Population Services Kenya (PS Kenya) works with the neediest communities in hard to reach areas. Kilifi is a coastal county with the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Kenya at 21.8%. Due to early pregnancies, many girls are forced to cut short their dreams and aspirations to take care of their children.
PS Kenya has partnered with Kilifi County to address teenage pregnancies and support girls to achieve their goals. PS Kenya, through Population Services International, with investments from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Maverick Next, provides an opportunity for young adolescent girls to have straight-talk conversations. PS Kenya has recruited Young Innovation Officers who mobilize adolescent girls in the community to meet and have conversations on setting goals for their lives. During the group sessions, adolescent girls are engaged in thinking about what they want to be in the future. They also discuss the obstacles and facilitators that are in the way of meeting their goals, and possible solutions to handle the obstacles and how to leverage the facilitators.
A key theme among adolescent girls that stops them from meeting their goals is early marriages and having children when they’re not ready to start a family. PS Kenya facilitates community health extension workers to educate girls on the importance of abstaining from early sex and the use of contraceptives to avoid unintended pregnancies.
The majority of adolescent girls and young mothers aspire to be hairdressers and dressmakers in their local community. PS Kenya has partnered with Technical Vocational Training Institutions to build the skills of girls in hairdressing and tailoring over a period of 3 months. PS Kenya has also partnered with local hairdressers and tailors to mentor the young girls, building their skills and supporting them to start businesses that can sustain them.
Some of the girls also choose to make soap, shampoos, and bleaches. PS Kenya facilitates local mentors to teach the girls how to make soap, shampoos, and bleach, which are packaged and sold to the local community. This contributes to giving girls access to an income that improves their economic status and reduces their dependence and vulnerability hence giving in to sex in exchange for money.
Through working with the County government and community partners, PS Kenya is demonstrating that, indeed, adolescent pregnancies can be reduced, and girls can be supported to achieve their goals and have children when they are ready to start families.
By Dr. Margaret Njenga