300 young people joined our adolescent sexuality school clubs at the beginning of 2020. We had a total of 5 sessions with each group before the restrictions brought by the Covid-19 pandemic were effected, forcing schools to be closed for the rest of the year.
The second month of the pandemic sent shock waves with emerging teenage pregnancy reports two months after the schools were closed. The reports showed that 152,000 teenagers were pregnant.
As we did follow-ups with our club members, we received the story of Jane from one of the facilitators. Jane is a 16-year-old who lives in one of the low-income communities in Nairobi. She is currently in form two. For Jane and many other girls like her, the school was a safe haven, in school, she would have at least one meal per day. The government has a school sanitary towel project so she would have received one pack each month. Jane belongs to TICAH’s sexuality Our Bodies, Our Choices program and in these spaces, she learned more about herself, about her body and had really frank conversations on decision making around sexual choices.
This pandemic brought a new normal for Jane. Schools were closed and she was now home full time. To make it worse, both of her parents lost their source of livelihoods (her dad was a casual laborer at a nearby factory and her mum sold doughnuts on the streets). Because of the pressures at home and the need to get some of her basic needs, Jane had sex with a boda-boda rider in exchange for 50Ksh (motorbikes that act as public transport especially for short distances within the community). This shows that even when girls know about good choices some of the pressures are forcing them to make choices they are less than ideal for themselves. When Jane found out that she was pregnant, she wanted to commit suicide.
One of our school club facilitators picked up her case when she started becoming suicidal. The facilitator has been counseling Jane, providing her with information on the available options for her, and supporting her to access the services that she would need. We also supported her family with food and other essentials in our care packages distributed to needy community members during this tough time.
Her counseling sessions had two distinct ways forward: if she decides to keep the pregnancy we would continue to support her and enroll her in our young mothers’ support group; should she decide not to keep the pregnancy we will support her to access a safe abortion. The facilitator would also offer continuous counseling in both instances so she feels supported in the decisions she has to make at this time.
Unfortunately, for reasons not known to us, her parents decided to take her to the village cutting all the communication links with us. We are still looking for ways to get in touch with her, hoping that she is safe and whatever decision she makes will work best for her. Also hoping that she gets the chance to pick up the broken pieces and get a second chance to realize her dreams.
Jane’s story is not one in isolation. So many of the girls recorded in these statistics are going through the same situation. Lost in this pandemic and in a situation that they cannot comprehend, these girls are looking for a safe space to share their fears, to heal from the pain they have in their hearts, to know their options, make informed choices, and to regain the hope lost as a result of these experiences. TICAH offers these spaces but our funding is limited to the number of girls we can reach at the moment. For 400 USD, TICAH can facilitate a counseling session with 30 girls. With this amount, we can cover the full costs, which include the facilitators and co-facilitators fees, the venue, snacks for the girls, masks, sanitizers, and chairs.
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