Campaign on contraceptives creates awareness among adolescents
Myths and misconceptions associated with family planning services in rural and peri-urban areas are a major hindrance towards access to and provision of relevant Sexual Reproductive Health services.
Many young people are suffering silently for fear of being victimised or reprimanded resulting in an increased number of unwanted and unplanned for pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections.
However, the trend is changing due to the recent consistent provision of appropriate comprehensive information on sexuality and referrals by youth resource persons through campaigns and aggressive sensitisation programmes.
According to the latest Demographic Health Survey, 19.2 percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 in Homa Bay County of Nyanza region have had a live birth already while 22.2 per cent within that bracket have begun child-bearing.
In addition, contraceptive use among women aged 15 to 49 in the county is below average, at 46.7 per cent, while people aged between 15 and 19 are sexually active, their level of contraception, even for disease preventing measures such as condom-use, is the lowest, at below five per cent. Regionally, these statistics are worrying.
The menace of teenage pregnancies particularly un-empowered girl-child on Sexual Reproductive Health issues continue to be a heavy burden to both county leadership and at the national level.
Initially, most teenagers and parents were misled to believe that contraceptives were a preserve for married couples, or grown up women.
The myth led to an increased number of teenage pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies besides increased incidences of Sexually Transmitted Infections and rise in people contracting HIV.
But a wind of change is currently blowing across various parts and learning institutions within the society following increased demand for contraceptives by teenagers as young as 15 years, who are sexually active.
The campaign and awareness programme given to pupils or students has increased their knowledge and caution on reproductive health demands. Numerous cases of unwanted and teenage pregnancies have been reported in the past but because of the awareness creation programmes, the numbers are on a decline.
The project has also made remarkable achievements by educating parents on how to handle their children when faced with such circumstances by not only giving information but also allowing for provisions such as condoms, since there are contraceptives that do not prevent one from acquiring sexually transmitted infections.
For most teenagers, especially those who are not empowered on issues of sexual reproductive health, issues of contraceptives, teenage pregnancies and STIs including HIV remain a big mystery that needs to be resolved.
Worst of all is when a teenager gets pregnant and has to visit a clinic for Antenatal care. In most cases they are forced to go to government health institutions to get the services, but unfortunately most of them live to share disheartening experiences from there.
One such case is of Jane* (not her true name) from Ahero, in Kisumu County, who revealed that most girls, like her, especially in the rural areas, opt to visit local birth attendants for fear of being reprimanded at the health facilities.
When Jane became pregnant at 13 years, she was devastated, confused and had to drop out of school at Class Seven: “I was not even aware of my pregnancy until it was in the fifth month. I thought it was normal to miss periods even for more than three months since I had a friend who missed hers due to hormonal development and so I never saw anything strange in that.”
But as expected, her mother took notice of her physical changes and developments and hit the roof. She was unsympathetic, reprimanded, cursed and then chased her daughter away forcing her to seek refuge at her grandmother’s home near Ahero town.
According to the Youth Programme Coordinator at Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), Gordon Ochieng, there are too many myths and misconceptions about contraceptives and the issue of family planning.
These include rumours about different methods of family planning because people do not have the correct information about the right methods, the benefits and advantages to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
Ochieng maintains that it is important that teenagers and the community as a whole are sensitised and educated adequately on issues of contraceptives and family planning to avert any possible misconceptions to the detriment of teenagers.
“Teenage pregnancy and child marriages are most common among poor, uneducated girls, who are the least likely to know about or use contraception,” says Ochieng.
Indeed, the campaign against teenage pregnancy has unfortunately been hampered by various factors such as negative perception, attitudes and lack of awareness from service providers, family members and victimisation by peers.