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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 10:16 GMT
Kenya's 'cursed' teen mum village
By Odhiambo Joseph
BBC News, Mtondia

Under-age mothers in Mtondia, Kenya
Many of the girls have sad stories about how they became pregnant

Mtondia, a small village in Kilifi district on the Kenyan coast is now considered a cursed village as so many of its young girls are either pregnant or have children.

Many have sad stories of how they became mothers at such tender ages.

"I was 10-years-old when I got my first child - I was raped by some young men in our village," says 13-year-old Mahenzo.

"Then two years later while I was going to a local disco, I was raped and that's how I got my second child."

Fifteen-year-old Janet Menza, meanwhile, says she was enticed into a love affair by an older man.

This is happening because these girls and boys go to the same school and that is where they get influenced to engage in pre-marital sex
Mtondia resident Dama Charo

"I was in class eight when I got involved with the man; our relationship went on smoothly with him until I became pregnant," she told the BBC.

"That is when he disappeared from the village and left me with the baby."

Mahenzo, Janet and about 800 other under-age mothers recently gathered in an open field to meet Health Minister Charity Ngilu to discuss their plight.

They greeted her with songs and dance as her four-wheel-drive car pulled in.

Those who attended the public meeting with two or more of their children were as young as 16.

Moving

Most of the girls are unmarried and have to leave school without completing their education.

The rise in the numbers of under-age mothers in Mtondia has repeatedly been blamed on poor parenting and a breakdown of traditional family structures.

Charity Ngilu
I feel very sad indeed to see such a thing happening in our country and we as a government have not done anything
Health Minister Charity Ngilu

But Dama Charo, whose daughter is a teenage mother, making her a grandmother at the age of 33, does not support these claims.

"This is happening because these girls and boys go to the same school and that is where they get influenced to engage in pre-marital sex," says Mrs Charo.

In the past, when a girl got pregnant her father would force her to get married to the man responsible, but now the man is able to desert the girl leaving her to nurse the pregnancy alone, she adds.

Such experiences recounted to Mrs Ngilu almost moved the minister to tears.

"I feel very sad indeed to see such a thing happening in our country and we as a government have not done anything," Mrs Ngilu told the BBC.

She regretted that laws meant to protect children were not being implemented effectively.

This, she said, had led to the crisis facing families in Mtondia.

"Action must be taken against these men who are having sex with young girls and ruining their future," Mrs Ngilu said.

Mtondia is 60km from the coastal resort of Malindi and many of the absent fathers work in the tourist industry.

They go to poor villages, knowing that a small amount of money can sometimes persuade girls to agree to sex, sometimes with the knowledge of their families, without thinking of the long-term consequences.


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