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Parliamentarians pledge action to end teenage pregnancies

Members of the Senate and the National Assembly are alarmed by the growing trend of teenage pregnancies.

The legislators were invited by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) to give their views on teenage pregnancy while appraising what their respective houses are doing to help prevent the surging numbers of young mothers.

“These numbers were put into context during the November 2018 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education,” said Uasin Gishu senator, Prof. Margaret Kamar. “…when several girls were reported to have sat for the exams while pregnant.”

Kamar was referring to the 10 girls who were reported in the media as having delivered as they sat for national exams in 2018.

Speaking at the Intercontinental Hotel, Kamar said that the situation might not have changed, and she believes that it had come to the fore then because there was a female Education Cabinet Secretary at the time.

Then, CS Amina Mohamed called for a crisis meeting and charged the directors of education to come up with a survey of the candidates who had given birth during or before the exams, to enable the government formulate interventions.

Transferred to the Sports ministry

The issue was even discussed in Parliament, but soon Amina was transferred to the Sports ministry, and slowly the fire to address teenage pregnancy ebbed out -until now.

The legislators who attended the forum supported the campaign which, after the Nairobi launch, will be rolled out in the counties but called on policymakers and stakeholders to address the issue from all aspects including culture, education, policy and parenting.

“Let us not lay blame on anyone, short skirts or parents,” said nominated senator Agnes Zani, “We need to address teenage pregnancy through civic education. That should be the keyword in this campaign.”

On his part, controversial Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina was in a defensive mode. Narok County, according to a policy brief by NCPD and borrowed from the Kenya Health Demographic Health Survey of 2014, is shown to have the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Kenya at 40 percent compared to the national outlook which stands at 18 percent.

“I don’t understand why Narok, which has a low population, is said to have the highest-burden,” he lamented. “Even as we talk about these numbers, let us think of prevention and monitor teenage pregnancy for better interventions.”

Give young mothers a lifeline

Senators said that they have tabled three bills, which are in various reading stages, which have a connection to teenage pregnancies and may help it and give young mothers a lifeline by having them re-admitted to school.

These are The Reproductive Health Care Bill 2019 sponsored by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, The Care and Protection of Child Parents Bill, 2019 sponsored by nominated Senator Beatrice Kwamboka and which gives guidelines or obligations to both the national and county governments on the care of child parents.

The latter highlights the rights of pregnant girls and charges the governments to ensure they are re-admitted to school after giving birth. The third bill is The Community Health Services.

The discussion was held in the run-up to the first government-led multi-stakeholder campaign to end and prevent the case of “child mothers” death dubbed Let’s Act to End Teenage Pregnancy.

The campaign which will be launched on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, is led by NCPD in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Unesco, UNFPA and several NGOs.

This is in recognition that teenage pregnancy and motherhood in Kenya is at a crisis level, where one in every five teenage girls between the ages of 15-19 years have either had a baby or is pregnant with their first child.

The Let’s Act Towards Ending Teenage Pregnancy campaign launch ceremony will be held at the Laico Regency Hotel next Wednesday.