In response to rising GBV and defilement cases in Kenya, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has been increasing the visibility of teenage pregnancy through a coordinated, country-wide dialogue on the issue via Kenya’s community radio stations.
Between September and October interactive talks shows took place across the Association of Kenya Community Media Operators (AKCMO) network which engaged listeners on issues related to teenage pregnancy, HIV in addition to broader issues of gender-based violence (GBV). Public announcements were also placed and skits performed during primetime hours.
AKCMO bridges the existing gap between policy makers and a grassroots population who often depend on communityradios. The association operates 42 outlets giving it a potential reach of 34% of the population, as shown by Kenya Audience Research Foundation (KARF) statistics. Grassroots listeners have emotional attachment to these radio stations and tuning in to their favorite programs, is a daily ritual. Media has constantly shaped the community agenda and radio remains one of the strongest tools to influence and shape beliefs, drawing on diverse opinions and creating debate.
Teenage pregnancy disproportionately disempowers girls. According to Kenya Data and Health Survey (2014), one in five girls between 15-19 years are either pregnant or already a mother. School closures enforced by COVID-19 pose a significant risk to hard-earned gains realized over the years in sexual and reproductive health. Girls risk dropping out of school completely due to early pregnancy, leading to lack of academic qualifications and reduced prospects for employment. This results in a vicious cycle of poverty for girls and young women because children of low-income uneducated women are likely to drop out of school as well, suffering the same fate as their parents.
This intervention falls under the Let’s Act to End Teenage Pregnancy campaign launched by the Government with support from UNESCO and UNFPA in March 2020, a few days before the advent of COVID-19 in Kenya. The campaign addresses adolescent pregnancy by targeting parents, educators, religious leaders, community gate keepers, boys and girls for positive social and behavioural change. Key to this is positioning parents in a role as nurturers of values and beliefs for children in the formative years and throughout their lives. This is particularly imperative during this COVID-19 pandemic period as learners remain at home.