I have just received news of nine pregnant girls in Rabai.”

UNDERAGE SEX

In its 2018 report, Kiwnet said the county recorded 17,866 early pregnancies, with Rabai Sub-County leading with 28 per cent of the cases.

However, County Children Affairs coordinator George Migosi put the figure at 13,624.

Records at Rabai Health Centre show that more than 20 girls aged 15 to 18 gave birth in December alone.

About 30 per cent of the births in the sub-county in the last three months involved girls in that age bracket.

Mr Elvina Nyevu, a village elder in Liwandani told the Nation that authorities and school administrators are looking for a 40-year-old man who eloped with a 14-year-old weeks ago.

“The man is on the run. He abandoned his family when his affair with the girl began. We have reported the case to the police. There are reports that the girl is pregnant and we are doing all we can to have him arrested and prosecuted,” Mr Nyevu said.

Sauti ya Wanawake Ganze chapter chairperson Judith Uchi said underage pregnancy cases are also rampant in her area.

Last week, about seven cases were reported in Ganze, she said.

“It is clear that our men and even school boys have a problem,” Ms Uche said.

SEX TOURISM

Kilifi Mums chairperson Kibibi Ali blamed the problem on residents not finding time to talk to their children.

“In our sensitisation programmes in schools and villages, we found out that locals do not talk to their children on the dangers of early sex,” Ms Ali said.

Some blame the epidemic of teen sex on the high levels of poverty in Kilifi, joblessness and the highway and urban phenomena.

They say the latter two contribute to the erosion of cultural values and promote sex tourism in places like Mtwapa, Kilifi and Malindi.

Another contributing factor is the boda boda business.

In November, Governor Amason Kingi formed a committee to investigate the problem. Its recommendations are yet to be made public.

Mr Kingi gave the team that comprised health, education and gender officers a month to do its work.

The governor told the Nation that the committee is yet to present its findings to his desk.

Kilifi Woman Representative Getrude Mbeyu has been vocal on the problem.

“Building boarding schools, particularly for girls, in our county will reduce this problem,” she says.