Anne is a mother of four, from rural Kenya. She first had her first child when she was a teenager, not even in high school yet. “How can she not know that?” pops up in my head during our conversation, more than once; – but that is the point. She does not know.
The need for comprehensive sex education in Africa is reflected in high rates of HIV/AIDS in young people, child marriages, teenage pregnancies, illegal abortions and violence against children & women.
Few studies conducted on adolescent pregnancies in Africa present inconsistent and inconclusive findings on the distribution of the problems of teenage pregnancies. However lack of information is a contributing factor to the issue which,;- one-fifth of adolescents become pregnant in Africa.
Several sociodemographic factors like residence, marital status, educational status of adolescents, their mother’s and father’s, and parent to adolescent SRH communication are associated with adolescent pregnancy.
Ignorance is bliss but what happens to a teenager who has no knowledge about contraceptives? A teenager who can’t say no. Traditionally males are superior, she does not want to disappoint them. Her mother did not disappoint her father. Her father is polygamous.
She lives in rural Kenya, digital access is there, but slow, rare. Urban teenagers and us in our twenties or teenagers take access to technology for granted. We can google ‘sex’, ‘contraceptives’, she can not.
What has she grown up with? Public schools that have limited information on sexuality.
Yes having sex has consequences. She has never heard about orgasms before. Chances that orgasms will make you pregnant are high, there is a male. Yes, he is going to get her pregnant, but oh the ignorance! She can barely speak about her menstruation process without receiving looks that say, “why did you say that?“. The push for sex education in rural Kenya has always been an uphill battle.
Many programs intending to reduce adolescent pregnancy already exist in Kenya,” Stevens says, but “there are still rural communities that aren’t being reached.”
How do you reach this communities and educate them? Can you even educate them? Censorship. Their mothers know that they are having sex. They are watching them bring one, two babies home. No fathers. The pain of telling them about sexuality is worse. But why? A society that judges them. A church community that judges the parents. Economic problems. They would rather face economic issues , with their teenage daughters than face their fellow mothers, who will not approve of them, but their daughters are doing the same.
Lacking the right or understanding of one’s own sexual and reproductive health is what many rural women across Kenya suffer with, even today. For many women and girls living in rural parts of the country, there is limited access to reproductive health services and modern family planning methods. Women and girls are then faced with risks like early or unintended pregnancies, giving birth in dangerous circumstances, contracting STD’s, becoming single mothers to more than 3 children.
I offered to help, but they do not want any help.
Anne tells me that anyone creating any type of awareness on the issue aimed at educating their peers lacks enough support to make a sustainable impact.
By the time Anne is in high school, she is oblivious of her sexuality. Her mother can not talk to her about it. It is taboo. It is not a question. How does she know that?
How can she demystify issues surrounding sexuality?
Anne is not 30 years old yet, She is in her twenties, she has 4 kids. 2 from different fathers. Procreation is praised she says.
Children will eat, they can not sleep hungry,Anne
I ask her what is the responsibility the fathers of her babies play.
The fathers are polygamous, they drink. Quality of life does not matter. They have more children, they are unavailable.
Is that all they need? to eat.
Rural Kenya has farms, food. So how will Anne’s children know any better? It is a cycle.
What we think is normal, Information. It is not in rural Kenya. They do not know.
Adolescent pregnancy is a major public health problem, particularly in Africa. It is associated with high maternal and child morbidity and mortality and affects the socio-economic development of a country. It is linked to an increased risk of adverse pregnancy and childbirth outcomes compared to older women. More than 70,000 adolescent girls die every year because of these complications mainly in developing countries.