Kenya: What to tell kids about sex

When was the first time you were given "the talk?"

 "I was 12. My dad told me not to have sex until I was married." 

"I was 14 and all the girls were pulled out of class by the nuns and told about not having sex before marriage and we need to be careful." 

"If you talk to boys you'll get pregnant," one man jokingly adds, chipping in to the conversation.

In Kenya, people of all ages love talking about anything and everything. But for many people of an older generations, there is one exception - the subject of sex.

Many parents are still reluctant to talk about sex, which means that many children are left with no choice but to look for information on the web or find out about it from friends. If a young person falls pregnant or contracts HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, she or he is accused of "behaving badly."

"I discovered that I was pregnant at the age of 17," remembers Christina Adhiambo. "Now I can laugh about it," she says. "When I told my mom she asked why I did not use a condom. I was like, how am I supposed to know where to get condoms if not from you?"

Today Christina works as a voice artist as she waits to start university. She still lives with her parents and the child's father helps to take care of the baby.

"I wish that I knew more at a younger age. Looking now at the kids who are in similar situations, I feel that they need to be told about it much earlier," she says. "We have girls who start their periods at the age of nine, meaning by the time they sit for their exams they are at risk of doing it pregnant if someone doesn't talk about it." Adhiambo herself caught up with school, but at age 23, she says she would have liked to finish her education before having a child.

What should be taught in schools

According to surveys, over a third of the teenagers between the age of 15 and 19 in Kenya have already had sex. Between July 2016 and June 2017 more than 300,000 adolescent girls aged between 10 and 19 fell pregnant. Almost half of the new HIV infections are among young people.

Despite these numbers and the taboos which already surround talking about sex, a faith based advocacy group called "CitizenGo" has petitioned the government against introducing a new Comprehensive Sex Education or CSE program in schools, which would go hand-in-hand with the start of Kenya's revised school curriculum. The regional campaign manager, Ann Kioko, says that the proposed curriculum will lead to children becoming more promiscuous, not less. Read more via DW