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“I was an average student. School is not really for me”- the story of a teenage mother in Kenya

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teenage mothers in Kenya

Kenya’s national school re-entry Guidelines provide standards for teachers, parents and communities to support teenage mothers’ return to school. The Guidelines stipulate that a pregnant schoolgirl is allowed to remain in school as long as possible. In addition, the teenage mother can re-enter school six months after delivery, which provides time for her to nurse the baby.

With legislations and policy environments that fully support their continued education, why don’t some teenage mothers return to school? Where’s the gap?

To seek answers to this question, I spoke to a few teenage mothers who dropped out of school while pregnant. Their babies are now above six months old, but they have not returned to school. This is Dayana’s story.

This is a series of articles I’m doing on the issue of schoolgirl pregnancies. Read the full version of this article. You can also read Elsa’s story.

By Maryanne W. Waweru

Dayana* is an 18-year-old mother of a nine-month-old. She found out she was pregnant while in Form 2 student at a mixed public secondary school in her Kibera neighbourhood.

“School was compounding my problems”

“I would vomit and feel sick all day long. I’d also be very moody and irritable. I remember struggling to keep my secret from fellow students and teachers, and at the same time being mortified about my parents finding out. There was so much going on with me mentally, physically, and emotionally that I could no longer concentrate in class. Going to school was only complicating my life,” she says.

When she was three months pregnant, Dayana abandoned her studies. When her parents learnt about the pregnancy, they didn’t pressure her to return to class. After delivering her son, her parents continued to support her, but the support did not extend to her baby.

“My parents provided me with food and shelter, so I didn’t need to stress about that. However, when it came to buying diapers and clothes for my son, his clinic expenses and financing his other needs, my parents told me to sort that out by myself.”

Becoming a married teenager

When her son turned six months, and with his expenses increasing, Dayana chose to move in with his father, a 23-year-old casual labourer.

I asked her if she knows that she can return to school.   

“Yes, I know I can go back to school. However, I don’t feel like school is for me anymore. A few months ago, I enrolled in a hair and beauty course at a local NGO that is sponsoring me, and I feel this is a better option for me,” says the mom who scored 260 marks in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) national examination.

The NGO that is supporting Dayana is Agape Woman and Child Empowerment Foundation (AWOCHE), a community-based and youth-led organization in Kibera that empowers girls, youth and women on their education and health rights.

Once I start making money, I’ll be good

Dayana, who has now set her sights on becoming a make-up-artist, believes she will secure a job once she completes her studies. She began the beauty course in July 2022 and will complete it in January 2023.

“I’m confident about my beauty skills and I know I will make money. I’ll get my own clients and be able to provide for my son. To be honest, I was an average student in class, and I don’t see myself going back to school –that ship has already sailed. I’m happy with the course I’m doing now and the prospects it has for me,” she says.

Does Dayana know of other teen moms who dropped out of school, and if they have resumed their studies?

Yes, I know of other girls who dropped out, but I don’t know of any who has gone back. In fact, we were two of us pregnant in Form 2 at my school. The other girl hasn’t gone back either.

Now that she is married, does she have plans to get another baby?

“No, not right now. Let me finish my beauty course first, make money, ensure my son has started school, then I’ll get another child. I’m on a long-term family planning method and once my son is about seven years old, I believe I’ll be stable enough to give him a baby sister or brother,” she says.

What are your thoughts on Dayana’s story? Are technical courses a better option for those who not deem themselves to be academically bright? Should we guide them in this direction? Share your thoughts in the commets section below.

Also Read: “I’m too ashamed to be in school” the story of a teenage mother in Kenya

  • In Kenya, early pregnancy refers to pregnancy that occurs in the life of a girl below the country’s age of consent (which is 18 years).
  • Early pregnancy has been shown to be the main reason for school drop-out of adolescent girls.
  • In 2021, about 21% or 317,644 of all pregnancies were among adolescents aged 10-19 years.
  • A survey by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health (MoH) revealed that in Kibera sub-county, where Dayana resides, the number of adolescents (10-19 years) who presented with pregnancy at first ante-natal care visit in 2021 were 1,076.

If you work in an organization that deals with teenage mothers that you’d like highlighted, reach out to me on maryanne@mummytales.com 

*Name changed for purposes of protecting her identity.

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

“I’m too ashamed to be in school” the story of a teenage mother in Kenya

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pregnant schoolgirls in Kenya

By Maryanne W. Waweru

When I meet 16-year-old Elsa, my first impression of her is a confident young woman. At five months pregnant, she carries herself with a heap of self-assurance. I get down to listening to her story.

Elsa’s childhood was not a smooth sail. She lost her mother at the age of six years. Following her death, her father, who is based in Kisumu county, sent her to live with her aunt in Kibera, Nairobi county. Her education went on without challenges until she fell pregnant early this year.

Kicked out of home

When she discovered she was pregnant, she was in Form 2 at a mixed public sub-county secondary school in Nairobi. Upon learning of her pregnancy, her aunt promptly threw her out of the house, reminding that her accommodation in her house was based on condition that she would focus on her studies. Pregnancy was not allowed.

With Elsa having ‘broken’ that agreement, and with her aunt unwilling to listen to her pleas, the teenager moved in with her boyfriend –a 20-year-old who works at a car wash. She is now a married woman.

While growing up, Elsa wanted to be a lawyer. But this changed along the way, where she aspired to be a teacher. Now, she harbours ambitions of being a caterer since she enjoys making delicious meals. At the moment, she is a housewife.

Kenya’s national school re-entry Guidelines provide standards for teachers, parents and communities to support teenage mothers’ return to school.

I ask Elsa if she is aware she can continue going to school while pregnant.

“Yes I would have continued, but I feel ashamed and embarrassed. I had seen what happened to girls who had gotten pregnant in school and didn’t want the same to happen to me. Other students would gossip about the pregnant girl’s behaviour, sometimes calling her promiscuous. Afraid of facing similar ridicule, I have not returned to school,” she says.

Kenya’s school re-entry Guidelines stipulate that the teenage mother can re-enter school six months after delivery, which provides time for her to nurse the baby. With this information, I ask Elsa if she plans on returning to school after childbirth.

“Maybe I will, I don’t know. But what I know for sure is that I cannot go back to the same school. Even though the teachers would be supportive, I fear the mockery from my schoolmates.”

Boarding school is better

Elsa says she would instead prefer going to a girls’ boarding school.

“I believe I would have better concentration if I were in a boarding school as it has fewer distractions. Unfortunately, I know this is just a far-fetched dream because my boyfriend cannot afford the boarding school fees. Who would also watch our child when I’m away in school?” she ponders.

Elsa remains grateful for her supportive boyfriend.

“I don’t lack anything in the house. He brings home food and gives me money to go for my antenatal clinics. I know he will also provide for our baby. He’s a good man,” she says.

Also read: Why Kenyan teenage mothers do not return to school despite re-entry policy

  • In Kenya, early pregnancy refers to pregnancy that occurs in the life of a girl below the country’s age of consent (which is 18 years).
  • Early pregnancy has been shown to be the main reason for school drop-out of adolescent girls.
  • In 2021, about 21% or 317,644 of all pregnancies were among adolescents aged 10-19 years.
  • A survey by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health (MoH) revealed that in Kibera sub-county, where Elsa resides, the number of adolescents (10-19 years) who presented with pregnancy at first ante-natal care visit in 2021 were 1,076.

What are your thoughts on Elsa’s predicament? What do you think about teenage moms’ return to school? Is enough being done, or a lot more can be done? Comment down below.

If you work in an organization that deals with teenage mothers that you’d like highlighted, reach out to me on maryanne@mummytales.com 

*Name changed for purposes of protecting her identity.

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

Why Kenyan teenage mothers do not return to school despite re-entry policy

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teen mothers Kenya

Why don’t teen moms in Kenya return to school despite the school re-entry policies that allow them to do so? I talked to a few teenage mothers who haven’t gone back to school and they share their reasons why. I bring you their stories in this article.

By Maryanne W. Waweru

Dayana* is an 18-year-old mother of a nine-month-old. She found out she was pregnant while in Form 2 student at a mixed public secondary school in her Kibera neighbourhood.

“I would vomit and feel sick all day long. I’d also be very moody and irritable. I remember struggling to keep my secret from fellow students and teachers, and at the same time being mortified about my parents finding out. There was so much going on with me mentally, physically, and emotionally that I could no longer concentrate in class. Going to school was only complicating my life,” she says.

When she was three months pregnant, Dayana abandoned her studies. When her parents learnt about the pregnancy, they didn’t pressure her to return to class. After delivering her son, her parents continued to support her, but the support did not extend to her baby.

“My parents provided me with food and shelter, so I didn’t need to stress about that. However, when it came to buying diapers and clothes for my son, his clinic expenses and financing his other needs, my parents told me to sort that out by myself.”

When her son turned six months, and with his expenses increasing, Dayana chose to move in with his father, a 23-year-old casual laborer. It has been three months of married life for this teenager, and ‘so far so good’ she says.

Vulnerability of teenage mothers

Dayana is a significant statistic in Kenya’s adolescent and teenage population. Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache recently revealed that one out of every three mothers attending an antenatal clinic is an adolescent girl aged 10-19 years. In 2021, about 21% or 317,644 of all pregnancies were among adolescents aged 10-19 years. (NACC). A survey by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health (MoH) revealed that in Kibera sub-county, where Dayana resides, the number of adolescents (10-19 years) who presented with pregnancy at first ante-natal care visit in 2021 were 1,076.

Across the globe, including in Kenya, the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused various social and economic disruptions including the closure of schools, only worsened the teenage pregnancy crisis. In school, girls have access to life skills education sessions where they learn about sexual reproductive health, including how to prevent unplanned pregnancies. With schools shut, many adolescents were unable to access this information as they previously would have. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic created an environment of intense fear and anxiety, which made the public, including adolescents, hesitant about visiting health facilities for fear of contracting the virus.

Teen pregnancy increases the vulnerability of girls. When a teenage mother does not return to school, it heightens her vulnerability to negative long-term outcomes. NCPD indicates that 13,000 girls in Kenya drop out of school annually due to unplanned pregnancies. With a lack of education, their productivity and advancement in life becomes severely compromised, with many remaining enslaved in a cycle of poverty.

Yet, when a girl stays in school and receives an education, she acquires knowledge and skills that enable her to compete in the labor market. With a job, she earns an income that empowers her to contribute to her family and country’s economic growth and development. An educated woman is likely to marry at a later age, have fewer children and make informed decisions about the nutrition and health of her children and family.

Kenya’s commitment to education for all

Kenya’s government recognizes basic education as a fundamental right. The government has enshrined this commitment through various instruments including the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Kenya Vision 2030, the Basic Education Act (2013) and Sustainable Development Goal number 4 (SDG 4) on inclusive education. Further, the social pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030 positions education and training as essential vehicles for the country’s progress.

Additionally, Kenya has various ratified international and regional instruments that protect the right to education, including: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Africa Union Agenda 2063; AU Road Map on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth (2017) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990).

To enhance access to quality education and improve retention and completion rates, the government operationalized Free Primary Education (FPE 2003) and Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE 2008).

School re-entry policy for teenage mothers

Importantly, the 1994 School Re-entry Policy for Girls and the 2020 National School Re-entry Guidelines provide guidelines for teachers, parents and communities to support teenage mothers’ return to school. The re-entry guidelines stipulate that the teenage mother can re-enter school six months after delivery, which provides time for her to nurse the baby.

Aside from the school re-entry policy, the government, in collaboration with various partners in both the public and private sectors, is engaged in various efforts aimed at encouraging teenage mothers to return to school.

One such initiative is the ‘Triple Threat Campaign’ –a multisectoral, whole government approach to ending new HIV infections, unintended pregnancies, and sexual and gender-based violence among adolescent girls and young women by addressing the drivers of risk and vulnerability in this population.

Another initiative is the 4T (Trace, Track, Talk and return To school) initiative, implemented by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Population Council, Kenya.

Why teenage mothers don’t return to school

With legislations and policy environments that fully support their continued education, why don’t teenage mothers return to school despite provisions for them to do so?

To seek answers to this question, I spoke to a few teenage mothers who dropped out of school while pregnant. They are part of the 21% of adolescent and teenage girls who were pregnant in 2021. Their babies are now above six months old, but they have not returned to school.

We begin with Dayana, the teenage mother from the opening of this article. I asked her if she knows that she can return to school.   

“Yes, I know I can go back to school. However, I don’t feel like school is for me anymore. A few months ago, I enrolled in a hair and beauty course at a local NGO that is sponsoring me, and I feel this is a better option for me,” says the mom who scored 260 marks in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) national examination.

Dayana, who has now set her sights on becoming a make-up-artist, believes she will secure a job once she completes her studies. She began the beauty course in July 2022 and will complete it in January 2023.

“I’m confident about my beauty skills and I know I will make money. I’ll get my own clients and be able to provide for my son. To be honest, I was an average student in class, and I don’t see myself going back to school –that ship has already sailed. I’m happy with the course I’m doing now and the prospects it has for me,” she says.

Lavenda*, 17 years, mother to a 10-month-old

When Lavenda scored 346 marks in her KCPE, she was elated as it was yet another milestone in advancing her goal of becoming a journalist someday.

Things were going well for her. She was in a mixed public day secondary school in Kibera, and her grades were good. Ever since she was in class six, her education had been fully paid for by an anonymous sponsor. The only condition for this support was that she would maintain her stellar grades and she would not skip school. At the end of every term, the school would send Lavenda’s report card to her anonymous sponsor detailing her grades and notable class attendance.

However, all that changed when Lavenda fell pregnant in Form 2. Terrified of her parents, she ran away and sought refuge in her boyfriend’s house, a 22-year-old boda boda rider.

She stopped going to school and started life as a married woman. At the end of that term, there was no report card to send to the sponsor. Her attendance sheet was also marked as ‘absent’. Her sponsor immediately withdrew the sponsorship.

Things would however get worse for her.

Her ‘marriage’ was short-lived as her boyfriend, an alcoholic and drug abuser would regularly beat her to a pulp. She became another statistic. A recent study on a cohort of youth aged 15–24 in Nairobi revealed that 27.6% of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) experienced Intimate partner violence (IPV) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) incidents are known to increase during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, with girls and women being most vulnerable.

After enduring untold abuse for three months, Lavenda fled her ‘matrimonial home’ with her child and returned to her parents’ house.

Lavenda desires to return to school, but she is unable to, having already lost the sponsorship. Her father works as a construction worker while her mother is jobless. They cannot afford to pay the school levies of 24,000 shillings ($199) per year that the sponsor would cater for.

“I blundered by getting pregnant and dropping out of school, but I wish I could get a second chance. My mother has offered to take care of my baby while I’m away at school, but the only hindrance is the school levies which my parents are unable to raise. I wish I could turn back the hands of time. I would not have gotten pregnant,” a regretful Lavenda says.

When I asked Lavenda if she would be willing to study in a cheaper school, her eyes light up, saying she would jump at the opportunity. However, she does not know how to go about doing so, or if it’s a possibility at all.

Rukia*, 18 years. Her son is 11 months old

A fourth born in a family of five, Rukia lives with her family in Kibera. She was in Form 1 at a private mixed day school when she became pregnant. When her pregnancy became visible at four months, she stopped going to school.

Now that her son is 11 months old, has she thought of resuming her studies?

“Yes I have, and I know I can return, but it’s complicated. I was in a private school where my school fee was paid by mother, who does menial jobs. I felt horrible when I got pregnant as I felt that I had let her down. Even though our father stays with us, he does not offer any financial support and says it is my mother’s duty to provide for the family,” says Rukia who was abandoned by her 22-year-old boyfriend after she informed him of her pregnancy.

Rukia says returning to school will overburden her mother as she will not only have to pay the school fees but also take care of her son and his expenses such as diapers, clothes and food.

“My mother is already overwhelmed with paying for my other siblings’ school fees, so it would be unfair of me to ask her to provide for an extra mouth yet it’s my fault that I got pregnant,” she says.

Rukia now spends her days caring for her son and searching for ‘mama fua’ jobs that earn her little money to cater for her son’s expenses.

Beryl*, 17 years, with a 10-month-old

Beryl was a Form 2 student in a girls’ boarding school in Siaya county when she discovered she was pregnant. She would experience nausea and vomiting which she couldn’t hide from her classmates and as her belly grew, so did the murmurs among her fellow students and teachers. Soon, she was summoned to the matron’s office and a pregnancy test done. The results were positive. She was then taken to the school Principal, whom she describes as ‘a warm, elderly and understanding woman’.

“The Principal encouraged me to continue with my studies until I was ready to deliver. She told me not to worry, that I wouldn’t be sent home. She even called my mother and assured her of her the school’s support as I studied,” she says.

Reassured, Beryl was however not prepared for the taunts she would receive from the student community.

“The girls would talk behind my back. Whenever I walked past them, they would giggle and burst out in thunderous laughter. I would feel awful.”

Additionally, Beryl was expected to do everything else like other girls. There were no exceptions for her.

“All the teachers knew I was pregnant. Yet when it came to punishments, there was no consideration for my status. I remember when the chemistry teacher asked us all to lie down on our bellies, before thoroughly whipping our bottoms. I was three months pregnant then, but it didn’t matter to him. I thought I would lose my pregnancy that day.”

Mass punishments were dreadful experiences for Beryl. Many times, their class would be punished by being asked to kneel.

“We would be made to kneel for hours, and this was very difficult for me. Despite the teachers being aware of my pregnancy, they didn’t care.”

It didn’t end there. Some teachers would make snide remarks that hurt Beryl.

“They would say things like: ‘there are some of you in this class who have decided to start doing things that only adults are supposed to do’. My classmates would start chuckling      while giving me side eyes. I would feel very bad.”

It reached a point where, when specific teachers would walk into class for their lessons, Beryl would walk out, because she knew they would make mean comments directed at her during the lesson.

Beryl reported these incidents to the Principal, who promised to talk to her staff. But things didn’t change and worsened as her pregnancy grew. At five months pregnant, and tired of the negative treatment from students and some teachers, Beryl quit school.

The Principal nevertheless assured her that the school’s doors were always open and urged her to return when the baby was old enough to be left under the care of someone. While grateful for this gesture, Beryl says that if she were to return to school, it would have to be a different one as she cannot go back to the same ‘mean’ teachers.

Teachers should support teenage mothers

Mr. Fredrick Maina, the Kibera sub-county Quality Assurance and Standards Officer says that the Ministry of Education is stringent in ensuring that all teenage mothers can return to school.

“All school Principals are aware of the school re-entry policies, whose implementation we closely monitor. The modalities for doing so are clearly detailed in the National Guidelines.      We reiterate this message during our regular meetings with teachers and school heads, and we have seen many girls return to school.”

Mr. Maina says that teenage mothers who do not wish to return to their former schools can have their parents or guardians visit the sub-county education offices with the issue.

“We are always ready to facilitate the transfer of the student to a different public school. We have handled such cases before. Our goal is to ensure that all teenage mothers return to school and eliminate any obstacles that hinder them from doing so,” he says.

Mr. Maina adds that if the girl is unable to raise the school levies, she can also inform the Education Officers of the same, and a solution will be sought.

Unfortunately, many teenage mothers like Lavenda, who lost her sponsorship and wouldn’t mind continuing her studies in a new, cheaper school, are not privy to this information and continue staying at home, dejected.

In a case such as Beryl’s, where teachers constantly taunted her during lessons, Mr. Maina says that the teenager’s concerns cannot be dismissed.

“We cannot say that such incidents don’t exist, and it is good that you have brought it to my attention. This means that we have teachers making irresponsible statements that arise from their own personal biases. Such statements can destroy a child’s esteem completely, to the extent they will not wish to return to school. A remark like that can destroy the girl’s future. It is very regrettable, and we will ensure that we address it,” he says.

Five students are currently pregnant in our school

Some schools in Kibera, the informal settlement where all the teenage mothers I spoke to reside, have their doors open for them, should they wish to continue with their education.

I spoke to one teacher from one of the mixed public secondary schools in the area who requested for anonymity as she is not authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the school.

The teacher, who I will refer to as Teacher Veronica* says that her school is aware of the school re-entry guidelines and accommodates teenage mothers.

“As we speak right now, this term alone (second term of the 2022 academic year), we have five pregnant students. Two of them are attending classes while three others are on maternity leave. These are the cases we know about. There are probably girls who are one, two or three months pregnant –those whose bellies have not started showing the pregnancy yet. The statistics could be more,” she says.

The Ministry of Education guidelines provide that a learner who is pregnant shall be allowed to remain in school as long as possible. Teacher Veronica says that the school has an arrangement with a nearby private health facility where the expectant mothers are referred to for ante-natal care, in case they have not started their clinics or don’t know how to go about it.

Having dealt with tens of cases of pregnant teenage students every year, Teacher Veronica understands the dilemma of a girl returning to school after childbirth.

“Many of them have self-stigma. They feel embarrassed about their status and prefer not to return to the same school after delivery. At this school, we welcome teenage mothers from other schools. We only ask them to come with their books from the previous school and enrol them in the class they wish to pick up from,” she says.

When I ask her about the cases of teachers who taunt pregnant students with remarks that don’t sit well with the girls, the teacher acknowledges such instances.

“Yes, I will not deny that we sometimes use them as examples when trying to caution their peers from falling pregnant. When we tell other girls not to be like ‘girl XYZ’ who is experiencing nausea, vomiting or fatigue and cannot concentrate well in class, we are only trying to show them the practical consequences of schoolgirl pregnancy. When the girl is drowsy in class because she did not sleep well at night as she was nursing her baby and we use this as an example to her classmates, we are not coming from a bad place. We simply want the girls to understand this situation practically,” she says.

Teacher Veronica cites more examples.

“When the student’s breasts leak in class, drenching her blouse in breastmilk that can be embarrassing in front of her classmates (especially boys), or when she has to take frequent breaks from class to rush home and feed her baby or when he is sick, it affects her studies, and we use her as an example to other girls in the class not to fall into the same situation. When the girl does not participate in club activities after school or on weekends because she must care for her baby, or earn money to cater for her baby’s expenses, the students are able to better comprehend the consequences of teenage motherhood,” she says.

Teacher Veronica says that at the school, they encourage the teenage mother to stay on course with her ambitions.

“We let them know that their choice to return to school is a positive move. We talk to them and let them know that by using them as examples to their classmates, we are not victimizing them but helping their peers understand the situation better. We tell them that their stories can be inspiring, and they can be role models to other girls who may find themselves in such a situation in the future. We support them to work hard in school and pursue their goals despite the hitch of teenage pregnancy,” she says.

Everlyne Bowa, the Director of the Agape Woman and Child Empowerment Foundation (AWOCHE), a community-based and youth-led organization in Kibera that empowers girls, youth and women on their education and health rights, says that many teenage mothers do not return to school because of the complexities of whom they would leave their children with while they are in school.

“Many of them come from poor households where there is barely enough to feed an extra mouth. The girls must finance their baby’s expenses such as diapers and clothes as the parents cannot afford to do so. If the girl were to return to school, she would need to pay for the daycare expenses, which cost about 50 shillings ($0.41) a day. She cannot afford all these costs, so she ends up staying at home and looking for odd jobs,” she says.

Everlyne says that the issue of teenage pregnancy needs a different approach.

“Adolescent sex is a reality in Kibera, where sexual debut is as early as 10 years. Is it time for all stakeholders – government, teachers, parents, religious leaders and the community to centre their discussions on the need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and provision of contraceptives to adolescents because they clearly need them? If a girl wants to have sex, she will have sex. Our conversations should focus on ensuring that she can make an informed decision about her sexual activity that will not lead to negative outcomes,” she says.

The tragedy of unsafe abortion in Kibera

Everlyne says unsafe abortions among the teenage community in Kibera is high, hence why the issue of CSE and contraceptives urgently needs to be looked at from a realistic perspective.

“Health workers should be allowed into schools to talk to the girls, where they can give adolescents and teenagers accurate information about sexual reproductive health. In Kibera, myths and misconceptions about contraceptives abound, and this discourages girls from taking them. Yet, they can prevent the negative consequences of unwanted pregnancies, which include school dropouts and death or illness from unsafe abortion,” she says.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) reports that unsafe abortions are responsible for the deaths of nearly 2,600 women and girls in Kenya annually, which translates to seven deaths daily. Most of these deaths are of girls and women in informal settlements, low-income areas and poor backgrounds seeking clandestine abortion services from quacks.

More steps need to be taken

Indeed, from the experiences of the teenage mothers –who represent thousands of other teen moms, it is evident that many are aware that they can return to school after delivery, but various challenges hinder them from doing so.

To encourage their return and retention in school, a comprehensive approach that includes accessible and affordable daycare services for teen mothers and sensitization among the school community (including teachers) on the need to stop the stigmatization of teen mothers needs to be undertaken. Contraceptive information and services for adolescents aged 10-19 years also need to be highly considered to reduce the negative outcomes of their sexual activity. It is a reality that we need to be alive to. -END

What are your thoughts on this article? What do you think about teenage moms’ return to school? Is enough being done, or a lot more can be done? Comment down below or email me on maryanne@mummytales.com

Also read: How health workers in Kibera are assessing sick children using a new digital health tool

If you work in an organization that deals with teenage mothers that you’d like highlighted, reach out to me on maryanne@mummytales.com 

*Names changed for purposes of protecting their identities.

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

How health workers in Kibera are assessing sick children using a new digital health tool

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Maximilla Kangahi with her daughter at the Beyond Zero clinic in Karanja, Kibera.
Maximilla Kangahi with her daughter at the Beyond Zero clinic in Karanja, Kibera.

After two days of nursing her two-year-old daughter at home, an anxious Maximilla Kangahi made her way to a clinic in her neighbourhood for help.

At the health facility, Maximilla was received by Waida Kasaya, clinical officer at the Beyond Zero clinic in Karanja, one of Kibera’s 18 villages. Kibera is Kenya’s largest urban slum area and has the highest density of any settlement in Kenya, with an estimated population of 250,000 (UNHabitat).

When Maximilla’s turn arrived, Waida explained that she would use the digital tool to guide the questions she would ask, as well as record responses. The clinician then asked Maximilla if that was something she was comfortable with, to which she replied in the affirmative.

For the next 10 minutes, Waida asked about the little girl’s condition. The keen mother looked on as the clinician noted her answers in the gadget before moving on to the next question.

Maximilla being attended to by Waida Kasaya, clinical officer at the Beyond Zero clinic in Karanja, Kibera.
Maximilla being attended to by Waida Kasaya, clinical officer at the Beyond Zero clinic in Karanja, Kibera.

Maximilla indicated that her daughter had been running a fever, had a cough that would get worse at night, had teary eyes, a runny nose and generally looked pale. The girl was experiencing stomach pain, had a poor appetite and was having trouble sleeping.

At some point, the gadget required Waida to physically examine the child, an exercise that proved to be quite challenging as the little girl, who clung on to her mother, let out torrents of tears as the clinician checked her pulse, measured her oxygen levels, examined her eyes, felt her belly, and tied a colored plastic strip around her left arm to check for malnutrition. Waida also examined her body for any rashes or swellings.

Beyond-Zero-clinic-Kibra

It was a necessary exercise as at the end, the results pointed to a diagnosis of malaria. The gadget also provided details about the next course of action, including the recommended treatment and recovery plan.

Comparing results

Waida, who at some point had collected a blood sample from the little girl, compared the results of the blood sample to the diagnosis provided by the digital health tool. They were in tandem. The blood sample had tested positive for malaria –precisely the diagnosis that had been revealed by the gadget.

Maximilla was in the city visiting her relatives from Vihiga county in Western Kenya, an especially high-risk area for malaria. Malaria is one of the leading causes of death for children under 5 years.

After the diagnosis, Maximilla asked if her daughter would recover, to which the clinician responded that since she’d brought her to the hospital in good time, and with the accurate diagnosis of the gadget — alongside her own findings, the little girl would be well, provided she followed the prescribed plan of action.

Beyond-Zero-clinic-Kibera

The tool that Waida used for the little girls’ diagnosis is known as THINKMD, a clinical intelligence platform that helps any user, regardless of their level of training, identify how sick a person is, what illness they may have and what appropriate next steps to take.

The digital mobile health (mHealth) platform guides health care workers to clinically assess a patient using the same evidence-based logic applied by doctors. Assessment using THINKMD takes approximately 10 minutes and helps health care providers gather patient demographics, collect symptoms, illness history, and capture key vital signs and physical finrdings.

Based on these findings, THINKMD provides treatment and follow-up recommendations in compliance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. It is fully functional without cellular/wireless connectivity and can be used on any mobile device with a touch screen. Internet connectivity is only required when uploading data.

Waida has been using it for the last three and says it has been very helpful in her work.

“It is an easy-to-use tool which I have found to be very accurate. It gives me confidence, knowing that I’m on the right track when examining a patient,” she says.

Thinkmd – Medsinc

Waida says that with THINKMD, she doesn’t only focus on what the mother is telling her.

“Mothers usually bring their children to the clinic when they have a fever or a cough. Yet, the children may have other illnesses that may not be obvious, and which the digital platform helps to determine. It helps me undertake a comprehensive clinical assessment, where the mother may end up receiving a life-saving diagnosis for something she would not have suspected and brought the child in for,” she says.

THINKMD is designed to help deliver quality diagnosis and treatment of potentially life-threatening childhood illnesses such as dehydration, respiratory distress, malnutrition, dehydration, diarrhea, malaria and infection risk (sepsis).

Many children under 5 in Kenya and in most developing countries die from these illnesses –deaths that are largely preventable with early clinical assessments and appropriate interventions. According to UNICEF, 64,500 children in Kenya die every year before reaching the age of five, mostly of preventable causes. UNICEF indicates that children living in Kenya’s urban informal settlements like Kibera, and those in northern counties as being more likely to die from preventable diseases than those living elsewhere.

Beyond Zero clinic Kibera

The THINKMD tablet that Waida used was provided by Save the Children Kenya in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), Nairobi county and Langata/Kibera sub-county in a pilot project incepted in 2019 that saw 109 health workers from small private and public health facilities in Kibera trained on the management of childhood illnesses in line with the MoH Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illness (IMNCI) guidelines and on the use of the digital platform. The project has also engaged Community health volunteers (CHVs) for demand creation.

The project particularly targeted small private health care providers (PHCPs), which are the most frequently used source of child health services in Kibera. Many of these PHCPs operate from small clinics or chemist shops and are often the first, and only, source of care for a sick child. Parents of sick children who seek care from these PHCPs, often at considerable expense, may receive an incorrect diagnosis, and inappropriate, counterfeit, or expired medicine – with little oversight and support from the Ministry of Health.

According to Save the Children, the care that these children receive is often substandard, or even harmful, with most PHCPs not trained to follow WHO’s integrated management of newborn and childhood illness (IMNCI) guidelines.

Further, referral systems for children who fail to respond to treatment are weak or non-existent, and little effort has been made to constructively engage these PHCPs in ensuring that these highly marginalized children have access to quality basic health services. As a result, many children under 5 years may not receive the care that could reduce the severity of their illness, or even prevent death.

The Makina Clinic is one of the small private health care providers (PHCPs) in Kibera also using the gadget. At the clinic, located in Makina village, I find Linet Awuor, a nurse who is well conversant with THINKMD. She says of the digital tool:

“It reminds me of a lot of things I need to check about the child. With it, I never miss anything as it helps me to adequately assess the sick child and identify their illness. The tablet also lets me know if the ailment is something we can manage at our facility or if it calls for a referral. It guides me on the next steps to take after the diagnosis, including the treatment recommendation and follow-up care.”

Linet observes that the tool is cost-effective to the parents, since with the accurate diagnosis at first visit, they don’t have to keep returning to hospital -which can not only be time consuming, but also forces them to dig into their pockets with each visit.

Linet has however experienced some challenges with the gadget.

“Some mothers say the questions are too many and take up too much of their time. They say they are in a hurry to return home to complete their household chores, rush back to their business, or take care of other children they’ve left at home unattended or with a neighbour. The average 10 minutes for questions are too long for them,” says Linet, who says that on many occasions, the mothers have asked that she stops using the gadget midway.

Beyond Zero Slum Container clinics
Me, during my interview with Linet Awuor (right) where she took me through her experience with MEDSINC.

Linet has also had some mothers express fears about the information she collects and inputs into the gadget.

“They worry that the information we collect about the child are for enrolling them into a cult. Other times, they ask you to give them money because they believe we are selling that information to a non-governmental organization (NGO), and they therefore deserve a cut from the money we will make,” she says.

Another challenge that has been experienced by another service provider, William Riungu at Beyond Zero’s clinic in Gatwekera village, is the insufficient number of gadgets at the facility.

“We only have one tablet and in the morning hours when we are especially busy, there are usually three clinicians attending to patients. When the gadget is in one room, the children being served in the other rooms do not enjoy the benefit of THINKMD. It would be good if more of the gadgets were availed, which will ensure that all children are assessed with it.”

Beyond Zero clinic Gatwekera Kibera
William Riungu from Beyond Zero’s clinic in Gatwekera, Kibera.

Elsie Sang, Senior Project Officer at Save the Children Kenya says THINKMD has been of great benefit to both the service providers.

“It has helped improved clinicians’ knowledge on danger signs for sick children. It has also increased their preference for use of Amoxyl DT (the preferred antibiotic) for treating childhood pneumonia. THINKMD has also enhanced compliance with IMNCI’s guideline for assessment, diagnosis and management of sick children.”

Elsie adds that health facilities in the THINKMD programme, especially small private health care providers (PHCPs) are now able to access quality medicines for treating childhood illnesses by establishing direct links to quality suppliers such as the Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS).

“We have facilitated their linkages to trusted drug suppliers, and they are now able to access quality medicines for their clinics. This has led to an increase in their clientele base because they know the medicines they will get at these clinics are quality and not counterfeit or expired.”

Beyond Zero Slum Container clinics

According to Elsie, at the end of the pilot, 44% of health care providers could identify signs of pneumonia and diarrhea compared to just 9% at baseline. More providers (38%) also knew to prescribe amoxicillin dispersible tablet (DT), the preferred treatment for childhood pneumonia, than did at baseline (3%).

“THINKMD is directly contributing to the improvement of child survival in Kibera. In Kibera, a total of 7,760 children have been assessed from June 2019 – July 2022. This digital health platform is enhancing Kenya’s commitment to ensure that no child dies from preventable causes before their fifth birthday,” she says.

*THINKMD was formerly known as MEDSINC.

*Special thanks to fellow journalist Aggrey Omboki for sharing with me some of the photos used in this article.

What do you think about this mHealth tool? Do you have any questions you would like answered? You can do so in the comments section below, or you can email me on maryanne@mummytales.com

*If you work in an organization that has programmes for mothers and children that you’d like highlighted, reach me on maryanne@mummytales.com and I’ll get back to you.

Also read: The pregnancy and childbirth experience of an amputee woman in Kenya

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

The pregnancy and childbirth experience of an amputee woman in Kenya

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Belinda Adhiambo

By Maryanne W. Waweru

Belinda Adhiambo is a 27-year-old mother of one. Her son is eight months old. Born and raised in Kibera, she works as a Communication and Advocacy Officer. Belinda is a woman with a physical disability. She wasn’t born this way though. At the age of three years, Belinda was involved in a road accident that damaged one of her legs, leading to its amputation.

I talked to Belinda about her pregnancy and childbirth experience as a woman with disability, more so, an amputee. This is her story, as she narrated it to me.

*If you have a pregnancy or childbirth experience you’d like to share, email me at maryanne@mummytales.com

“From as far back as I can remember, I always wanted a baby. Unfortunately, the journey to becoming a mom has not been easy. When I was ready to have a child, I became devastated as I suffered one miscarriage after another – four in total. I would lose my pregnancies at between 8 – 12 weeks.

The doctors would attribute the miscarriages to my disability. But I never lost hope of becoming a mom someday because I know of women with disability who have successfully carried pregnancies.

The next time I found out I was pregnant, I went to a health facility I’d never been to before and there, I found a doctor who took time to understand my concerns. After examination, he informed me that I had a weak uterus, which was the reason for the miscarriages. It was the first time I was hearing of this. He wondered why the doctors who had seen me before had never informed me about this.

Why do you want to be pregnant, yet you are disabled?

The doctor went on to tell me that I needed to have a McDonald stitch, which would help stop the miscarriages. A McDonald stitch involves sewing the cervix closed and is done if the doctor suspects miscarriage because of a weak cervix, or if it is suspected that the baby might arrive too early.

Related: The Stitch in Time that Prevented my Miscarriage: Selina Ojwang

The doctor referred me to a larger hospital where I got the stitch at eight weeks pregnant. Interestingly, the healthworkers I found there did not hide their misgivings about my desire to have a baby.

“Why do you want to get pregnant, yet you are a disabled woman? How do you think you’ll carry a pregnancy as an amputee?” they would ask.

After getting the stich, I went back to the doctor who had given me the diagnosis as I felt he understood me and was not judgmental. I chose to have my antenatal clinics with him.

Severe back pain

I use an artificial (prosthetic) leg which is heavy and puts a lot of pressure on my back. I tie a belt across my waist to support my back, but as I gained weight and as the pregnancy grew, my back would hurt so bad.

I had the alternative of using crutches to help ease the pressure as well as give me better walking balance, but I chose not to. This is because I did not want to get used to the crutches to the point of becoming dependent on them. You see, I already walk with an artificial limb, and using crutches would mean I would have to walk with two assistive devices. I didn’t want this.

Thankfully, the doctor would tell me to pass by his clinic daily after work just to check on me, monitor my progress and ensure that I was okay despite the challenges I was experiencing. His clinic is a few meters away from my house, so it was convenient for me. He would give me medication as necessary.

Preparing for childbirth

At seven months pregnant, one of the nurses at the clinic talked to me about preparing for childbirth. She talked to me about what to expect in the remaining months, the items I needed to buy for the baby, if I had saved enough money for the birth, how to tell if baby had ‘descended’ and how to identify labor signs. She put to rest any worries I had and inspired lots of confidence in me that I would have a successful delivery.

Choosing a hospital

A few weeks to my due date, the nurse wrote me a referral letter to take to the hospital once labor kicked in. When it came to identifying a hospital where I would deliver my baby, I felt that in case of any complications, I would be better off in a hospital that was well-equipped with resources and personnel. I chose Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

The day I started experiencing labor pains, I was at home. Since the nurse had prepared me well enough to know when it was time to go to hospital, I hired a taxi to take me to KNH. I’m grateful for the taxi driver who took me, as he helped me carry my items. He drove very slowly to the hospital, careful not to cause me any discomfort. At the hospital, he handed me over to the guards who immediately put me on a wheelchair. The taxi driver only left once he was sure I was okay.

Why would you consider a vaginal delivery, yet you have a disability?

I was then taken to the maternity ward and when one of the nurses who was taking my details asked me to stand up from the wheelchair and sit elsewhere, she was taken aback when she noted my movement.

She asked me to stop and immediately pulled me aside, asking me why I was limping. I explained to her that I’m an amputee. We then chatted more as she took my history and got to understand my pregnancy journey as a woman with disability.

When I told her that I wanted to have a natural vaginal delivery, she asked me why, considering the delicate nature of my body. I however told her that I felt strong and confident of my body’s ability to deliver naturally.

I also did not want to have a caesarean section (CS) delivery because I use my waist to walk. Considering that a CS cut is made near the waist, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to walk again, or that I would have to be confined to wheelchair for a long time after childbirth.

The vaginal examination procedure

The nurse led me to a separate room where she asked me to climb onto the examination bed. I had to first take off my artificial limb and put it away before doing so. She then requested if she could conduct a vaginal exam on me, detailing the process and explaining why it was necessary. I felt good that she at least had the courtesy to ask. I’ve heard many mothers say the nurses just insert their fingers in the vagina without any warning, and without the pregnant woman understanding what’s going on. They find it rude and intrusive.

Later, a doctor came to examine me and assured me that my body was able to deliver my baby naturally. He told me he would ensure there was a team to support me all through. He only asked that I be relaxed and cooperate with the medical team and follow all their instructions to the letter. He also asked that I pay close attention to my body and speak out in case I felt that something was amiss.

Delivering my baby

Later in the day, as I lay in my bed, I felt something hot gush out of my vagina. I called for the nurse, who told me that my waters had broken. I was only 6cm dilated. She told me that it was not yet time.

The nurses kept checking on me with each passing hour and finally, after what felt like an eternity, I felt the urge to go for a long call. I called out for the nurse as I needed her to give me my prosthetic leg so that I could walk to the toilet. When she came, she told me not to move. I asked her why, yet I needed to urgently pass stool. By this time, I was yelling, begging for my leg. As I was doing so, I felt the nurses shift me to a different bed, before wheeling me to a room where I found a medical team waiting – I counted about seven people.

Bouncing baby boy!

In just a few minutes, while keenly following the instructions of the nurses, I delivered my healthy, adorable son. It was such a relief to see and hold him. The medics then assisted me to deliver the placenta and they cleaned me up as they congratulated me. I did not have any complications at all, and my son recorded a good Apgar score. My health is okay to date, as my body continues to recover from pregnancy, just like any other mother.

This was my own personal experience, and I understand that it may not be the same for other women with disability who may have delivered in the same hospital or in a different one.

There are a few issues that led to my positive experience.

  • During pregnancy, I was attended to by a doctor and his team of nurses who understood me and my body well.
  • During labor and childbirth at KNH, I was attended to by nurses and doctors who also handled me well. I was also in a fully equipped health facility that made me feel at ease.
  • Lastly, I believed in my body and my ability to successfully carry a pregnancy to term and deliver naturally. I always listened to the instructions of the nurses and doctors, and never hesitated to clarify issues with them when I felt the need to.

It is my hope that every woman with disability can enjoy a successful pregnancy outcome just like I did.

Also read: Managing periods as a visually impaired woman: Eve Kibare’s story

Want to share your thoughts about Belinda’s experience? Comment down below or email me on maryanne@mummytales.com

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

Gender-based violence centre launched in Eastleigh, Nairobi

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The Eastleigh GBV/SRHR centre. Photo: NMS.

A Gender-Based Violence (GBV)/ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) centre has been launched at the Eastleigh Health Centre by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Director General Lieutenant General Mohamed Badi.

In the recent past, cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Nairobi have been on the increase, especially with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of overhauling the health sector, NMS has undertaken a number of interventions to curb the trend.

High-risk area for SGBV cases

The Eastleigh Tumaini Clinic is set to be of great advantage to the residents of Kamukunji sub-county, which has been identified as a high risk area for incidences of SGBV. In 2022, a total of 2,449 cases have been so far recorded in this particular area.

NMS has set up integrated SGBV services centres commonly known us ‘Tumaini Clinics’ in various health facilities across Nairobi, including Babadogo level 3 hospital, Kasarani Level 3 hospital, Mukuru health centre, Ushirika Dispensary and Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital among others.

Also read: He slapped me hard because I asked him to serve me food. I was still weak from childbirth

The commissioning of the Eastleigh GBV/SRHR Centre brings the total number of Tumaini Clinics to 46, with 22 being under NMS. This year alone, a total of 5,440 survivors have sought medical attention from the various Tumaini Clinics spread across the county.

Safe houses

NMS in collaboration with the Nairobi City County Government has also ensured the welfare of survivors and victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) by converting idle county government houses into safe houses. -END

What do you think about this move by NMS, about setting up integrated SGBV services centres, as well as safe houses? Share your thoughs in the comments section below.

Do you have a sexual reproductive health story you’d like to share? Email me on maryanne@mummytales.com 

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

Uganda: Legislators call for better health services after mother loses baby and uterus

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Ugandan Members of Parliament on the Committee of Health have promised to lobby government for better health services in the Busoga Sub-region.

The legislators made the call following an incident that highlighted the glaring gaps in the health sector within the region.

The incident involved a woman, Lydia Nekesa who lost her baby and uterus due to mismanagement at the medical centres she was taken to.

Nekesa was admitted to Jinja Regional Referral Hospital after presenting with a ruptured uterus and still birth from Domiciliary Clinic in Idudi Town Council in Bugweri District.

The clinic failed to manage her and referred her to Busesa Health Centre IV before she chose to go to Jinja Hospital.

The committee interfaced with the leadership of Jinja Regional Referral Hospital and the District Health Officer of Bugweri District, Dr. Peter Muwereza on what they termed as mismanagement of the case.

Hon. Esther Mbayo, the District Woman MP for Luuka criticized the District Health Officer for the poor health services in his area of supervision.

“The fact that this woman and many like her have to go to a domiciliary clinic and later Jinja Referral Hospital, skipping all health centres in the district is an issue of concern,” Mbayo said.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Dr. Charles Ayume commended the management of Jinja Referral Hospital for doing their best to save Nekesa’s life when she was brought to them.

However, he said that the theatre attendant, Bizibu Suubi who tried to extort Shs150,000 from the patient should be subjected to disciplinary action and serve as an example to others.

“You must do something about Suubi because he is the same person who assures patients that the doctors come to work at 1pm painting a wrong image of you,” Dr. Ayume added.

Dr. Ayume said that the committee will push for a blood bank in at least every district or referral hospital.

He also proposed trackers for ambulances to curb on their misuse.

“The other day we found an ambulance in Ntungamo district, ferrying pineapples from a market,” he added.

Dr. Ayume cautioned Muwereza on being hard to reach and very difficult to deal with.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of Uganda

Do you have a maternal health story you’d like to share? Email me on maryanne@mummytales.com 

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

Managing periods as a visually impaired woman: Eve Kibare’s story

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Eve Kibare.

How is the menstruation experience for girls and women who are visually impaired? Eve Kibare, 32, also known as ‘The Newly Blind Girl’ lost her eyesight two years ago and is today one of the leading voices from the visually impaired community. In this article, Eve shares her personal experiences with her period, opening up about her fears and scares. Her experience gives us insights into how visually impaired girls and women manage their menses each month. Eve published her experience on Twitter.

“One of the things I am struggling with after losing my sight, is my monthly periods. Whenever the days draw nearer, and my body begins to feel the changes, I begin to slowly panic and feel sense of dread.

“Am I going to soil myself? Did I mess my beddings? Have I stained my clothes?!” I keep asking myself. Then my stomach ties to knots, when I discover that I may have actually done one of the messes.

Messing myself is not the bigger problem, but the cleaning of the mess. Before, this problem was solved privately, but now without sight, I will need external help to clean my mess up.

While growing up, I was taught to clean up after myself to a certain standard, in order to be held with dignity as a lady. Imagine not being able to achieve this simple task, because something went wrong somewhere in my life!

Will I still be held with the same dignity, when I ask someone else to clean my mess because I can longer see what I am doing, therefore I shall not clean it right?

The feeling of being treated with contempt because of something that is not within your control, always breaks my heart. Do we give the allowance of people not being perfect in our world, even when they are living their imperfect lives.

What do the visually impaired girls go through when they are in boarding school? Will we treat them with the same dignity even when their clothes maybe stained without their knowledge?

Do we inform our house managers about the special need of cleaning our clothes during such moments, or should we continue suffer in silence. Kindly note that I don’t necessarily stain or mess my clothing every month, but it happens.

The reason I am writing this, is to shed some light on some insecurities that people face after an illness or disability. I fight with feeling every month, because I want to hold to my dignity.

Other women may be suffering from illnesses like fistula, MS, Bladder infection and the likes while being visual impaired. Who will clean up after them without making them feel less than and help them get over the feeling of being undignified.

So, as I breathe a sigh of relief for having a stain free month, I hope that I will finally finish this dance, by acquiring a washing machine eventually in my home. Be kind to people in a vulnerable position in their lives.

I would like to turn back the hands of time, and get my sight back, so that I could do things as I used to, but unfortunately, I can’t. The best we can do, is work with what we have.”

Thank you Eve for sharing your story, which has helped broaden our understanding on the menstrual expreriences of women and girls with disability.

For more experiences by Eve, follow her on her Twitter and You Tube platforms.

Are you a woman with disability? How do you manage your monthly period? You can write to me on maryanne@mummytales.com and I’ll get back to you.

Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

Digital tools supporting girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in Malawi

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Student Esnart Lyton poses for a portrait after a digital interactive class on comprehensive sexuality education at Eliza Chimthengo Primary School in Dedza, Malawi on November 1, 2021. Photo credit: ©UNFPA/Luis Tato/2021

Until last year, the students at Eliya Chimthengo Primary School in Dedza had never heard of digital learning. Their studies were conducted with one or two old and worn textbooks that were shared amongst a class of 60. Often, there would be only three or four in a class. Teaching is basic, with teachers instructing on a chalk board without visual prompts or the stimulation of creative teaching material.

This changed in 2020 when the UN Joint Programmes on Girls’ Education, funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, launched a digital learning platform in the school. This e-learning aims to ensure that adolescent girls and boys at the school have access to sexual reproductive health and rights and can access information and available services crucial to their development into young adults.

Harmful traditions fuelling teen pregnancies

Like in much of Malawi, adolescent girls in Dedza district are negatively impacted by sociocultural norms and harmful traditional practices in their area, and the risk of harm is high. In Malawi, 25 percent of young girls aged 15 to 19 have children. A startling 40 percent will have given birth before reaching the age of 18.

A class in session at Chimthengo Primary School in Dedza. ©UNFPA/Luis Tato/2021

This joint programme is working to reverse this threat. By engaging girls early, it is impacting on the decisions young girls make about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Students from standard six to eight are now learning comprehensive sexuality education to protect them from dropping out of school due to early pregnancy and shield them from sexual and gender-based violence.

Digital devices helping teens access SRHR information

Access to digital content and devices has excited many students at the school. Cynthia Kachepa (12) is one of the students taking part in the sessions.

“From the information I got through the lessons, I am now able to make decisions about my life and my body,” she says. “In addition, I have also learnt much about how to take care of my body as I grow up and how to keep clean during my period.”

Esnart Lyton (16) also sings the praises of the digital learning forum. “For me, the most important thing I learnt is how to avoid unplanned pregnancies. I wish we had many girls in the area taking part in this course as the problem is very big in this community,” she says.

Macdonald Oliyeri poses for a portrait after a digital interactive class on comprehensive sexuality education at Eliza Chimthengo Primary School in Dedza, Malawi on November 1, 2021. ©UNFPA/Luis Tato/2021.

Apart from girls, many boys are also taking part in the digital learning classes. One of the boys is 16-year-old Macdonald Oliyeri.

“Some boys my age are already married. It could have been the same for me if it wasn’t for this course,” he says. “It has opened my eyes and helped me stay focused on my education.”

The early success of the pilot in 26 schools has led to plans to scale up the initiative to another 20 schools in 2022, when more young girls and boys will be able to access more information on their sexual and reproductive health and rights and access content that will help protect them from harmful practices that threaten their healthy development into adulthood.

Source: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Malawi.

Neighbourhood learning groups for Kenyan pupils

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I recently came across an intersting video about neighbourhood learning groups in Kenya that are aimed at helping young school-going children sustain what they have been taught at school, more so in mathematics and Kiswahili subjects.

A neighbourhood group comprises learners, who could be a mix of different grades and schools, and who sit together every evening after school for various play activities connected to what they are taught at school. The groups encourage peer and self-learning.

The neighbourhood learning groups are being piloted by an organization known as Teaching at the Right Level Africa (TaRL). Of what benefit is this model to the learners? Does it improve their performance at school? What about the parents? How involved are they in this learning model for their children?

To understand this concept more, watch the video below. What do you think about this initiative?

Also Read: Deborah Nafula’s Story: “Pregnant in my First Year of Campus: How my Parents Handled the News”

 Mummy Tales is a platform dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Connect with Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l YOU TUBEINSTAGRAM l TWITTER

 

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