Rising teen pregnancies alarm Kinango officials, say early marriage not only way out of poverty

Of over 9,000 teen pregnancies reported in Kwale last year, Kinango had the highest number

In Summary

• Amoite said new cases continued to increase with Kinango still taking lead. 

• She blamed poor parenting, poverty and long distances travelled for the increasing vice.

When girls fall pregnant, they often deal with stigma, fear, shame and early marriage.
PREGNANT GIRLS: When girls fall pregnant, they often deal with stigma, fear, shame and early marriage.
Image: FILE

Kinango has the highest number of teen pregnancies and early marriages in Kwale county, authorities have said.

County Gender officer Nelly Amoite said out of more than 9,000 cases of teen pregnancy reported last year, Kinango constituency had the highest number.

"Gender-based violence is still a major concern with many of Kinango girls trapped in the teen pregnancy menace," she said.

The officer said new cases continue to increase and Kinango takes the lead.

The latest statistics are yet to be compiled and released.

Previous data from  rights activists showed at least seven cases of teen pregnancies were recorded monthly.

Amoite said generally, the county is recording relatively few cases but it's getting worse in Kwale.

She blamed poor parenting, poverty and long distances girls travel alone.

A schoolgirl rescued from early marriage in Kwale county.
TEEN PREGNANCY: A schoolgirl rescued from early marriage in Kwale county.

Parents have abandoned their responsibilities and children are left alone, she said. Children are neglected and lack proper upbringing, she said.

Amoite said since the school enrolment is low, girls are exploited by sex predators along the way.

"The schools are very far from home and school going children are taken advantaged of by rogue boda boda riders who give them free lifts to schools but demand they pay with their bodies,"she said.

The officer said lack of money and hunger are forcing teens to seek alternative means of survival.

The region is affected by drought; food and water are scarce because crops and livestock have died in Kinango.

Amoite said girls are entering into prostitution to cater for their families and their basic needs, such as buying sanitary towels.

Poverty has also made some girls quit school and get married. This trend has been going on far too long, Amoite said.

She said the situation has corrupted the girls' minds and they think marriage is the only solution to escape the suffering at home.

Last year Kwale Woman Representative Zuleikha Hassan rejected claims that poverty is to blame for the increasing teen pregnancies.

Zuleikha blamed lack of discipline and poor parenting, saying many girls from poor families have made it in life and never fooled around with boys.

She accused some parents of spoiling their children with a lot of freedom instead of providing guidance and wisdom.

County authorities have warned parents against early marriages. Many parents marry off their pregnant daughters, instead of reporting defilement to police for legal action.

Sauti Ya Wanawake officer Dina Otieno said most parents consent to teen marriages with dowry and only report when the deal goes sour.

Last year, Kinango also reported a low number of Form 1 transition.

Most girls are not in school, many are pregnant and hiding at home, while others eloped with their boyfriends.

Meanwhile, Amoite said the gender state department and rights groups have launched fresh dialogues and education campaigns about GBV.

Amoite said they fear the coming political campaign waves might increase teen pregnancies because children will be more vulnerable.

She said both girls and parents are being educated on child rights, GBV and channels to find  justice.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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