Advocacy Focus area
ENA continues to address many challenges faced by girls in Kenya through its Advocacy initiatives. These include Sexual Reproductive and Maternal Health. For students, menstrual hygiene and lack of sanitary pads for girls in school is key. Most female students are not able to afford sanitary pads. This has led to many girls missing school during menstrual days each month as they are too uncomfortable and embarrassed to attend school exposing them to “sex for pads menace” and distraction from school work. As Echo Network Africa, we greatly appreciate that this is a huge need. Girls should be healthy and comfortable during their menstrual cycle, and not forced to miss school .ENA’s areas of operation include, Meru, Homa bay, Nakuru County.
Teenage pregnancies have reached an alarming rate and are a National crisis in the Western and Coastal region of Kenya, 1 in every 5 girls is affected as per the Kenya National Demographic and Health Survey (2014).
Studies on teenage sexual and reproductive health rights shows that teenage pregnancies advance serious health, psychosocial and economic dangers to the girls including impeding their reproductive health including child birth, schooling and economic growth. This keeps them in vicious cycles of poverty (many come from already less fortunate families), and ultimately limiting their overwhelmed capabilities, opportunities and choices. A common psychosocial impact is the trauma faced following discrimination within schools and failure to be “readmitted” back as teachers and school management often view them as “bad examples and social misfits to other girls” there casketed and ultimately treated negatively within their own communities.
The Kenya government in its annual budget, allocated funds and resources for the supply of sanitary towels to primary and secondary schools in the 47 counties countrywide. The supply has not been adequate and/or consistent hence, doesn’t reach the schools.
Menstruation is a complex subject rarely discussed (“a taboo”). Keeping girls in school is important for the health of the country’s development. By having health conversations around these topics ENA hopes to breakdown the cultural norms and taboos that have held most communities in captive at the expense of the girl child and allow creation and dissemination of data appropriately to the teenage girls in schools for decision making in matters concerning their menstrual hygiene and health at large. Our new initiative is to work with community leaders and the society to support and spear head family dialogues in cases where teenage pregnancies are involved. All the deliberate processes is to secure the teenage mothers family and ensure that economical support is accorded from the fathers side.
In Kenya, one of the most retrogressive consequences of teenage and adolescent pregnancy for girls is the loss of educational opportunities; pregnant girls are often expelled or forced to leave school when the teachers and the school administrators learn about the pregnancy. Centre for the Study of Adolescents reports that despite the fact that over a decade ago the Government of Kenya designed policies to protect pregnant girls’ right to continue her education, 13,000 girls leave school every year due to pregnancy. According to the same report, pregnant girls quote and attribute the practice to the stigma of pregnancy and discrimination by teachers and peers as the main reasons that force them out of school. In 1994, Kenya introduced ‘return to school’ policy for teenage mothers. A girl that gets pregnant is allowed to remain in school for as long as she wants. After delivery, she can go back to school or apply for admission into another secondary school, if she feels she is being discriminated against. The policy stipulates that pregnant schoolgirls and their parents are entitled to counseling. Despite presence of such a policy, a lot of school staff and stake holders within the education sector are not adequately prepared to implement the policy in leading to a high school drop outs in the relevant counties.
ENA seeks to ensure that all teenage mothers complete their secondary education and no girl misses school due to lack of adequate menstrual hygiene materials. The following are the main strategies that ENA employs to mitigate teenage pregnancies in Kenya:
- Establishing and strengthening already existing peer health clubs in the schools.
- Engage male teachers as health ambassadors in schools to minimize the myths and taboos around menstrual hygiene management.
- Ensure pregnant teenagers’ in school attend the four Antenatal care clinics under the schools guidance and counseling department.
- Ensure teenage mothers are given a chance to complete their secondary education after delivery.
- Engage communities through structured committees that are made up of the paralegals, local administration, and faith based leaders, women and men of influence in the society to take lead in amplifying positive messages to the girls and community at large.
- Involvement of parents of the teenage girls and persons responsible through dialogue sessions led by the community committees with a deliberate aim of supporting the teenage mother’s family economically.
- Enhance the schools Menstrual hygiene management is upheld; Ensure no girl misses school due to lack of menstrual hygiene management.
- Work closely with local implementing partners on the ground to implement the activities in the targeted areas.