Adolescent sexual behaviour saw what was arguably the most volatile year in recent times following reports of hundreds of girls who sat their national examinations while pregnant.
In response to the crisis, young people are asking the government to allow them access family planning and reproductive health services.
They also want authorities to promote comprehensive sex education for adolescents in order to address the abuse of children, early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition to that, the youth want to be involved in debates on the subject.
Representatives of young people in Kenya made the call on Thursday.
“Following reports on the appalling numbers of teenage pregnancies, stakeholders have given their views and opinions on the issue,” Ms Martha Kombe, a member of the Youth Advisory Council, said.
“However, the voices and opinions of young people have not been heard.”
PREGNANT KCPE CANDIDATES
Newspapers, TV, radio stations and social media were awash with stories of pregnant candidates during the KCPE and KCSE examinations in October and November.
Kilifi County alone recorded 13,624 pregnancies among girls aged 15 to 19 in one year.
Kilifi children affairs coordinator George Migosi said the county Health department recorded an additional 290 cases among 10 to 14-year-olds in the same period.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, about 378,397 girls in Kenya aged 10 to 19 became pregnant between June 2016 July 2017.
“This is shocking and unacceptable,” said 21-year-old Angela Atieno of YAC. “Kenya is letting her young people down.”
She said in addition to the policy that allows girls to go back to school after delivery, more must be done to fight teen pregnancies.
Ms Sheenan Mbau of the Centre for the Study of Adolescence said sexually active youth should have access to family planning services.
“We’re not saying family planning be taken to schools but the government should instruct public hospitals to provide the services to those in need,” she said.
Already, the group has submitted its views to the new curriculum developers on sex education.
Mr Brian Otieno, a member of an organisation called Alfajiri, said youth voices must be heard because “we understand our experiences”.
“Young people trust their peers more, especially when it comes to sex matters,” he said.
He added that authorities should use language that is open instead of assuming that adolescents are oblivious to sex.
The group wants the Health and Education ministries, religious leaders and other stakeholders to be open on sex matters.
“We’re asking the government to partner with young people as it is doing with the civil society and religious institutions. It should engage parents and fully implement sex and reproductive health education in schools,” Mr Otieno added.
Studies show that about 11 per cent of children have sex before their 15th birthday. About 47 per cent of teens are already sexually active by the time they are 18.
A study by Research Plus Africa released last month found that seven in 10 girls aged between 15 and 19 in urban areas are sexually active.