Girls and women are the heart of development in a country. Empowering a girl or a woman is giving a community a good living standard. This is not the case in Kenya as teenage pregnancy has been on the rise for many years and the situation is likely to get out of hand if nothing is done. A report released as the world marked The International Day of the Girl Child showed that Kenya is one of the countries with higher levels of teenage pregnancies.
According to studies, nearly 3 in every 10 teenage girls are having babies. The age bracket is normally between 15 to 19 and in most cases these are normally school going children either in primary or secondary school, who as a result of the unwanted pregnancies are forced to drop out of school.
Several factors which include peer pressure, rape, cultural practices, lack of sexual awareness and abuse of alcohol and drugs have been attributed to teenage pregnancies but the biggest association is with poverty. This explains why teenage pregnancies are more usual in the rural parts of Kenya especially among poor households.
In the northern parts of Kenya for instance, early marriages are very common especially in times of crisis, a trend that has been referred to as drought Teenage pregnancy and subsequent motherhood presents a major challenge to a girl child who has no social support from family, friends and the community.
These girls need to be offered a chance to rewrite their future free of judgment or condemnation.
We aim to offer these young mothers access to education and economic empowerment through training and skills building. They are counseled to help them make informed choices and to choose either to:
- Vocational training (where they learn tailoring, dressmaking and knitting skills
- Entrepreneurship training (they are instructed on how to develop a business plan, start a business and save money)
- Back to school program (they are provided with adult education, formal and non-formal education). Seeks to identify and empower the most vulnerable teen mothers in Kenya.
After successful entrepreneurship and vocational training the teen mothers are able to set up small businesses including:-
- Bag Weaving.
Through the sale of these items, the ladies make a small amount of money that offers a livelihood to them and their children. Teenage pregnancy remains the biggest killer of teenage girls in the developing world. Young women aged 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die from complications in pregnancy as compared to older women. The chances of death in the first year of life for a baby born to a woman under the age of 18 is 60 per cent greater than that of one born to woman aged 19 or older. Considering that research has shown that early marriages are more prominent in areas where poverty is high and low education levels, awareness campaigns as well as initiatives that could raise the living standards of those affected could go a great way in alleviating cases of teenage pregnancies.
Sex education is also critical to teenagers especially because most parents shy away from discussing sex with their children. In the traditional set up, sex is a taboo subject and any issues related to sex remained in the confines of a married couple’s bedroom. It was never discussed in public although some communities offer sex lessons to brides-to-be, albeit in seclusion. However, if teenage pregnancy is to be controlled and reduced we must realize that the solution lies in a shared responsibility that incorporates the community at large, the government and other stake holders and the teenagers themselves.
We are specifically seeking partners willing to work with our girls to develop their skills in product design and business development for both local and international markets. We need volunteers to help us market our products abroad and improve our sales to reach a wider number of customers. This will provide us with higher turnover to ensure the project is self-sustainable. We want to rewrite the future of the teenage mothers through self-reliance and economic empowerment.
Let us join hands to empower the teen mothers by giving them a ´second chance´.