When Anet Owiti became pregnant at 14, after a man sexually abused her, she felt her life had come to an end. Anet lives with her father, James Owiti, in Migori County in Kenya. Her father is a peasant farmer who struggles to support Anet and her five siblings.
After safely giving birth, Anet went back to school and completed her primary education. Anet says she has not lost hope of becoming a nurse. She is determined to pursue her dreams by continuing with her education while also taking care of her baby. She acknowledges the great support she receives from her father who is passionate about education, despite the family’s struggles to pay for education fees. “I always tell my daughter to put her focus on education and ignore anyone who will judge her,” says James.
When James received the news of Anet’s pregnancy, he says he was very upset. “I did not want to know who did the act to my child because I was so angry and could do something bad,” he explains. “We couldn’t do much to get justice because the suspect managed to escape.”
Anet has also received support from her headmaster and teachers at her school. According to Peter Odhiambo Andedo, the headmaster of Piny Owacho Primary School, psychosocial support is key to improving the mental health of pregnant and parenting adolescents.
“We give hope to girls who have dropped out of school due to early pregnancies,” Mr. Andedo says. “We also provide a friendly environment for them and ensure they receive adequate emotional and social support.”
Anet’s experience is not unique. Every year in Migori County, about 1 in 4 (24%) girls aged 15-19 years become pregnant (Centre for the Study of Adolescence Report, 2009).
“When we received the news about Anet’s pregnancy, we worked closely with the local chief, health workers and the school health club supervisor to follow up,” Mr. Andedo says. “We collaborated with the health facility to ensure her health was well taken care of.”
Mr. Andedo works closely with community health workers, the local chief as well as law enforcement to ensure that survivors of sexual and gender-based violence are protected and receive justice.
Most teen girls who become pregnant face mental health challenges fuelled by family and social rejection. Amref Health Africa, with support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, has equipped teachers in Migori County – including Mr. Andedo, the headmaster of Anet’s school – with information on the available services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including health care and law enforcement agencies.
Even though efforts have been put in place to ensure teen mothers are supported both in school and at home, more effort is needed to support them during pregnancy and after delivery while in school.
By Maureen Cherongis, Media and External Relations
Amref Health Africa