According to findings by the Centre for the Study of Adolescents (CSA), a Kenyan non-profit organization, there has been an increase in teenage pregnancy among school-going children.
Those in the age bracket of 14 and 17 years are most affected in Busia County, with Bunyala South reporting more cases from last year.
The organization, established in 1988 and carrying out its activities in Busia County, has handled a total of 38 cases from across the sub-county. However, this is not the actual number as scores of the victims’ parents/guardians, on most occasions, collude with the culprits through kangaroo courts where money speaks.
This has often seen justice failing to take its rightful course in defense of the victims.
Apart from child abuse cases, the organization is embarking on promoting the health and development of adolescents and young people through launching child-related programs, policy advocacy, research, and capacity building in Bunyala sub-county and Busia County at large.
The organization’s vision is to attain a society where the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents and young people are universally realized and enjoyed.
Orphans and Vulnerable Children
The organization is also undertaking a project on welfare promotion and protection of Orphans and Vulnerable Children [OVCs] in Busia.
The goal and objective are to contribute to realizing and fulfilling the fundamental rights of the OVCs in Budalangi and improving their socio-economic status and rights through various community-based organizations.
According to the organization’s Field Officer Silas Wandera, the organization has supported a total of 1200 OVCs and youth in the four wards, namely Bunyala North, South, Central and West in Bunyala sub-county.
They have achieved this through the following Community-Based Organizations (CBOs): Amatsi CBO in Bunyala central, Buhawe CBO in Bunyala South, Bulala CBO in Bunyala North and Budalangi theatre CBO in Bunyala West.
The Orphaned and Vulnerable Children are taken through marathon training on child rights protection and responsibilities and informed of where they can report any abuse cases should they happen.
“As an organization, we have supported Child Rights Clubs we have established in various schools across Bunyala sub-county and Busia County at large. The children have been able to learn about their rights, where to report any abuse case, their responsibilities as children and also life skills,” says Wandera.
At the same time, he said the non-governmental outfit has gone to the extent of training 20 child advocates drawn from the four wards of Bunyala sub-county on advocacy and lobbying.
“The 20 children the organization has so far taken through extensive training had formed Bunyala sub-county Children Assembly, where they have been able to represent the sub-county at the County Children Assembly forums in Busia,” explains Wandera.
The expert training the organization has imparted on the children has enabled them to write MoUs with the support of the Centre for the Study of Adolescents and the Deputy County Commissioners, thereby petitioning the county assembly and Governor’s office to chip in and pertinent issues affecting them within the county.
The field officer said there is an increase in HIV and AIDS infection
rates among adolescent girls, especially those that are engaging in sexual activities with older men.
“The rise in HIV and Aids infection rate among adolescent girls is attributed to poor parenting and lack of effective parental care. However, with the introduction of child right clubs in respective schools, they have been able to know their rights,” he said.
“We use the four CBOs in the four administrative wards to mobilize the children for sensitization through Bulala Fm, a local vernacular community radio station and learning institutions through various child rights clubs,” said the field official.
He expressed concerns that most parents in the region don’t want to cooperate with them on issues touching on the defilement cases of their children.
He added that the most intriguing thing was that a section of leaders in the region had allegedly developed a negative attitude towards the war against early pregnancy cases in the region.
“Majority of parents in the county, in most occasions, resort to resolving defilement cases through kangaroo courts where money changes hands rather than allowing the law to take its rightful course. Even a section of leaders in the region are unwilling to support our cause,” he emphasized.
The Centre for the Study of Adolescents official urged parents from Budalangi constituency and Busia County as a whole to sensitize their girls who have attained the age of going to school to be cautious to avoid becoming victims of early pregnancy.
Early Pregnancy Cases
Data from Port Victoria Referral Hospital in Busia reveals that a total of 49 early pregnancy cases were detected from 632 girls below the age of 19 who visited two health facilities in the county for pregnancy tests and antenatal clinics.
In one of the health facilities in Bunyala South, 17 early pregnancy cases of girls aged below 19 years were recorded. The cases have continued shooting.
In one of the primary schools, it was established with dismay that two schoolgirls below the age of fourteen were expectant.
“I am appealling to parents from Budalangi constituency and Busia County to take up the responsibility of sensitizing their girls on the dangers of engaging in sex at a very tender age as this might lead to early pregnancy hence forcing them out of school prematurely,” said the CSA field officer.
The organization has referred 36 OVCs to various skills training institutions through the Community-Based Organizations it works with.
“Although during the flooding of 2020, the organization supported OVC households with assorted package of foodstuff and sanitary pads to girls. We are implementing a rights-based OVC program that empowers the community to advocate for themselves, so we don’t provide basic food needs. ,” said Wandera.
On completion of basic education, the organization is working closely with the Ministry of Education and Deputy County Commissioner to ensure that all school-going children are in school.
“We also do community sensitization meetings to parents on the importance of ensuring that children are in school. On fee payment, we advise them to apply for education bursary from the Constituency Development Fund and other partners offering school fees provisions,” he says.
The official further said that all the CBOs they are supporting ensure that ailing OVCs under their care have been taken to the hospital for medication and immunization for those under five years.
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“We also support HIV screening for active adolescents through the Ministry of Health, and for those under our care we ensure they strictly follow the doctors’ prescription,” he said.