By Alvin Mwangi
Young girls and boys in all their diversities are engaging in sexual activities, and we need not to pretend that they are not. According to reports, most of the adolescents and young people engage in sex before the age of 12. According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS 2014) 1 in 5 girls is either pregnant with her first child or has had a live birth.
Access to free range and affordable contraceptive information and services like condoms, high rates of adolescents and teenage pregnancy, proper menstrual health management (MHM), sex, sexuality, access to safe abortion to sexual violence survivors, post abortion care (PAC), sexual debut, drug and substance abuse, sexual intercourse, HIV/AIDDs, STIs, ante natal care (ANC), harmful practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) including child abuse and effects of domestic violence and even deaths from unsafe abortion are some of the social, reproductive health and health issues that the adolescents and young people in Kenya are going through. The surge of these issues does not stop for pandemics! Thus preventative information and services is vital.
Additionally, we have had adolescents especially girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy related stigma. Adolescent and teenage pregnancies are detrimental to girls’ education, health, economic opportunity and life.
Prevention efforts have focused mainly on behavior change of girls and boys in all their diversities rather than trying to address the underlying causes and drivers of adolescent and teenage pregnancies. The drivers include sexual violence, lack of access to Sexual and reproductive health services and information, poverty among many others.
The government is not holistic in its approach in fighting adolescent and teenage pregnancies cases. There is a strong and vital need to extend and have sexual and reproductive health education and information to all adolescent and young people in school and out of school settings.
The Ministry of education should be progressing in all its action and not burry its head under the sand like the proverbial ostrich. The Ministry of health receives all the burden of issues especially amongst the adolescents and young people. Through its various departments, The Ministry of health has initiated strategies to reduce and end some of these burden of issues, nationally and into the counties. For instance through the development of policies like the Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health Policy 2015 (ASRH Policy) 2015 which has been further domesticated to the counties to ensure strategies are developed, the departments have also put up toll free hotlines to ensure young people and the general public are able to call in with their reproductive health questions or concerns.
While the Ministry of health is doing a lot, The Ministry of Education has an opportunity to avail preventative information through clubs just like the availing of information to ensure that the adolescents and young people are making informed decisions and choices about their health and lives. Training of teachers on how to handle, provide access to information to adolescents and young people is vital.
Age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education provides information pertaining reproductive health for instance body changes, friends and relationships, culture, human rights, pregnancy for girls and boys, protection against STIs and HIV, self esteem, life skills, future dreams and plan, gender based violence among many others.
As a country we need to acknowledge that young people are engaging in sexual activities and are vulnerable to teenage pregnancies and many other reproductive health challenges. We should protect them and ensure they make well informed choices about their health and general well being. By providing them with age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education we will be able to give them a chance to make decisions about their own bodies, own these decisions and choose to be safe and healthy.
Adolescent and young people should receive medically accurate, fact based information about sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in a structured manner and in a safe environment. Access to the information from parents bridges the gap and encourages honest conversations between parents and their children about sex, sexuality, relationships, making decisions especially in today’s society where the economic demands have seen most parents get busy with work. Media and social media are some of the sources of incorrect information which have been influencing the perception and decisions of most young people.
The Ministry of Education has an opportunity through the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) to avail and include information within the CBC, information on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and on age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) that is able to address social, reproductive and health issues that the adolescents and young people are facing at present.
Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Youth Expert