- Kenya’s Constitution 2010 gives a solid foundation on the need to protect the rights of all Kenyans.
- Pregnant teenage girls are already vulnerable and prone to bullying and other related stigma and biases by their peers, teachers, family members, and other members of society.
- Instead of slamming the door in front of them and locking them out, teenage mothers can be transitioned to being ambassadors to their peers in the journey of ending teenage pregnancies.
While I applaud the efforts of Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka and the county government of Bungoma on the need to have concerted and inclusive engagement towards ending teenage pregnancies, I take concern about the measure of banning teenage pregnant mothers from school as a punishment.
This measure is so archaic and takes me back to my days in school when school principals could chase away pregnant teenagers or parade them before the entire school as a specimen in a lesson of morality.
Kenya as a country has grown, and its policies find strength in the foundations of the 2010 Constitution 2010, Kenya’s Policy Framework for Education and Training, and National Policy on Gender and Development, among others.
We, therefore, cannot accept downplay of the extreme gains already made on gender parity and girl-child education development in Kenya thus far.
Is this not selective thinking? Is teenage pregnancy only a girl issue or roping over to become a boy and girl issue, even a community issue? When the girl is banned from school, what happens to the boy or man out there who fathered the baby?
The ripple effect of the utterances takes the nation and the world back to old age. The utterances are fuel to unabated stigma and gender biases.
They clearly expose the hidden gender biases anchored in the patriarchal society we grew up in, which we ought to be aware of and clearly make efforts to unlearn them.
I base my input on the global SDGs, to be exact, SDG #3 on Good Health and well-being, SDG #4 on Quality Education, SDG #5 on Gender Equality, SDG #10 on Reduced Inequalities, and SDG #17 on Partnerships for the Goals.
Kenya’s Constitution 2010 gives a solid foundation on the need to protect the rights of all Kenyans, including the right to access education and other basic rights, the right to belong and be treated equally, and the right to justice.
From the constitution, we have several policies like the Kenya basic education policy & the gender policy.
It is, therefore, a collective responsibility for us all to support our children, especially the girls who already fall in the category of vulnerable groups because of the historical, systemic, and retrogressive values embedded in our patriarchal communities.
Pregnant teenage girls are already vulnerable and prone to bullying and other related stigma and biases by their peers, teachers, family members, and other members of society.
Their partners, who could be fellow students or even mature members of society, could have already denounced them and left them on their own.
Biologically, they should not even be placed on the same grounds to compete academically with other students.
Our work as leaders and community members is to anchor our collective efforts on the policies and frameworks already laid by the government and other related entities and churn our humanity values like empathy to support these girls.
It’s on our shoulders to encourage them to continue to pursue their education dream by offering them that conducive learning environment, mental and psychosocial support for re-integration and financial and parental support.
Instead of slamming the door in front of them and locking them out, teenage mothers can be transitioned to being ambassadors to their peers in the journey of ending teenage pregnancies.
They have lived the experience, a tough experience whose lessons can be life-changing to their peers.
I know of so many great women leaders richly contributing to the nation and world development after defying all the challenges they faced as teenage mothers.
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They became, not only because of their strong personal will but also because their parents, teachers, peers, and community at large offered them a second chance.