A cross section of leaders from the Coast region on Wednesday held a crisis meeting to deliberate on how to end the rising teenage pregnancy problem in the region.
The Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government (MOICNG) has initiated a nationwide exercise to develop a National Security Strategy on Prevention of Teenage Pregnancies.
The Coastal region has been identified as among areas where teenage pregnancies are rampant which has contributed to the high rate of school dropouts among other social challenges facing young girls.
The meeting chaired by the Coast Regional Commissioner (RC), John Elungata at Uhuru na Kazi building brought together government officials, religious leaders and civil societies who called for urgent measures to end teenage pregnancy.
The leaders received reports from County Commissioners (CCs), Regional Director of Education, Children office and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) on the situation on the ground.
Among those who attended were CCs from the six coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Lamu and Tana River, Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa Bishop Martin Kivuva, Bishop Alphonce Baya of ACK Diocese of Mombasa, Bishop Joseph Maisha of Ushindi Baptist Church and Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, the National Organizing Secretary of Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK).
The region, according to statistics from various counties, recorded over 4,000 teenage pregnancies between the month of January and May this year with Kilifi leading with 3,376 followed by Mombasa with 941 cases.
The reports from relevant national and county government departments show that majority of the girls between the ages of 10 and 19 got pregnant from March after schools were closed over the Covid-19 pandemic.
The meeting was told that heightened sexual activity among young girls has been encouraged by the proliferation of mobile phones, peer pressure, social gatherings, beach activities, lack of awareness on reproductive health and poverty.
Boda boda operators have also been blamed for luring young girls with offers of free rides to and from schools in exchange for sexual favours.
Elungata said there was a need to involve all leaders from the regional to locational levels to find a lasting solution to teenage pregnancies which he said is a ‘major social challenge’ prevalent in the region.
The administrator said the government will put pressure on chiefs and their assistants and other grassroots leaders to be proactive in the war against teenage pregnancies and other sexual abuse offences.
He said the pregnancies not only disrupt young girls’ quest for education but also pose a serious physical and psychosocial health challenges to them.
“We must treat this matter seriously and those responsible must be exposed and punished according to the law. Like all other preventive programmes we are running, we must deal with those preying on school girls, “said Elungata.
He also asked parents to shape the morals of their children and monitor their movement especially during the school holidays.
The RC said teenage pregnancy and early marriage is a crime that the government is determined to stop in the country.
Sheikh Khalifa recommended for the amendment of the Sexual Offences Act to provide harsher penalties against those who make minors pregnant.
The cleric said the high rate of learner pregnancies pose a big challenge to the education sector and the overall development of the country.
The Sexual Offences Act states that a person found guilty of defiling a minor aged between 12and 15 be jailed for not less than 20 years while whoever has sex with minors between the age of 16and 18 years gets a minimum of 15 years.
By Mohamed Hassan