NYERI, KENYA —
Rates of teen pregnancy are high in Kenya, where a recent government survey found that 18 percent of women aged 15 to 19 have either given birth or are pregnant with their first child. An initiative that is giving teen mothers a second chance to complete their educations.
Early morning in Nyeri, 100 kilometers from Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Today, 17-year-old Cynthia Wairimu makes her way to class. She is in her final year of primary school (8th grade) and will take her final exams in December.
She gave birth to her daughter Eunice last month. “My hopes are to determine my future and to achieve my goals so that I can be a better person and be more serious in my studies and improve so that I can be respectable later,” she said.
Pick Me Up
Cynthia is part of the Pick Me Up program that has helped more than 100 teen mothers finish school since it started in Kenya two years ago.
The government and the United Nations say that every year, 13,000 girls leave school early in Kenya due to pregnancy.
Lack of education and little or no access to contraception drive the high rate of teen pregnancy.
Hawa Wangech mentors 20 teen mothers, many of whom face stigma and poverty. “Getting the teen mothers is the biggest challenge since they are afraid to come out and seek help and counsel to go back to school,” she explained. “Secondly, they are poor and getting resources to get back into school is difficult.”
Pick Me Up is funded by members who contribute $10 a month.
“The government has not yet introduced sex education in schools, so this initiative is meant to empower the girl child, the school-going girl child, so that we can be able to fill in the gaps and make this world a better place to live in,” said Pick Me Up founder, Waithera Chege.
Finishing school increases a girl's future earning potential, which can mean a better life for both her and her child.