In Rabuor, Nambokana area, Kisumu, teenage pregnancies have been on the rise since the COVID 19 pandemic began. Many girls have not been able to access school when they become mothers while those pregnant suffer from stigma and discrimination. Since March, our organization, Let Girls Learn Initiative has managed to reach 150 girls, both expectant and young mothers. There was a need to provide urgent care and support to pregnant girls during the pandemic. Due to forty of the girls being unable to access school due to the late stages of their pregnancies, while fifty others had infant children whom they are not able to support, we collaborated with a team of 3 psychologists and counsellors to facilitate their mental well-being. We hope to continue our collaboration with the psychologists/ counsellors to support the girls even after the project ends. We also provided counselling to the expectant girls and reached out to teachers from different schools in which we have previously established girls clubs to ensure that they support the girls’ access to schools and that they remain comfortable while in school. The sessions were both in collective groups and one on one sessions to maintain the privacy of the girls. We also had to ensure that we safeguard the photo taking so that they feel comfortable about their identities being shared online.
Further, access to basic COVID 19 essentials has been costly for girls and women and the community at large. In collaboration with community-based organizations such as Sustainable Rural Initiatives, Young Women Campaign against AIDS, You Go Girl Initiative, Feminists in Kenya who are already doing work with the community to address sexual and health information in Nambokana, Kisumu area, we provided masks, sanitisers, sanitary towels, grocery packages and information pamphlets on sexual and reproductive health and rights which were also disseminated in the community. Our objective was to ensure that we were taking steps to maintain community safety from COVID 19 while also ensuring that access to information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is met. During our community outreach with the girls, they noted that they would like the Let Girls Learn Initiative to establish and strengthen the girls’ clubs in the community to allow girls to convene and discuss their issues and concerns. One girl noted:
‘ We are happy that you have ensured that we are protected from COVID 19 because sometimes we cannot afford some of these materials even for our families. However, we would like to have the girls clubs in the community because now we are not in school and we would like to exchange amongst ourselves because as teenage mothers, we sometimes face discrimination in school.’