Teen gives birth, blames lack of contraceptives

Data by the Ministry of Health shows one in five adolescents aged 15 to 19 is a mother or is pregnant with her first child. Kenya does not allow access to contraceptives for those below 18 years.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  •  When the Nation visited Amref Healthcare Centre in Nairobi's Kibra, almost 200 young and expectant mothers were waiting to be served.
  • Cecilia, a new mother and herself a child, is raising a baby girl, born on World Contraception Day. 
  • She says that before she fell pregnant, she had made attempts to obtain contraceptives but was turned down

On September 26, Cecilia (not her real name), 16, frantically made calls, begging for Sh1,000. She wanted the money for tests that had been recommended before she went into labour at Amref Healthcare Centre in Nairobi's Kibra.

When the Nation visited the centre, almost 200 young and expectant mothers were waiting to be served.

The new mother, herself a child, is now raising a baby girl, born on World Contraception Day. She says that despite the government making Linda Mama Service, where women part with as little as Sh20 to access maternal health services, she still has other costs to bear.

“All I wanted was Sh1,000 for the tests because last week, they asked me to go and do scans outside the facility, which cost Sh1,500 but I did not have that either,” she opens up.

But how did the girl who hopes to join Form One soon get here?

“I fell in love with this 20-year-old guy who sells bhang here in Kibra, but he was recently arrested and is now locked up in Industrial Area (Remand Prison). He told me he loved me and so we have been dating since last year. I did not know I was pregnant after we got intimate until the signs showed up. I did not plan for this,” she says.

Sexually active

“He was arrested in April this year. Even though he had promised to help me raise this child, he is now unable to,” she adds.

She reveals that she was allowed to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam and scored 335 marks out of a possible 500.

Cecilia says that before she fell pregnant, she had made attempts to obtain contraceptives from local public health facilities but she was turned down.

One of her close friends, 20, backed her, saying: “As young girls, we are very sexually active and when we go to public health facilities to try and talk to them about giving us contraceptives they chase us away, especially if you are not 18 and above. I think it is time the government accepted the fact that its abstinence and morality campaign is not working, and allow girls as young as 13 to access contraception services, otherwise teen pregnancies will keep on going up.”

According to recent data by the Ministry of Health, one in five adolescents aged 15 to 19 is a mother or is pregnant with her first child.

In a past interview with the Nation, Chief Justice Martha Koome, revealed that a majority of cases she has had to deal with in court are of children – both male and female – who have been sexually abused and violated.

“It is important for all to remember that anyone below the age of 18, regardless of body size, is a child and has no capacity to consent,” she stated, further suggesting that the age of consent should be raised to 21.

Sullen face

“Many people don’t know where to draw the line when it comes to sexual consent. Consent lets someone know that sex is wanted, it must be freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific,” Justice Koome said.

Cecilia now looks up to her mother, who is battling alcoholism, to get her out of her predicament.

“I do not know how to take care of a child to be honest, let alone myself. Now I have to look for baby clothes when we sleep hungry on most days,” she says.

As we enter their tin-roofed house, her mother wears a sullen face.

“I don’t know where to start from, we have not eaten for days, our Sh800 monthly rent has accumulated for almost one year and I am unable to pay because getting odd jobs has been difficult. I have two children and now an extra mouth to feed and fend for. I did not want her to get an abortion,” the visibly drunk mother says.

Kenya’s National Reproductive Health Policy 2022-2032 is against issuing contraceptives to minors despite acknowledging that a significant proportion of young people continue to have an incorrect perception of their risks in early sexual debut.

“There is a need to clarify the age of consent for the various reproductive health interventions in view of the varied provisions in different guidelines and lack of explicit legal pronouncements on the same,” the ministry states.