Statistics recently released on pregnant teenage girls in Kenya caused uproar. For many, those numbers were too high, and there is no way they could be realistic.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said during an interview the numbers were far-fetched raising doubts about the authenticity of the survey while at the same time attributing the trend to the rise of pornography websites.
Then the big question is: How was this data collected? This is a good question because it is not that easy to answer.
The report showed that 3,964 girls were impregnated in Machakos County in the last five months. These girls were below 18-years-old.
Survey findings showed that about one in five adolescent girls has either given birth or is pregnant with their first child.
The results showed alarming statistics in several other counties, some numbers so high that they raised panic.
The blame game on these findings played out on social media as people suddenly became experts on social issues, trying to investigate just how and why these numbers spiked during this Covid-19 period.
For children to be protected and feel protected, there have to be measures in place that are systemic.
Why is it difficult for a child to walk into a police station and report abuse? It is difficult for an adult?
Police station receptions are intimidating, surrounded by grill bars, giving a glimpse of what jail feels like when cooling heels behind cold metal rails. How would a child walk to such intimidating reception?
Backlog of cases
How is the situation when it comes to prosecuting child abusers? Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Judiciary was reeling under a backlog of cases, and the situation can only be worse now.
When it comes to health matters, many teens are afraid of going to a health centres for fear of being forced into quarantine—that is a genuine fear, so they are staying away from clinics.
And lastly, health care workers, many of them have no idea on how to deal with such cases as few are trained on the matter.
There is a referral database for sexual and gender-based violence but it has not been updated recently. And many of helplines don’t work.
The sad truth about the teen pregnancy statistics is that children are abused at home by people they know. They are safer at school than their own homes.
There are hardly safe houses in our country; we have about two that are government funded.
And there is barely any sexual reproductive health education in our schools because the topic is taboo.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, executive director, Siasa Place, @NerimaW