At one point in their life, every young person grapples with the various physical, emotional and social decisions associated with sex and sexuality. Consequently, the secrecy and shame that discourages open and honest conversations about sex does not promote abstinence among young people but rather forces them to seek guidance from unverified and untrustworthy sources. We must dispel the notion that a young person who is sexually active is immoral.
Currently, Kenya’s education system does not have a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum that focuses on a wholistic and age-appropriate approach in educating young people about bodily autonomy, sex and relationships, family planning and more. The information that young people have is thus shallow and inadequate, and is often overshadowed by the myths and misconceptions associated with family planning. It is important to note that family planning goes beyond preventing unintended pregnancies through contraceptive use. It also enables women to live healthier lives with equal opportunities to pursue education and career goals.
September 26is World Contraceptive Day, a day that is set aside for the world to consolidate efforts and raise awareness on the various family planning options available to women and men and thus enabling them to make informed choices regarding their reproductive health. This year, the campaign is encouraging all stakeholders to make sure no one is left behind, unable to access contraceptives in light of a pandemic that has disrupted supply systems and seen funds redirected from reproductive health programs to covid 19 response. More than half of Kenya’s population is young. They make up a vital demographic that must not be denied the chance to choose whether or not they want to be parents.
According to the United Nations sexual and reproductive agency, UNFPA, the high unmet need for family planning among young people between the ages of 15 to 24 who are sexually active is directly corelated to the many cases of teenage pregnancies, majority of which are unreported. Research also shows that the highest childbearing rates are seen in Africa, where young people have the highest need for contraception. As we raise our concerns about the rising cases of teenage pregnancies in the country, let’s make sure that young people in and out of school have the means to prevent unplanned parenthood. Focusing on messaging on abstinence is important but must not be from a point of ignorance and denial on the fact that our youth are sexually active.
To make contraceptive freedom a reality, we must ensure that young people have sufficient and accurate information on the various forms of contraceptives available, including where to access them without fear and judgement. Youth friendly health facilities must be equipped, increased and well distributed to match the current need. A deliberate strategy that involves placing young Kenyans at the forefront of their reproductive health is the only way to go.
VIDEO OF THE DAY; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xnPSPsCVP8
By Anne Mugo
Gender equity and Youth Participation Advocate