Each year, the world marks the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence between the 25thNovember to the 10thof December to galvanize actions to end violence against women and girls. This year, Kenya marked the campaign under the global theme #HearMeToo calling on actors, stakeholders and communities to listen to the voices of survivors, break the culture of silencing and provide and safe environments for women and girls.
The launch was held in Kilifi county and informed by the high numbers of teenage pregnancies recorded over the last few years in the region. Latest statistics from the County Children’s Department indicate that over 13,000 girls between 15 and 19 are expecting babies in the county, while some, from as young as 14 years, have already given birth. Most of them end up dropping out of school to get married at such early ages.
The launch officiated by the Kilifi governor Hon. Amason Kingi, Gender CAS Racheal Shebesh, brought together local leadership including Magarini MP Michael Kingi, his Malindi counterpart Aisha Jumwa, Kilifi Woman Representative Gertrude Mbeyu, chiefs and assistant chiefs in the region who pledged their commitment to address the situation.
The governor called for amendment of the sexual offences act to allow for stringent actions to perpetrators. He said the move will go a long way to reducing the rampant cases of teenage pregnancies in the county. During the launch in Kilifi, stakeholders drawn from state and non-state actors called on for a concerted effort to end the rampant cases of teen pregnancies in the County.
“Even if we as a county and national government put in place these measures to combat early pregnancies and defilement the family still needs to play its role and offer support for us eradicate this vice.” Governor Kingi Pointed out emphasizing the vital role of the family in stopping this violation.
According to data from the Kilifi County Children’s Department, out of the seven constituencies in the county, Kilifi North is leading with 3,134 pregnancies, followed by Magarini, which has 2,861cases, and Kaloleni with 2,180 cases. Migosi said Malindi and Kilifi South have 1,771 cases each, Ganze 1,362 and Rabai 545 cases.
Some of the underlying caused associated with this problem are forced sex and rape, lack Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) knowledge,poverty leading to engagement in sex for financial favors, and exploitation by teachers with most of these cases not going through the judicial system but rather handled by elders in kangaroo courts where perpetrators are fined and allow the girl to be married off or even to abort the pregnancy.
The launch also served as a platform to launch the toll number 1195 for residents to report GBV cases as part of strengthening reporting by the survivors.
UN Women through its country director Ms. Zebib Kavuma reiterated their commitment to addressing gender-based violence through the framework of the Joint UN and government of Kenya programme on preventing and responding to gender-based violence.