Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action Cabinet Secretary (CS) Aisha Jumwa has urged chiefs and their assistants to scale up the fight against teenage pregnancies and early marriages among school-going children.
Ms Jumwa said teenage pregnancies and early marriages was an affront to the right of education for girls and the grassroots administrators need to be on the forefront of the fight against social ills in their areas of jurisdiction.
The CS called on parents, religious and traditional leaders to collaborate with public and private sector stakeholders in reducing the spate of teen pregnancies and early marriages in the counties.
She said if all concerned come together to tackle the social vice, cases of school age girls becoming mothers will become a thing of the past.
“Teenage pregnancies and early marriages are still rampant in our country and we need to stand together as stakeholders to end the social vices that threaten the dreams of many girls especially in rural areas,” she said, adding that the police should relentlessly crack down on those who attack, abuse or harass women.
The CS underscored the need for a concerted and decisive approach in ending the triple threat of pregnancies, new HIV infections and sexual and gender based violence cases among adolescents and young people.
She said ultimately all the efforts to promote the development of adolescent girls and to reduce early marriages and teenage pregnancies are important in the fight against poverty.
She says domestic violence takes many forms including physical, sexual, emotional, and mental and is often committed against women by men.
Jumwa made the remarks at a public function held at the Msambweni police station of Kwale County to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.
UNSCR 1325 is a global commitment to ensuring that women and girls are more systematically and sustainably integrated into peace and security.
The resolution adopted by the UN Security Council on October 31, 2000 focuses on women, peace and security, that reaffirms the importance of women in the prevention of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace building, and stresses on the importance of equal participation and full involvement of women in all efforts to maintain and promote peace in society.
She said a continually growing research base has now recognised the importance of women’s involvement in peace and security issues to achieving long lasting stability.
Jumwa said this acknowledgment stems from the efforts by international organisations, national governments and civil society around the world to establish what we now know as the Women, Peace and Security Agenda through the adoption of UNSCR 1325.
According to the Minister, parents, teachers and the grassroots administrators need to guide female learners on the right time and age to get married. She noted that adolescent pregnancies remain high in the country, with an average of 25 percent in the last 6 years.
She revealed that in 2021, Kwale County recorded 6,640 teenage pregnancies, a significant decline from 12,480 in 2018. In the same year, more (173) younger children (10-14 years) became mothers in compared to the previous year (2020), where 99 pregnancies were recorded.
“We all need to come together and stop child marriages and prevent adolescent pregnancies that deny children of school age their right to education,” she said, further noting, that lack of parental control and guidance was a key factor in the high rate of teenage pregnancies being witnessed in the country year in year out.
Jumwa asked all officers under her department to work closely with the county governments as a way of ensuring the national government development agendas are fulfilled.
The CS said the government is ready to help in curbing the menace and also gave out a stern warning to men who indulge in indecent acts with underage girls saying that they will face the full force of the law. She asked chiefs and their assistants to take stern action against men who are responsible for impregnating school girls and take legal actions.
“If you take actions against these criminals then cases of early marriages and pregnancies will be a thing of the past. I therefore ask you not to solve such cases at community levels. Let the culprits face the law, and by doing that we will be grooming a responsible society, and hence empowering our girls and women,” she said.
The event culminated with the issuance of cheques worth Sh5.2 million from the Women Enterprise Fund kitty under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs to various groups from across the county.
On her part, Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani stressed on the importance of women involvement in decision making on peace and security issues that affect the community as a way of achieving long lasting solutions to gender based violence cases.
Governor Achani commended UN Women for its efforts in empowering women to take up higher responsibilities in the society, saying that it has helped many communities in Kenya accept women leadership.
The county boss advised parents to monitor the movements of their children and endeavour to provide them with their basic needs.
She said teenage pregnancies and early marriages and HIV infections impede the growth and development of girls and prevent them from reaching their full potential.
“We are proud as a county to have the first female Governor in the Coast region. Kwale County has set a good example for other counties because we also have the first elected female Member of the County Assembly Hanifa Mwajirani of Ramisi ward who is also the Leader of Majority in the County Assembly,” Achani observed.
The county boss called on civil society organisations to scale up community sensitisation and awareness campaigns on the role of men and women in the enhancement of women empowerment and gender parity in all spheres of the economy.
By Hussein Abdullahi