How Girls from Nakuru Low-Income Areas are Benefiting from the YAWI’s Reproductive Health Lessons

Youth Time Magazine brings to you the newest initiative of the Young African Women Initiatives (YAWI), through which 100 girls from Nakuru low-income settlements are receiving tips on reproductive health.

Fidelis Wambui Karanja, Executive Director of Young African Women Initiatives (YAWI), while speaking exclusively to Youth Time Magazine, elaborates the initiative results from the program for teenage mothers dubbed “supporting expecting and parenting teenagers in your community,” which seeks to contribute to the reduction of teenage pregnancies and prevention of child marriages in Nakuru County, Kenya.

Among other important issues, in this interview, she also shares a few important tips for girls to better understand and protect their reproductive health during adolescence.

Photo courtesy of Young African Women Initiatives (YAWI)

A Far-Reaching Initiative for the Community

Karanja believes this opportunity is bringing positive change for the girls so they understand their reproductive health and can avoid risks of STDs, teenage pregnancy, early marriages as well as procure unwanted abortions due to pressure which can harm their bodies in life.

She further reminds us: “Based on research, teenage pregnancy and early/forced marriage impede girls’ education, psychological well-being, and health. This practice inevitably denies young women of the school-age right to the education necessary for personal development, preparation for adulthood, and effective contribution to the future well-being of family and society.”

Karanja further draws our attention by saying that according to UNICEF and WHO, each year around 70,000 girls die in labor since their bodies are not mature for childbearing.

According to UNICEF, about 14 million teen and adolescent girls get married, and others are forced into marriage arrangements by parents yearly.

“To revert this, education is crucial in mitigating incidences of teenage pregnancy, illegal abortion, sexual diseases, and early/forced marriage. This means enhancing access to quality education for girls while at the same time enlightening community to amend societal norms, religious and community structure that permits teenage and early forced marriage to continue.”

Photo courtesy of Young African Women Initiatives (YAWI)

A Brief Guide to Taking Care of Reproductive Health

Karanja starts by pointing out that males grow larger male reproductive organs throughout puberty, whereas females gain weight in the thighs and buttocks.

“Reproductive health education enables people to better comprehend these physiological changes and hence better control them,” she adds.

“During adolescence,” she elaborates, “adolescents’ coping mechanisms are improved.”

“Personal cleanliness is essential, and further explains the role of sexual education in preventing teen pregnancies,” Karanja says.

“Reproductive health education tells adolescents about the risks of premarital sex so that they can avoid them or play it safe. It protects adolescent girls, in particular, from teen pregnancy and the issues that come with it, such as abortion, maternal mortality, and so on.”

“Cancers of many types are a source of concern, particularly among young women. Adolescent health education teaches teenagers how to take care of their breasts and other intimate body parts,” she tells us.

Karanja also highlights that sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and HIV/AIDS can be prevented with adolescent health education.

We dedicated the conclusive part of this piece to how girls can prevent HIV infections.

Photo courtesy of Young African Women Initiatives (YAWI)

Understanding the Factors Leading to HIV Infections

Karanja puts things into perspective for us, by sharing that according to National Aids Council Kenya, HIV/AIDS new infections are acute among adolescent girls and women aged between 15-25 years.

“The situation is like this since the majority did not have facts about their reproductive health,” she explains.

Below she points out and explains several factors that lead to new HIV infections in Nakuru county.

Behavioral factors related to HIV risk among adolescent girls and young women involving individual and relational factors; linked to the behavior of both young women and their male partners. They are closely linked to social and gender norms of relationships, sexuality, and marriage, as well as structural factors (such as population mobility and gender inequality).

Age-disparate sex — the age of sexual partners is a key factor that contributes to HIV incidence being substantially higher among adolescent girls and young women than among males of the same age.

Multiple partnerships — having a greater number of sexual partners or having a partner with a history of having multiple partners is consistently associated with higher levels of HIV acquisition in the eastern side of Nakuru town.

Transactional sexual relationships — which are non-marital, non-commercial sexual relationships but are based on the assumption that sex will be exchanged for material support or other benefits. Adolescent girls and young women in these low-income areas engage in these relationships to access basic needs, increasing their social status and receiving material expressions of love from male partners.

Early sexual debut — early onset of sex itself with later engagement in risky sexual behaviors and biological factors.

Gaps in knowledge and limited personalized risk perception — there are still considerable gaps in comprehensive basic knowledge among adolescent girls and young women. Knowledge of specific risk factors such as transmission in sexual networks or the risk of age-disparate sex, of newer biomedical prevention methods (such as PrEP), or of links between HIV and gender-based violence.

Photo courtesy of Young African Women Initiatives (YAWI)

The initiatives so far are progressing very well. The biggest barrier to reaching many girls in the informal settlement is the organization’s lack of funds for this program.

Click here to donate to YAWI so it can continue the positive impact in the community.

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