Kakamega Governor’s wife Professor Janet Kasili Barasa has begun a campaign to trace and take teenage mothers who dropped out of school due to pregnancy back to class.
The teen mothers will also be champions to speak against teenage pregnancies in their communities and those identified will choose to either join secondary school or be supported to join Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to further their dreams.
The Governors spouse last week made an impromptu tour of their homes where she identified at least 60 teenage mothers across the county, one from every ward to be pioneers of the programme.
She called on other partners to wake up to the call to adopt a teenage mother, through, a helping hand to a teen mother.
During the launch of the Programme several corporate organizations including the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Kabras Sugar Company, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) enlisted to support the initiative.
Prof Barasa however warned that the initiative was not meant to encourage teenage pregnancies but give them hope that all was not lost and urged those in school to avoid falling into such situations.
She said that teenage pregnancy puts young girls at risk of poor maternal and child health, isolation from the community, attempted unsafe abortions, failure to continue with school, poverty and even death.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s 2022 report on the global birth rate for the age group 15-19 years, there has been a decline of over 30% from 65 to 43 births per 1000 adolescent girls aged 15-19.
With an aggressive campaign against teenage pregnancies, Kakamega has recorded a reduction of teenage pregnancy cases for between 10-19 years from 16, 969 in 2018 to 12, 000 in 2022 with Malava sub county still leading by 1361 cases, according to data from the department of Health, Kakamega.
“Child abuse increases the risk of unintended pregnancies since most girl’s experience forced sexual contact. This abuse is deeply rooted in gender inequality and it affects girls more than boys. Preventing adolescent pregnancy, child bearing as well as child marriage is part of the county government’s manifesto by ensuring provision of good health, social development and good governance for the people of Kakamega County,” she added.
Prof. Barasa urged the teenage mothers to now focus on getting education and supporting their young children.
“From now henceforth you must understand that each and every decision that you make affects the two of you; yourself and your child. The best decision you can make at this age, therefore, is to keep pushing yourself to get education and be the woman that your child and the world can be proud of. For me, I want a community where women and men are learned,” she pointed out.
She also encouraged the teenage mothers to go for cancer screening and avoid having many sexual partners as they risk getting cervical cancer from the HPV Virus.
Teenage mothers who spoke expressed their joy for support as most of them said they were willing to go back to school as life was unbearable after getting pregnant and giving birth.
To them, their light had been blown off, they had given hope of ever going back to school and were waiting for their fate- with support from the county’s Governor’s wife coming as a surprise which they considered God sent.
Some of the teenage mothers recounted that they were told to go to get married as their parents felt ashamed and did not know what to do and went ahead to abandon them.
Partners in reproductive health in Kakamega have applauded the initiative by the county governor’s wife calling for collaboration to end the triple threat.
Jackline Meli, a senior technical officer coordinating United States Agency for International Development(USAID) For the Child program in Kakamega, said USAID for the Child which supports orphans and vulnerable children, has enrolled 14, 300 children, 23 of them are teenage mothers who are either pregnant or currently breastfeeding.
From the number, 3, 800 live with HIV/AIDs as the organization ensures they get the required medication and their viral load is suppressed to enable them enjoy their lives and fulfil their dreams.
“We have a responsibility as an organization to ensure that all these children we are supporting have acquired education, are safe from domestic violence and any form of violence, their parents have capacity to meet their needs and to ensure they are healthy,” she noted.
Other USAID funded programs ongoing in Kakamega apart from USAID for the child are USAID Nuru ya Mtoto and USAID Boresha Jamii.
By Moses Wekesa