Upholding the rights of women and girls is a game-changer!” Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General.

Kenya was not left behind in the renewed hope to accelerate the Cairo promise during the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit, held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) between 12th and 14th November. More than 6000 delegates from all over the world gathered to call for action for women’s empowerment and rights. The summit called for action to end maternal deaths, stop gender-based violence and meet the demand for family planning in the next 10 years. His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta called for the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls.

In his remarks, he outlined Kenya’s plan to reach the ‘three zeros‘ stipulated by the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA). These are zero unmet need for contraception, zero preventable maternal deaths and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices including female genital mutilation (FGM). He reaffirmed his commitment to end FGM in Kenya by 2022. Female genital mutilation strips a girl of her dignity, causes infections, death due to bleeding and birth complications. In Kenya, its prevalence rate stands at 21% according to the Kenya Law Report (May 2018).

In addition, the president committed to ensuring that all citizens attain the highest possible standard of health, by eliminating preventable maternal and newborn deaths, mother to child HIV transmission, teenage pregnancies as well as new adolescent and youth HIV infections by 2030. This means that concerted efforts have to be made by all stakeholders to make this commitment a reality. This can be done by providing proper maternal and child healthcare service provision, sexual education for teenagers both in learning institutions and at home, as well as contraceptive provision and punishment of the perpetrators of teenage pregnancies.

With Sub-Saharan Africa having the highest number of teen pregnancies in Africa, this poses serious risks to the well-being and education of the young girls and their families which bear the brunt of another mouth to feed. Unplanned teen pregnancies maintain the poverty cycle as they contribute to maternal and child deaths and school dropouts. In Kenya, close to 500,000 pregnant adolescents aged 10-19 years were presented at health facilities in 2018.  A paradigm shift is needed and the time to act is now! Investing in efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies will, in turn, empower young girls and women, and young men as well and is the key to improving the lives of the community, as well as contribute to poverty reduction.

Empowering women essentially empowers all our families. It empowers our societies. It empowers our nations. It empowers our world.” President Uhuru Kenyatta.

By Catherine Muteithia

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