What you need to know:
- Equality Now’s End Sexual Violence programme officer Jean Paul Murunga says President William Ruto should pronounce himself on the fight to end teenage pregnancy.
- This, he observed, would raise the consciousness of Kenyans about the problem and their role in preventing it.
On Tuesday, Nation.Africa published astoryof a 17-year-old teenager who had been impregnated by a boda boda rider.
The headline captured her desperation: she cried all night long upon confirming she was pregnant. The readers’ reaction to the story manifested the unjust habit of stigmatising children with babies.
The comments are unprintable. Some blamed her for the pregnancy, others mocked her on account of being impregnated by a boda boda rider, and a number told her to stop playing victim.
According to counsellors, stigma affects the mental health of teen mothers and the impact is felt by their infants as they lose interest in taking care of them.
“Stigma does a lot of damage on the mental health of either pregnant teenagers or those who have delivered. And it takes time to help them recover. It’s even more difficult to help them recover when they are surrounded by people who stigmatise them,” noted John Mutoro, a counsellor at Ndavaya Health Centre in Kwale County.
For experts, political leaders can influence change of attitude towards teenage mothers if they commit to ending early pregnancies.
For Equality Now’s End Sexual Violence programme officer Jean Paul Murunga, President William Ruto ought to pronounce himself on the fight to end teenage pregnancy. This, he observed, would raise the consciousness of Kenyans about the problem and their role in preventing it.
He said the previous administration had made baby steps towards addressing gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy, but the progress has since stagnated. “Little is happening…the Policare centres in Nairobi and Nanyuki have stalled. No data is available. Shelters have not been established,” observed Mr Murunga.
Stigma is also perpetrated in learning institutions. To end it in schools, Abraham Nyamwawi, Msambweni sub-county education director, proposed consistent sensitisation of learners and teachers.
He also said schools have “beacon teachers in every school and their work is to promote inclusivity. They are the ones to intervene in case of stigma.”