What you need to know:
- Most cases of teen pregnancy in Kosovo, Kiambiu slums are due to defilement and rape.
- Lack of a safe house or shelter for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence has contributed to the persistence of the problem in the populous slum.
- Community health volunteers are sometimes threatened with violence for daring to interfere with the abuser’s family affairs.
It is another sunny morning in Kosovo, Kiambiu slums, Nairobi. Nestled between Eastleigh, Buru Buru and Umoja, the slum is home to approximately 60,000 residents.
Irene Adhiambo, a community health volunteer, is a busy woman, with her work for the day already cut out.
When the Nation visited her, she was finishing on her house chores before setting off to see one of her clients, Fiona (not her real name).
At just 15, Fiona is getting ready to welcome her first child. She is eight months pregnant.
“My boyfriend and I were using protection after we started having sex sometime in August last year. Then in December, we stopped using protection. I discovered I was pregnant after missing my periods for two months,” she says.
Fiona then went home and broke the news to her mother after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of schools.
"My mother was shocked and angry but after a while, she accepted my situation. We are now working on rebuilding the trust that was lost after I disobeyed her and had a sexual relationship with a man against her advice," says Fiona.
She has already attended clinic at the Edna Clinic on Eastleigh’s First Street, which is a 45-minute walk from Kosovo.
“When my time to deliver comes, I will not be able to get there on foot, so I will either have to board a matatu or a motorbike,” she says.
Fiona is one of the 11,795 teens that will soon become mothers in Nairobi County, according to the latest Kenya Information Health Systems Survey (KHIS) whose results were published in June 2020. The figure represents a slight increase from the same period in 2019 where there were 11,410 cases reported in the county.
The national figures also tell a similarly depressing story with 151,433 girls getting pregnant between January and May 2020 compared to 175,488 for the same period in 2019.
She says her boyfriend has accepted responsibility for the pregnancy, and still keeps in touch.
“He is a mechanic in Eastleigh and single. I want to have this baby and go back to school. I will then think about getting married to him,” says the bubbly teen, who still dreams of being an accountant once she completes her studies.
“I do not wish to get married immediately because that will mean the end of my education. I would like to go back to school and complete my high school before going to college,” she says.
Fiona is grateful for Ms Adhiambo’s regular visits, saying the two have become friends.
“We meet almost daily as she also runs a grocery at the market where we buy food. My mother is always away at work and so Irene (Ms Adhiambo) is my closest friend and advisor on how to eat right, stay healthy, exercise and take care of my pregnancy,” Fiona says.
On her part, Ms Adhiambo says such cases are rising in the area, especially with the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Among the 100 households I cover in the Kosovo area, I know of at least four teenagers who are pregnant. The girls’ vulnerable situation is now even worse since the pandemic has left many young men jobless. They are idle and the temptation to engage in sex with young women including teens is high, she says.
Report to chief
Some of the cases are due to defilement and rape.
“When we get a report of defilement, we report to the chief and he will then get police officers to arrest the suspects,” says Ms Adhiambo, a mother of three.
She says the lack of a safe house or shelter for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence has contributed to the persistence of the problem in the populous slum.
“We refer the victims to the local MSF facility where they are treated, given counselling and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Then we take them to the chief who will work with the police to get a P3 form that will facilitate the arrest and arraignment of the suspects in court," says Ms Adhiambo.
Not all the pregnancies or cases of sexual activity are through violent assault.
"We recently got a report of an alleged rape that occurred during a party. On questioning the teenagers involved, we found out that the teenagers had consumed alcohol and then engaged in an orgy. It was then hard to pursue it as a case of defilement since only willing participants were involved," says Ms Ann Wangari, a CHV based in Sagana area within Kiambiu slum.
She says cases of sexual and gender-based violence are sometimes hampered by the fact that the survivors still live with their abusers.
“In some instances, we will process a case for prosecution and when the survivor goes back home, the abuser will threaten her with dire consequences if she dares pursue the matter further,” says Ms Wangari.
She says the CHVs are sometimes threatened with violence for daring to interfere with the abuser’s family affairs.
“At times, the abusers will turn around and blame us for inciting their wives and then label us the troublemakers in their marriages. I have severally been threatened with violence for assisting survivors of domestic violence,” said Ms Wangari.
According to Faith Kabura of Concern Worldwide, the vice can be eliminated if all members of the community join hands to protect the teenagers, whom she terms vulnerable to sexual and physical violence.
“Our teens are vulnerable to being sexually exploited or violently defiled by scheming adults. Some will give in to advances because they are in need of money to buy sanitary pads, clothes and other items,” says the child rights activist, youth counsellor and CHV.
Concern Worldwide is currently carrying out a life skills counselling campaign among parents and teens in the informal settlement.
"I also talk to parents in the households I visit to encourage them to have conversations with their children regarding sex and the risk of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections," she says.
Ms Kabura says she has so far followed up the prosecution and sentencing of two defilement culprits this year.
"One of the suspects defiled a 12-year-old and is currently serving a 10 year sentence. The other one is awaiting sentencing. Success will not however, come overnight because many men hold onto age old beliefs and attitudes towards young girls, seeing them as easy prey. Progress is slow but we are slowly but surely turning the tide against the violation of minors,” she says.