, 12 October, 2020 / 10:45 PM
The leadership of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Malindi in partnership with Karibuni Onlus NGO has, on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child celebrations, launched a program that will see 500 girls from Kilifi County, a coastal town in the East African country, benefit from an array of interventions aimed at ending teenage pregnancies that are reportedly rife in the region.
In a report shared with ACI Africa Monday, October 12, the Coordinator of Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of Malindi Diocese that is behind the project, Moses Mpuria said that the project will involve developing content on the dangers of irresponsible sexual behaviors as well supplying sanitary towels to girls from the region’s impoverished backgrounds.
Referencing media reports that have indicated a rise in teenage pregnancies in the East African country during the COVID-19 lockdown and closure of school, the Diocese’s JPC Coordinator says that Kilifi County is most affected.
“Schools have been closed since March 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and this has seen rampant increase in rates of teenage pregnancies as highlighted by mainstream media and the most recent Kenya Government Health Information Survey,” Mr. Mpuria says in the report.
He explains that because of poverty, teenage girls in Kilifi were pushed to irresponsible sexual practices early in life as a means to survive.
“Kilifi County is one of the poorest areas of Kenya with Human Development Index of 0.47 percent compared to the national average of 0.58 per cent,” he says, and adds, “This means that the populations have limited opportunities and choices, which predispose young girls to be lured into sexual activity for purposes of accessing basic necessities.”
Highlighting some of the major towns around the Kenyan Coast, he continues, “The major hotspots of teenage pregnancies in Kilifi County are Ganze including Bamba areas, Magarini, Malindi town and its environs, and Watamu, Mida/Matsangoni in Kilifi North.”
More than 100 girls from remote villages in the Diocese who were mobilized by teachers in the area participated in the Sunday, October 11 launch that involved talks on avoiding teenage pregnancies and valuing education, and concluded in distribution of sanitary pads.
Mr. Mpuria told ACI Africa that the occasion started with a Question and Answer session that was moderated by JPC coordinator.
“Teenage girls expressed the challenges that drive them into sexual practices that result in early pregnancies, and also their take on what can be done by themselves and the society to address the menace,” he said, highlighting the activities of the Q&A session.
The teenage girls also highlighted the lack of basic needs due to poverty in the family, uninvolved and neglectful parenting, peer pressure, lack of role models, poor attitude towards educating a girl child, and access to pornographic materials as some of the challenges they face that drive them into unhealthy relationship and choices resulting in teenage pregnancies, school dropout, and child marriages.
Speaking at the event, Fahma Kiptoo, a teacher at Kipanga-ajeni primary school said that she had received reports indicating that eight of her pupils at the school got pregnant during COVID-19 lockdown.
The teenage girls further expressed their desire to have mentors who could guide them towards responsible living and valuing education.
The event also attracted female teachers and heads of schools in neighboring villages who addressed the teenage girls on sexual reproductive health, and on menstrual hygiene focusing on proper use and disposal of sanitary pads.
Facilitators of the exercise also helped the girls to interrogate the value of relationships they find themselves in, and how impactful having bad friends and sexual partners at their age is to their life today and in the future.
In between the facilitated sessions, there were entertainment breaks in which the teenage girls presented poems and plays on challenges they face in the community.
The event concluded with distribution of sanitary pads to all the teenage girls in attendance.
The project to address Teenage Pregnancies is an extension of the renewed cooperation between Catholic Diocese of Malindi and Karibuni Onlus NGO through which more than 1000 Vulnerable families in Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu Counties were provided with emergency food packages in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Expressing his gratitude to the partners in the teenage girls’ project, the Malindi Diocese JPC coordinator said, “We are sincerely grateful to Mr. Gianfranco Ranieri and Karibuni Onlus NGO for the renewed and continued partnership with us. We thank Jackson Kanai of Karibuni for working closely with us in developing the proposal to this project.”
Mr. Mpuria said that once the schools reopen, appropriate efforts shall be made to incorporate the project in the school co-curricular activities program.
“In every monthly session, the targeted beneficiaries will be receiving sanitary pads,” he said.
The JPC official added that evaluation of the project will involve analysis of a data base that is to be created to track school attendance and performance, teenage pregnancies and child marriage on the targeted beneficiaries and comparing the results similarly to the records from the Ministry of Education and other relevant Government entities on girls not supported by the project.
“A positive impact of the project on addressing Teenage Pregnancies will be employed as an advocacy tool to champion for improved interventions in dealing with the menace,” Mr. Mpuria said.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa