According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) conducted in 2014, approximately 18% of young women between the ages of 15-19 in Kenya had already begun childbearing, with 3% of girls in that age group having given birth. In 2019, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of teenage pregnancies had risen to 378,397 in the previous year, a significant increase from the 2014 KDHS report.
The causes of teenage pregnancy in Kenya are complex and varied, and include factors such as poverty, lack of education, cultural and traditional beliefs, and limited access to sexual and reproductive health services. Some of the causes are highlighted below.
Lack of comprehensive sexual education: According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014, only 36% of young women aged 15-24 had comprehensive knowledge of HIV prevention and transmission. This suggests a lack of comprehensive sexual education and information on contraception and reproductive health.
Poverty: The same survey found that teenage pregnancy was more common among young women from poorer households. For instance, 23% of young women from the poorest households had begun childbearing, compared to 12% of those from the wealthiest households.
Cultural practices: According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 23% of girls in Kenya are married before the age of 18, which can increase the likelihood of teenage pregnancies. Additionally, some cultural practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), can also contribute to early marriage and early childbearing.
Sexual violence: According to a report by the UNFPA, one in three Kenyan girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18, which can lead to unintended pregnancies. Additionally, a study by the African Population and Health Research Center found that about 14% of adolescent girls reported experiencing sexual violence in the past 12 months.
Peer pressure: A study by the African Population and Health Research Center found that peer pressure was a significant factor in adolescent sexual behavior in Kenya. Specifically, the study found that peer pressure was associated with early sexual debut and inconsistent condom use.
In rural areas, the rise in teenage pregnancies in recent years has been attributed to the rise of boda boda operators and poverty. According to studies, boda boda riders entice young girls with money or even small gifts in exchange for sex. Most girls from poverty-stricken households are forced to go out and fend for their families. They often turn to boda boda riders who exploit them in exchange for money or even food.