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Hungry and homeless: The havoc of teenage pregnancies

Unlike in the past when old men used to marry young girls, these days it is boys who contribute greatly to the teenage pregnancies

By Purity Ndilai

An upsurge of teenage pregnancies in Kajiado County is causing concern as large numbers of girls drop out of school and are married off or thrown out of their parents’ homes.

Figures show that teenage pregnancy rose to 3.5 per cent in the first nine months of 2018 among adolescent girls, up from an average of 3.2 per cent in the past two years.

Eileen Sawani, the head of Family Health in Kajiado County, attributes the increase to early marriages and lack of information on the use of contraceptives among adolescents.

However, unlike in the past when old men used to marry young girls, these days it is boys who contribute greatly to teenage pregnancies.

“The trend has changed because the government has intervened. It is now young people, some boys less than 18 years, who are impregnating our girls,” she said.

Nashipae (not her real name) was forced to quit school at 13, after she was impregnated by a 22-year old man in 2013 while in class 4.

She says that after she got pregnant, her father chased her away and struck a deal with the father of the 22-year-old to marry her off, where she was subjected to violence by the man, whom she accused of being a drug addict, forcing her and her child to go hungry for days at times.

In late 2014, Nashipae could not bear the hostile environment anymore and she picked her bags and left for her home in Oloilotikoshi, defying her father’s instructions to stay with the man no matter what befell her since it was all her fault. She faced myriad challenges because the family was large and she had two other sisters who had children as well. She sought employment in various hotels and flower firms but could find none since she was below the age of 18. She had to stay at home, and that was when the thought of going back to school came upon her.

Nashipae is currently in Class 7 at Iseuri Primary School after she got help from a good Samaritan, who left with her with the blessing of her mother. She lives with her benefactor, who has vowed to support her studies until she completes class 8 and thereafter take her to secondary school.

Fatuma, 17 (not her real name), she is currently five months pregnant and has been forced to cut short her studies due to poverty. She has been going through a lot of difficulties since she was impregnated by an 18-year-old man who later denied responsibility, leaving her to struggle alone in Majengo area of Kajiado Central.

But for Nadia (not her real name), life has been even more difficult since her parents chased her away after they learnt she was pregnant. “At the age of 16, I am the breadwinner of my one-year-old child, because the man responsible for the pregnancy deserted and accused me of infidelity, which wasn’t true, so I cannot go home or to my man.

Lanoi Parmuat, Director of Enai Africa — a non-governmental organisation that focuses on sensitizing women and youths on the importance of spacing their children — said that,  “It is regrettable that we are recording 118 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in Kajiado County, a number that seems to be increasing by the day mainly due to negligence among parents, teachers and the community. Many times, these children who get pregnant at a young age are bashed by their parents for ‘behaving badly,’ which damages their self-esteem.”

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