Sex for pads leave girls in Busia County vulnerable to exploitation
Economic hardship among majority of households in Busia County has compelled scores of young girls to engage in illicit sex for as little as KSh100 to enable them acquire basic minimums such as sanitary pads.
The issue has ignited mixed reactions from a cross section of leaders in Busia County who have called for urgent and stern action on mothers allegedly giving their young daughters the green light to sell their bodies in exchange for money to buy sanitary pads.
A startling revelation from Busia County Director of Medical Services Dr Janerose Ambuchi has it that a total of 433 young girls between the ages of ten and 14 gave birth between September 2016 and September 2017.
In order to curb increasing cases of early pregnancy among young girls, there is urgent need on the part of parents and stakeholders to take a responsibility of sensitizing the girl-child against engaging in sex at a very tender age as this might lead to early pregnancy hence forcing them out of school.
It is high time the Busia County government especially Members of County Assembly, Members of Parliament, County Women Representative, Senator and even the Governor to ensure this shameful and unfortunate incident is brought to an end once and for all.
Mothers who encourage their children to venture into such illicit acts should not be allowed to go scot-free but be arrested and charged before a court of law with abetting sexual exploitation.
The County Government of Busia should also factor in its budget kitty an emergency fund to facilitate the purchase of adequate sanitary pads to be distributed among all teenage girls in both primary and secondary schools in the county.
This would go a long way in ensuring that not a single child will miss going to school due to lack of sanitary pads.
Funeral disco popularly known as disco matanga, poverty and lack of parental care have been identified as leading factors that have greatly contributed to rising teenage pregnancies in Busia County.
A point worth noting is that two notable women leaders in Busia County, Busia First Lady Judy Ojaamong and Busia Woman Representative Florence Mutua have been at the forefront in ensuring that young girls are properly assisted.
Ojaamong has been on record for having launched mentorship programmes that have helped shape the girl child in dealing with peer pressure and ensuring completion of education cycle, Mutua has donated sanitary pads to majority of schools in the county.
These efforts have been noted as leading to a reduction in the number of early pregnancies cases, sexual debut and drug abuse.
Says Mutua: “As County Women Representative, we have a negligible amount of money allowing us to buy pads though these cannot be spread across the county.”
However, it’s important to note that County Women Representatives have been fighting for a gender responsive budget that would enable school girls get free pads and ensure they don’t miss school.
Notes Mutua: “Sanitary pads are normally supported through the Ministry of Education but surprisingly despite passing a budget of KSh400 million annually, the problem still persists.”
They have been forced to request the Ministry of Gender to have the same redirected to their offices for better distribution.
“Our fight bore fruit and the pads are now in the Ministry of Gender and we hope that a higher number of girls will be reached,” she says.
Despite the national government doing everything at its disposal to ensure adequate sanitary pads are distributed to all learning institutions in all the 47 counties, parents and other stakeholders including leaders should support this noble programme to ensure all girls are reached.
Distribution of the sanitary pads should be closely monitored so as to ensure the intended recipients receive them without the initiative turned into a cash cow.
Early pregnancy cases in Budalangi which have been on the rise have raised a lot of concerns considering that many girls have ended up dropping out of school.
After delivery majority of them are not able to go back to school due to fear of being ridiculed and stigmatised by fellow pupils who might label them prostitutes.
In Budalangi Constituency within Busia County, scores of children who have attained the school going age work in rice fields at the expense of education and this has exposed many of them to early pregnancy.
Coordinator for reproductive health care services in Bunyala Sub-County Dr Lawrence Lusaka says Port Victoria Hospital registered a total of 49 early pregnancy cases with 632 girls below the age of 19 visiting Port Victoria Hospital and Rukala Dispensary for pregnancy tests and antenatal clinics.
Lusaka said at Rukala Dispensary in Bunyala South Ward, a total of 17 early pregnancy cases below the age of 19 were recorded and in February the cases rose to 20.
Some of the places majority of both young girls and boys frequent in search of casual employment to provide for their daily bread and other needs are the beaches along the shores of Lake Victoria
Others also engage in collection of scrap metals which they sell to dealers for a fee depending on the weight.
The high number of orphaned vulnerable children in Bunyala Sub-County totalling 10,000 cases has reached a worrying trend and only 4,000 cases have been addressed by Budalangi Theatre community based organisation in collaboration with other donors.