At 19, I have seen far too many many futures stolen by teenage pregnancies.
Girls younger than me drop out of school and are coerced into teenage marriages every day after they became pregnant by mistake. Many more die as they at-tempt to hide their shame by seeking unsafe abortions.
This is because, throughout Kenya, teenagers like me are denied access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. We are nearly six million strong, with teenagers accounting for more than 10 per cent of the population.
At clinics, we are often told that we are too young to need contraceptives or that the services are not available. At school, we’re not taught about safe sex or the basics of fertility. At home, the topic is taboo.
Myths and misconceptions are our only consistent source of information. We are forced to watch our pregnant peers being shamed as they are paraded through the halls of school and then beaten and expelled.
Adulthood isn’t any better. Only 44.8 per cent of Kenyan women who want to de-lay or prevent pregnancy are using a modern contraceptive method. Last year alone, over a million pregnancies were unintended.
Unplanned pregnancies rob girls of their youth and education, undermine opportunities for employment, exacerbate poverty and perpetuate gender inequities.
Between July 2016 and June last year, nearly 400,000 girls aged 10 to 19 became pregnant in Kenya. Suppose they had finished school and got jobs?
Give us the chance to choose smaller families that we can support. Give us a chance to contribute to socio-economic development of our country.
With approximately three million young women in my generation, changing the trajectory of our lives can affect the entire nation.
Around the world today, youth are calling for greater access to family planning.
Some of us are hosting events in our home countries in recognition of World Contraception Day while others are preparing to travel to Kigali, Rwanda, in November for the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning.
But we know that nothing will change for our futures or those of our home countries if we relegate these conversations to isolated events and conferences held at a safe distance. We need you to join us in making an investment in our shared future.
If you are a parent, consider the opportunities your daughter might have if you gave her your blessing to use contraceptives and taught her how they work.
If a healthcare provider, imagine how many lives you can change by giving counselling and related services to youth. If an educator, think about the heights your students can reach if you gave them the knowledge to make informed decisions about when to start a family.
And if you are a politician or community leader, consider what my generation can do for our country if you supported our access to family planning.
Last year, Kenya committed to increase health facilities offering youth-friendly services to 50 per cent from 10 per cent by 2025. It’s time promises were turned into action.
Sexually active teenagers and young adults are physically capable of getting pregnant — that’s basic reproductive science. How will you support them? Your answer, and actions, will determine our future.
Ms Aluoch, a programme officer at Women Promotion Centre, is the host of a World Contraception Day event, ‘The Silenced Speak Out: Amplifying Young Women’s Voices in SRHR Advocacy’, in Nairobi today as a satellite event for the International Conference on Family Planning. www.fpconference.com/2018.