ENEMY WITHIN

Girls turned mums by relatives in Kilifi

Two years later, task force on teenage pregnancies yet to report findings

In Summary

• The county banned disco matanga but the numbers are still rising as enemy is within

Residents of Magarini at the launch of the campaign against teenage pregnancy at Marereni in Kilifi county
Residents of Magarini at the launch of the campaign against teenage pregnancy at Marereni in Kilifi county
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

Cases of defilement by relatives have plagued Kilifi county. In most cases, they go unreported as it is taboo to talk about such social ills.

Many girls and mothers choose to remain quiet over the crime as it may result in broken marriages.

Sauti ya Wanawake Ganze coordinator Judith Uchi says many mothers keep quiet just to save their marriages.

“Most of these ills are perpetrated by very close family members. You will find a father defiling his daughter or a brother defiling a sister. Even if other family members become aware of the act, they will do everything to conceal it,” Uchi said.

“A girl will be asked to trick and sleep with another boy so he can be framed for the pregnancy just to save the family member. This is one of the reasons teenage pregnancies are rampant in Kilifi.”

Uchi called on girls to make sure they report any form of abuse by family members even if they are the sole breadwinners.

“You see most perpetrators are breadwinners in their families. They take that advantage to sexually abuse the minors, who look upon them for guidance. This has been a challenge as the victims know the perpetrators will be protected by other family members,” she said.

In November 2018, more than 13, 000 teenage girls in Kilifi county were reported to be pregnant.

Kilifi county children’s officer George Migosi said over the last year, the Health department recorded 13,624 pregnancies among teenage girls aged 15-19.

A further 290 girls aged 10-14 were reported pregnant over the same period.

“Among children aged 10-14, we recorded 290 pregnancies, and these are the ones that were recorded at health centres. Among girls 15-19, we had 13,624 cases,” Migosi said.

Kilifi North subcounty had 3,134 pregnancies followed by Magarini (2,861) and Kaloleni (2,180). Kilifi South and Malindi recorded 1,771 cases each and Ganze and Rabai 1,362 and 545 respectively.

By December 2018, the number of teen pregnancies rose to 17,000.

The disturbing statistics compelled Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi to institute a task force to investigate the cause of early pregnancies in Kilifi county.

The 16-member task force went around the county on a fact-finding mission. The task force was to table their finding by end of June 2019 but to date, the report is yet to be made public.

Kingi announced the formation of the task force while launching the Kilifi County Adolescents and Young Persons Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and HIV Strategy 2019-2022 in April 2019.

Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi launched the campaign ‘No to teenage pregnancies. Let me be a girl and not a mother’ at Marereni’s Kasarani grounds in the Magarini subcounty.

The campaign brought together the county government departments of Gender, Culture and Social Services, Health and Sanitation, and Education.

Also brought on board are officers from the national government and NGOs.

In January this year, Kilifi county commissioner Kutswa Olaka said 946 school-going girls were expectant. 640 of them are in primary schools while 306 are in secondary schools.

Out of the 640 in primary schools, 235 had reported back to school, while 405 were yet to report back to school. In secondary schools, 153 reported back to school while a similar number was yet to report to school.

Some 304,085 students in public primary schools had resumed learning, which translates to 95.85 per cent of the total number of students. Of this number, 153,331 are boys while 150, 754 are girls.

In private primary schools, 40,018 pupils resumed learning, which accounts for 95 per cent of the total learners in private primary schools. This is 24,410 boys and 24,208 girls.

In public secondary schools, 69, 853 students have reported back to school which is 86.67 per cent. Those who reported back are 35,518 boys and 34,335 girls.

In private secondary schools, 7,822 learners resumed studies, which 81 per cent. Of these, 3,982 are boys while 3,840 are girls.

As the government is still looking for the cause of teen pregnancies, many teenage girls are defiled and impregnated by relatives.

The Kilifi government banned disco matanga as a measure to contain teenage pregnancies but the numbers keep rising.