By Salim Mwavumbo
New strategies have been launched for anti-teenage pregnancies in Kilifi County to tame the vice that is causing sleepless nights to educationists and local administration which has hit an all high under COVID 19 crisis.
The campaign dubbed ‘My Voice Matters’ has brought together over 300 under-age girls among them young mothers, ostensibly to build confidence on how they can overcome any form of abuse.
Steered by the County’s Department of Children and three child rights’ organizations, it targets to empower the girl-child with sexual reproductive knowledge to enable them better to understand and control of their bodies. This is envisaged will give them power to speak up for themselves.
Most of the seven Midzichenda subtribes in Kilifi have a cultural ‘pecking order’ that gives the boy-child and the men of communities the patriarchal voice over the girlchild and women in the family settings where the latter are not allowed a voice in all aspects of life.
But the current campaign wants to eradicate this by allowing women to take leadership positions and also seeking to demystify the stereotype and build girls confidence so that they can be able to make informed decisions about their future.
Benjamin Katana, chairman of Safe Community Youth Initiative, says data compiled by his organization indicates that since advent of coronavirus on March 13 about 50 underage girls have been impregnated in the County.
The situation has been worsened by prolonged school closure and thus, the My Voice Matters campaign seeks to enable them better to understand and control their bodies through enable them to speak up for themselves.
“By the end of two years, girls will have better understanding of their bodies and change their perception on social, political and economic issues through protecting themselves against sexual harassment or abuse,” says Petronila Nzomo, Pad Adada initiative executive officer in the County.
Sakina Ali, 16, one of the victim girls says lack of sanitary towels; family poverty and community stereotypes about the girlchild are to blame for the rising societal vices.
However, she is optimistic the new development will drastically reduce early marriages and teenage pregnancies. She spoke during the campaign launch held at Mawenzi Resort in Kilifi South Subcounty on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
“Our biggest challenge is lack of sanitary towels because most of our parents are poor and have been affected by the COVID 19 pandemic economically. We believe this campaign will protect us and empower those of us who have fallen prey to the vice,” she adds.
The three organisations – Safe Community Youth Initiative, Pad Adada initiative and New Visioners Arts group in partnership with County government – have vowed to conduct an extensive campaign across all the sub-counties to create awareness.