Prevalence of child pregnancy reveals a worrying trend
At a time when they should be playing and enjoying their childhood, many young girls are now getting pregnant and having babies.
While many of them may have been playing games of mummy and daddy and got pregnant without knowing what was happening, a great majority are cases of pregnancies conceived out of sexual violence.
These cases are recorded at the Gender Based Violence Recovery Centres (GBVRC) located in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu where over 100 cases are received every day.
Alberta Wambua, Executive Director of Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital says: “We handle over 250 GBV cases involving children every month. Despite us offering psychosocial support, it is not easy to treat them as they are traumatised, violated and physically in pain.”
The cases vary from place to place but sexual violence is common in Kitengela; Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is rife in parts of Kajiado and Narok counties while child abuse is rampant in Nakuru County.
A recent survey conducted in Nakuru County for girls aged between 13 and 17 indicated that most of them had been impregnated, delivered or married while others were already separated or divorced.
Teophila Murage, who works at the Gender Based Violence Recovery Centre (GBVRC) at Nakuru Provincial General Hospital says: “Incest is rampant and we have many cases reported to us. Gender based violence is not just a crime, it is a medical condition.”
During the launch of the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) report on Child Pregnancy, FGM Ambassador Shiluni Shirin gave a graphic and shocking story about what children are undoing in the name of the harmful practice among her community, the Maasai.
Shirin, a 12-year-old school girl said: “I am happy and proud to say that I refused to undergo FGM and managed to escape. I went for a training later and got my father and siblings to join me to reject the outlawed practice.”
From then on, Shirin one of the four daughters of Joseph Sayialen, was linked to the Anti-FGM Board, chaired by Jebii Kilimo, who learnt of her story and appointed her as an anti-FGM Ambassador.
Shirin has since been preaching the message in homes and churches without fear to members of her community, some of whom are conservative and still support the outlawed practice.
Said Shirin: “I’m not ashamed to say that early pregnancy is taking place in my community because of FGM and is forcing many of my age mates to drop out of school or be married off.”
Early child births for survivors of FGM< who are mainly very young leads to biological and health problems.
She is appealing to all Kenyans to unite and fight FGM. Shirin also urges young girls and boys to abstain from sex and instead concentrate on their studies for a bright future ahead.
“I see you people in this hotel as people who can stand with me in this noble cause. I teach the girls and boys and occasionally their parents about how FGM is bad for them and should be abandoned,” the Anti-FGM Peace Ambassador told the guests who gave her a standing ovation. They included Commissioner Winnie Lichuma, who is the chairperson of NGEC. Others present were Florence Mutua, Busia County Women Representative and Philomena Mwilu, Deputy Chief Justice among others.
Teophila Murage was one of the researchers for the report on child pregnancy in the country noted that lack a rape-kit in hospitals had led to many cases filed in court collapsing for lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.
In the study, the youngest girl to ever deliver a baby in Nakuru County was eight years old. “As soon as she delivered the bouncing baby and was discharged, we were told that she later sold the baby for KSh500,” said Murage.
The report notes a worrying trend of child pregnancies in the country. Six out of the 47 counties were sampled based on existing information on the prevalence rate of the problem. These were Samburu, Nakuru, Kwale, Nairobi, Busia and Homa Bay.
In 2014, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 18 percent of teenage girls aged between 15 and 19 years had conceived at least once.
The researchers interviewed 774 children with 130 randomly selected to testify before the panel. The evidence was collaborated by focused group discussions with actors in protecting the rights of the children and an expert’s view on the subject matter.
This is the first national public inquiry by the National Gender and Equality Commission which was conducted in fulfilment of the NGECs mandate of promoting gender equality and freedom from discrimination. It’s also in our mandate to audit the status of special interest groups,” said Lichuma.
Asked why they focused on child pregnancy, the Lichuma said it was in response to disturbing statistics and frequent media reports on the vice across the country. She noted that this was a clear indicator of the vulnerability of the Kenyan girl-child and a violation of child rights including lack of protection from sexual abuse and underage pregnancy.