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Inside Kenya’s teen pregnancy crisis

By Winnie Onyando September 3rd, 2023 2 min read

Growing up in African households, children often hear heart-wrenching tales of how the lives of young girls’ took unexpected turns when they became pregnant.

Mothers, in particular, share painful memories of being cast out of their parental homes due to their pregnancies.

Regrettably, many millennials acknowledge they entered into marriage not out of love but due to coercion, as their pregnancies led to them being evicted from their homes.

In many African households, the provision of comprehensive sex education remains a neglected topic.

While premarital sex is not endorsed, parents, especially fathers, often react to a pregnant daughter with a complex mix of regret and anger.

Sharing her story with Nairobi News, Mary Kamwende says she went through an excruciating ordeal upon discovering her pregnancy.

“In 2015, I left home and sought refuge with a friend in Ngara, Nairobi. It was a liberating space where I felt free to engage in relationships and partying. Unfortunately, my life took a detour when I became pregnant at the age of 21,” Kamwende told Nairobi News.

“When I realized I was pregnant, it felt as if my world had collapsed. I had no idea how to break the news to either of my parents, especially since I was just young and they held high aspirations for me,” Kamwende told Nairobi News.

On the other hand, Cornelius Awiti says, “When I found out I was pregnant, my first instinct was to run away from home, fearing my father’s reaction. I dreaded telling him, knowing he would blame my mother.”

“I was still in high school at the time. When my father received the news, his devastation was palpable. For months, he refused to interact with me, treating me as though I were a stranger. Years later, he adores his granddaughter. Although he eventually supported my return to school, he has never truly forgiven me for becoming pregnant while still in school.”

Many parents today still react with rejection and indignation toward their pregnant children.

A survey conducted by the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics has unveiled a troubling reality: Kenya ranks third globally in terms of teen pregnancies. Shockingly, one out of every five adolescents aged 15-19 in Kenya is already a mother or is expecting their first child.

Kenya’s rates of teenage pregnancy and motherhood stand at 18 percent, indicating that roughly one in five teenage girls between 15 and 19 years of age has either given birth or is pregnant with their initial child. This sobering statistic underscores the urgent need for comprehensive sex education and support systems to address the complex issue of teenage pregnancy in Kenya.

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