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Teenage pregnancy or contraceptives?

Fears that sex education will make teenagers more likely to experiment have been shown to be unfounded, if the increased contraceptive purchase by young girls is anything to go by

It is exactly 8:00am and Dr Albert Opiyo, who runs a private hospital in Kitengela is ready to start his job. The third client is a young adolescent girl still in her school uniform. The doctor ushers her into his office and she walks in boldly.

She seeks the best contraceptive method. She explains that she is sexually active, but cautious of being pregnant while still in school. At first, the doctor is speechless, what does he do to this 14-year-old?

Dr Opiyo is in a dilemma whether to advise or contact the girl’s parents. However, he’s not alone. Parents are struggling with the issue of whether to introduce their sexually active children to contraceptives at an early age or face the consequences.

Whereas cultural and traditional perspectives remain opposed to sex education, it should indeed begin at home with parents and caregivers as primary source of sex education.

“At home and within the community, teaching opportunities should be availed during cultural events such as circumcision ceremonies for boys and on TV programmes and advertisements on sexuality such as condom promotions,” said Albert Obbuyi, the Executive Director at Centre for the Study of Adolescence, a non-profit organisation working to promote adolescent health in Kenya.

He adds that this is nothing new for young girls, the unfamiliar issue, however, is that they’ve become more courageous to seek advice in hospitals unlike before when they were accessing these products over the counter, through their peers and getting some through quacks who operate backstreet clinics.

Despite these attempts and courage by adolescent girls who wish to prevent pregnancy at an early age, the community still sees them as immoral. “We live in a society where sex remains a taboo, let alone teaching it to children.

This has denied most of them the opportunity to be aware of what is happening around them and in their changing body during puberty,” explains Obbuyi. According to him, adolescents are human beings and have feelings and science has proven that human beings are sensual beings right from a tender age thus the need for age-appropriate education as they grow up.

By giving children age appropriate comprehensive sex education; we sensitise them on what is right and wrong. So what is the right age to start using contraceptives? According to Obbuyi, there is no right age.

“Any sexually active person who would wish to control and prevent conception should access contraceptives. The harsh reality today, which should guide professionals like Dr Opiyo, is that some adolescents are sexually active and the stigma they face while accessing contraceptive services may lead to an increased number of teenage pregnancies,” Obbuyi says.

According to Obbuyi, once we deny the children information and products, they will likely create that information, which will be more destructive than when we advise and teach them about sex. Adolescents together with their peers today have many myths and misconceptions around sex.

It is, therefore, important to arrest this situation by encouraging young people to access youth-friendly health centres where they may get access contraceptives as well as counselling.

“Most people think that sex education is teaching children how to have sex, but I would like to clarify that this is not true because this particular topic covers many other issues,” he adds. Obbuyi describes age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education as a package that equips young people with knowledge, skills, and values to make responsible choices about their sexual and social relationships.

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