As Murang'a youth shun marriage, Kang'ata proposes Sh6,000 stipend for pregnant women

Irungu Kang'ata

Murang'a governor Irungu Kang'ata. 

Photo credit: MARTIN MWAURA I Nation Media Group

Murang’a Governor Irungu Kang'ata says he will start paying pregnant women a stipend of Sh6,000 as a way to boost the county’s population.

In a county where many young people have shunned marriage, Dr Kang'ata now says pregnancies will be rewarded.

"We will be supporting pregnant mothers with a stipend of Sh2,000 for the last two months of the pregnancy and the same amount after delivery, to [total] Sh6,000 per pregnancy," the county boss said in an interview yesterday.

A similar programme existed between 2002-2013, when the then Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau rewarded each pregnancy with Sh2,000.

He said this was meant to encourage young people to start families and boost the community’s numbers.

Dr Kang'ata said his programme is aimed at "taking good care of our women and encouraging them that their county government thinks well of them".

The governor, elected under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), said the programme will be piloted in the health sector strategic plan covering the period up to 2027.

He said the stipends will be paid to mothers who come to maternity wards at public hospitals.

"This is a programme that seeks to support optimal health and survival of pregnant mothers and their babies," he said.

The proposal comes as the county reviews its 2020-2025 strategic plan that prioritised boosting the uptake of family planning, which was in place in Governor Mwangi Wa Iria's administration.

Contraceptive prevalence in Murang’a stands at 48 percent. 

With a population of 1,056,640, the largest household in the county has an average of 3.8 people.

Family planning

Kandara sub-county has the lowest family planning coverage at 26.3 per cent, followed by Gatanga with 31.3 per cent. Kigumo’s uptake is 33.3 per cent, Kiharu 44.4 per cent, Kangema 48.3 per cent, Murang’a South 53 per cent and Mathioya 55 per cent.

Dr Kang'ata said nutritional interventions will also target pregnant mothers.

This policy, he said, comes as the health sector suffers from lack of drugs in hospitals, limited access to affordable healthcare for the indigent population, unmotivated personnel, poor management of ambulance services and costly and or lack of laboratory services.

The policy drew immediate support from Mt Kenya sages, who believe greater numbers would help the community hold onto power in national politics.

Career administrator Joseph Kaguthi said "any policy that seeks to have our numbers multiply to guarantee ourselves existence into the future is welcome".

He said that a community that does not multiply drives itself to extinction "and Dr Kang'ata is doing well to encourage our women to keep checking into delivery rooms".

Mr Kaguthi said "the debate should not be misconstrued to mean that women are being encouraged to get pregnant just for the sake of winning the Sh6,000 stipend".

Agikuyu community

He said "births in the Agikuyu community, as is the case the world over, are treated as sacred undertakings and giving a woman who has wilfully become expectant a stipend is not a bad thing".

Mr Kaguthi said family planning is debatable just like choosing polygamy and large families are also subjects of interest.

"All are debates. One can choose to get a lean family just like the way it is okay for another to choose a big family. Monogamy is as good as polygamy ... it depends on standing points,” he argued. 

“I personally support polygamy and raising of as many children as possible. We have a community to keep relevant deep into the future to safeguard its history so far."

This came as the County Directorate of Health Services stated that family planning remains a key component of planning development.

“Proper spacing of children usually enables better healing of the mother thus granting her good health; it has ensured better health and growth of children,” noted Dr Winfred Kanyi, the director of medical services. 

Planned families

“It is also directly connected to the national economy. A country with planned families easily gets it right in planning for development services.”

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has said he believes in big families.

"You ask me ... I today believe it was a silly thing for me to get only two children. In retrospect, I should have gotten some more," he said.

Speaking on October 4 during the funeral service for his elder brother Jackson Reriani in Mathira sub-county, Mr Gachagua said "siring few children was a bad Westernisation campaign".

As Dr Kang'ata plans the pregnancy reward programme, the county's health department will also be running a project to encourage more residents to embrace family planning.

Reckless births translate to a high dependency rate that puts a strain on the economy and worsens food insecurity, argued Ms Caroline Macharia, the principal nursing officer who coordinates reproductive health services in Murang’a.

"It also contributes to the morbidity of the county as mothers are unable to sufficiently breastfeed their children if their spacing is poor," she said.

Githunguri MP Gathoni wa Muchomba is another Mt Kenya leader who supports polygamy as a way of boosting the community’s numbers and eradicating the poverty brought by single motherhood.

Dr Kang'ata said his policy is not about increasing numbers through high birth rates for political reasons.

"It is about making our maternal health decent and safe. We have embarked on training health workers so that we can engage expectant mothers during antenatal visits,” he said.

“We must create that rapport with mothers to help them open up. [A] Poor attitude [among] health workers has in the past contributed to risky home deliveries as mothers prefer polite midwives."

He said the programme of 'compensating' mothers for births is a way of embracing pregnancies as blessings.