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Ednah Kangwana during a mentorship program for teenagers and young mothers.

County News

Edinah Kangwana, the unsung hero in teen pregnancy recovery success in Kisii

KISII, Kenya July 9 – Due to loss of income and lack of job opportunities during the global COVID-19 pandemic, women, in particular, are experiencing financial and social distress, with serious implications for health and safety.

Teenage girls are particularly affected to the extent of dropping out of school after the resumption in January 2021, due to high recorded cases of sexual exploitation leading to pregnancies.

Schools in Kenya were closed from March 2020 to January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that had killed more than 3,500 people by July.

Statistics compiled by Non-Governmental Organizations and Kenya’s Ministry of Education, 152,820 young girls got married while others fell pregnant during the first three months of the lockdown.

In Trans-Nzoia County alone, there were more than 10,000 reported cases of teenage pregnancies in 2020, according to the government.

The International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya indicated that more than one-third which is 36 percent of young women had reported cases of violence in one or more transactional partnerships in the past year. There was also an increased financial dependency since April 2020, when the Government effected stringent COVID-19 restrictions in the country that included dusk to dawn curfew.

Reports by the Ministries of Education and that of Interior and Coordination of Government showed commitment to ensure that all school-going girls were enrolled to schools bu no official statistics are out todate.

However, there are girls who went to hiding due to stigma associated with being pregnant before completing school or have been kept in hiding due to lack of financial support.

Edinah Nyaboke Kangwana who works at the County Government of Kisii is a gender, youth mentor and coach who has taken the initiative to reach out to the women and engage young girls on matters of sexual reproductive health resilience.

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“I grew up knowing I had a responsibility to change my society in whichever small way possible. I think I owe that to the community that lovingly brought raised me and provides great values, and a foundation till this day,” she said during an interview with Capital FM News.

In her line of duty, she was at the center of coordinating the emergency response to COVID-19, a role delegated to her from the main Committee where her boss was the Chairperson. Here, there were a number of directives that were issued and needed implementation, such as the curfew restricted movements, lockdowns, closing down of schools and of the open-air markets.

She has since reached out to several girls and boys in village meetings, to parents, local leadership, spiritual leaders, and local administration on mentorship.

“I ask them to plan their school work and homework and to always remember that even if schools were closed, learning ought to continue,” she said.

She also urged them to stay at home and avoid visiting far-away relatives, an action that was emerging as a major loophole created in order to visit their boyfriends, including older men who are financially stable and out to take advantage.

She also engaged parents and urged them to support those who were already in the family way.

Specifically, Kangwana says she cautions parents against leaving them alone to seek comfort in the wrong hands, which might lead to unsafe abortions and insisted on the need for the young mothers to proceed with their education, with the support of parents and guardians.

Jacob Onyango, the Principal at St. Patrick Mosocho Mixed Secondary School, said the school had 10 pregnant girls mainly candidates in national examinations.

He noted, “It was a challenge since most of them shied away from attending classes. We had to call and talk to show them the need for education and completing their studies, despite the situation they were now in. Hence we had to seek intervention from the parents, physiologists and their mentors.”

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Vane Nyaboke, a 19-year-old girl from Nyaribari Chache Constituency sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations last year.

“Balancing pregnancy and education is the most difficult thing and I had to sometimes skip lessons because of pregnancy complications, even missing morning preps. I was unable to take some meals, which contributed to my low performance,’’ she said.

Nyaboke noted, she would intentionally skip classes or lesson breaks to avoid contact with classmates who would talk behind her back, concerning her pregnancy.

Esther Bosibori,. her mother, said at first when she was called to school concerning her daughter’s pregnancy, she was in self-denial, being furious about the situation.

Bosibori said she blamed herself for having failed as a mother, who should have been keen to protect her daughter.

“I later came to accept the situation and talked to her to keep the pregnancy since I was ready to support her. I would pay her several visits in school to check on her and the unborn child,” she said.

David Omambia a Psychologist, opines that pregnancy among teens has different side effects depending on the environment they are in.

Some of the teen pregnant girls brought up in struggling families undergo stress, anxiety and depression which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Those teens with uninformed parents or with a history of child abuse and unstable families have common problems during birth such as child-bruises which occur in the first two weeks, fear, anxiety and child denial since they gave birth without having the knowledge of child-rearing.

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“Some of these girls became pregnant after rape and immature sex and they find it difficult to bond with their babies. They get into self-denial, anxiety, and panic attacks and some even hurt themselves or the baby,” said Omambia.


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