Sunday, May 19, 2024

Why health experts want government to adopt use of contraceptives among adolescents

“I had a boyfriend and to ensure I do not get pregnant, I started using contraceptives. I take the birth control pills every day at 9 pm when I go to sleep so that nobody knows that I normally take the pills.”

Those were the words of Rose (not her real name) a form four student from Kayole in Nairobi who has been exposed to contraceptives from when she was 11 years old.

Rose together with her friends take contraceptives commonly known as ‘Chaguo Langu’ every month.

Her boyfriend who she says is in college is against the idea of using condoms and they took an initiative to have an HIV test which was not enough to protect her from getting pregnant.

Adolescent pregnancy is a global phenomenon with known causes and serious health, social and economic consequences.

To avert the crisis of unwanted pregnancies among sexually active teenagers, parents have now turned and introduced their teenage girls to contraceptives.

To avert a crisis of having many unplanned pregnancies that would have seen them become young mothers and drop out of school, we decided to educate them on the need of using contraceptives

Mrs.Adika

Motive

Eunice Andika, 23, a youth peer provider from Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK) said that they have a network of adolescents who they have put on contraceptives,

This was after discovering that many girls were being turned away in public hospitals when they go to seek for family planning services.

She noted among the challenges they get is harassment from the government for championing for the girls in the slums get unlimited access to contraceptives.

We get the contraceptives from private dispensaries around and local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Rose

Data from the Performance Monitoring Action (PMA) for Kenya 2021 shows that Six out of 10 adolescents in the country were driven by curiosity to have their first sexual encounter.

From the PMA data, four out of 10 adolescents were getting over-the-counter contraceptives from pharmacies, 24 percent from dispensaries and 21 percent from public health centers while the rest got from private facilities.

“To avert a crisis of having many unplanned pregnancies that would have seen them become young mothers and drop out of school, we decided to educate them on the need of using contraceptives,” said Andika.

Challenges

“We get the contraceptives from private dispensaries around and local Non-Governmental

Organizations (NGOs),” says Rose.

She adds, “When you go to a public hospital, they will turn you away on grounds

that you are an underage girl, yet I am sexually active. The reproductive health policy is

discriminatory to us, the reason we take the pills secretly.”

According to the Reproductive Health Policy, girls who have not attained the age of 18 years, which the government recognizes as the legal age one can consent for sex, should not be allowed to access contraceptives as a family planning method.

We will not entertain seeing youths being given contraceptives since they have adverse effects on their young bodies. Imagine 10-14 years old girls are on family planning, how about those sexually active and are not using it

Dr Bashir Issak

The government on the other hand, has taken a firm stand saying anyone found to have put a teenager on family planning would be punished.

Most of the girls are against getting parental consent before taking contraceptives since a lot of their parents would not agree where only a few of the parents agree with the idea.

“We will not entertain seeing youths being given contraceptives since they have adverse effects on their young bodies. Imagine 10-14 years old girls are on family planning, how about those sexually active and are not using it,” said Dr Bashir Issak, head of the Family Health department at the Ministry of Health.

“When you tell children today that sex is bad, they become curious and go to practice it. We have to be candid to tell them that sex is good but one has to wait for the right time but when push comes to shove, they should be allowed to use contraceptives to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies,” Miriam Awinja.

Sensitization

Ms Atieno a parent, who is from Navakholo in Kakamega County, admitted that she never discussed sex with her daughters but when her first-born girl was impregnated by a boda boda rider, it was an eye-opener to introduce family planning even to the other three daughters who are still in school.

“I have a 15-year-old girl and she is using an implant so that she doesn’t get pregnant for the second time. She gave birth to twins when she was 13 years old and I am taking care of them,” said Atieno.

“When you tell children today that sex is bad, they become curious and go to practice it. We have to be candid to tell them that sex is good but one has to wait for the right time but when push comes to shove, they should be allowed to use contraceptives to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies,” said Miriam Awinja who is a parent to one of the girls on contraceptives.

“We are running away from the fact that the young people are engaging in unsafe sex, the question should be how do we put in place policies to safeguard them,” said Glory Kathambi, a program officer at Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Alliance Kenya.

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