, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – “I cannot tell who the father of my child is because I had four sexual partners,” are the words of Everlyn Anyango a 20 year old mother who confesses to having started engaging in sex when she was in class four.
Everlyn who now has a five year old daughter says she engaged in sex mainly due to peer influence.
“My friends would come and narrate to me how they had a good time and this lured me into trying it as well,” she narrates shyly.
“If you see your friends with slippers and may be you don’t have because your parents cannot afford, you engage in sex so that the men you are involved in can give you money,” Everlyn says in self defence.
The young mother who has been born and brought up in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi says she would sometimes have her affairs by the river bank because three of her boyfriends did not have their own houses.
“But with one of them who was about 27 years at that time, we would go to his house (shanty) and have sex there,” she remembers.
Although Everlyn says she is now wiser, her life has not been the same since she had to drop out of school in class six to take care of her daughter.
“My mum used to just tell me, “Everlyn when you go out with these men know that they are bad,” she narrates “but she never used to tell me why they are bad.”
“For me I would find them good because they would give me money like Sh50 or Sh100 and her (mother) could not afford to give me that,” she adds.
She says she never went for a HIV test and didn’t know anything about HIV at that time.
“What would those people think of me if I went there?” she poses and adds,” VCT centers are for older people.”
As for Samuel, 23, he says he first engaged in sex when he was 15 years old.
Samuel also lives in Korogocho where he was born and brought up and says he dropped out of school in form two due to lack of school fees.
“Sometimes you could pass by a kiosk at night and you find a young girl and boy doing it and that sort of prompted me to also start,” he says.
He says sexual intercourse among young people would also happen a lot during funeral arrangements.
“When someone dies in the neighbourhood and we go for funeral arrangements, you would find young boys and girls grouping up and engaging in sex,” Samuel narrates and reveals that he once got a girl pregnant but denied it.
“I now got used to having many sexual partners and I can’t keep one,” he says oblivious of the consequences.
As for 19year old Mary, she first engaged in sex when she was 17 years old after she dropped out of school due to lack of school fees.
“I had a group of my friends whom we used to go out together. I met the father of my child (a two year old boy) during one of my visits to a friend in Kariobangi,” she narrates.
According to a new study by the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) young people in slum areas are engaging in sex at the age of 15.
The research shows that those living in slum areas engage in sex earlier than their counterparts in non-slum areas.
APHRC Associate Research Scientist Dr Caroline Kabiru says peer influence was the most common reason while parenting made no difference in sexual behaviour.
“Young Kenyans are growing up in an environment where sex education is highly debated. Parents and school systems are reluctant to discuss sexual matters with young people and even if you look at the politics and religion, the environment just does not support young people getting access to information and services that they need,” Dr Kabiru says.
She says this has exposed young people to negative health outcomes like unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
“So the first time we came to Korogocho and asked them whether they had had sex, about one in every four girls had already had sex while three out of every ten boys had had sex,” she says.
“During the one year of study nine percent and eight percent of girls and boys who had told us the first time that they had not had sex, when we came a second time they had already started having sex,” she says.
The study was carried out among 2,000 young people in Korogocho, Viwandani, Harambee and Jericho areas.
Carol Ngare of the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) says there is need to come up with stand alone youth friendly services to encourage young people to go for Voluntary Counseling and Testing.
“We cannot be able to do everything as a government but we do encourage that partners come in to fill in the gaps where the government has not reached,” she says.
She says that expanding youth friendly services would also reduce stigma amongst the youth.
“They do not want to go to places where they will find their mothers and fathers which is understandable but they should not be discouraged because it is about their right to know their status,” Ms Ngare adds.