opinionBy Caroline Mutoko
Every week when we dedicate our Thursday and Friday on The Big Breakfast to having conversations with generation Y, my e-mail box is flooded by teenagers, young adults and parents who feel we need to add to the conversation in writing. I am always thrilled and humbled to read their take on the various subjects.
This past week we tackled unprotected sex and abortion - but from the young men's angle. Since this conversation attracted more reaction than most, allow me to give my space this morning to a mother - one among hundreds who write to me weekly- to progress the conversation we need to have, yet refuse to have on sex, sexuality and our young ones.
From: "Santina Nyagah"
Sent: Friday, 23 November, 2012 8:43:39 AM
Subject: Generation Y
For the first time in years I have not listened to morning radio and thank God this week I did. The last two days listening to you have been really something.
I am a mum of three children aged six, three and 10 weeks. The three-year-old is a boy.
Listening to you I wanted to cry, looking at my son and thinking what if he was the one having to look for money for his girlfriend to have an abortion?
It reminded me of an article I wrote a year ago about teenagers and I would like to share it with you.
Keep the conversation going and good day.
Sex education will save our randy teenagers from self destructing
Jenny (not her real name) comes from a family of seven. Her parents separated and she lives with her mother and five siblings in a two-roomed house in Western Kenya. She will be sitting her form four examinations starting this October.
Every year as young Kenyan girls and boys sit their exams, there are media reports of girls giving birth in hospital and with some even doing their examinations in the labour wards. Sadly, Jenny is going to join hundreds of girls whose futures have been shattered because they rushed into sexual relationships too soon.
Some years back there was hue and cry when the government wanted to introduce sex education in school and parents protested over this. The plan was withdrawn as a result of protest by religious groups and parents yet going by the recent media reports and what I have heard and seen in my interactions with the young crowd, young girls and boys are engaging in sex and unprotected sex at that.
Kenyan teenagers have taken a casual approach to sex and parents are not helping much if they keep quiet on the bees and the birds and hope their children will learn from the media or even worse their peers.
Young Kenyans need to be told by their parents and no one else about how to approach their sexuality. For far too long we have been burying our heads in the sand and things are coming to a head if the increasing number of sexual escapades in the news are anything to go by.
We are also living in a time where sexual orientation can no longer be classified as being strictly heterosexual and it is now accepted that in Kenya we have same-sex relationships. There are even bars and entertainment spots that serve as meeting places for interested individuals.
It is time we started talking about the consequences we are facing as a nation when we have it on good authority reports of the sexual escapades of young Kenyans at musical concerts. There is existence of an underground pornography industry in the country and with even university students engaging in extracurricular activities whether for fame or fortune, we need to admit we are being faced with a crisis.
The only safeguard we can give our youth is comprehensive sexual education so that they are well informed before they make the big leap into sexual relations. The church for the longest time has taken the abstinence approach but we still find some youth who despite all the pontificating from the pulpit, they are engaging in sex and are either getting pregnant or acquiring a venereal disease.
Parents, government and school bodies need to address this crisis that is happening right before our eyes before it explodes. Years since the debate first started, the world has changed; children have grown, the internet is in our homes and more parents work outside the home. School holidays have been reduced to cramming sessions in the name of holiday tuition and young people have no one to guide them as they transition from children to young adults - their parents are too busy looking for money and the domestic help at home have no responsibility to be teaching our children about sex.
Only by giving teenagers accurate information on their sexual and reproductive rights and how to have respect for themselves and others can this crisis be nipped in the bud. It does not do good to be preaching to the parents about "mpango wa kando' and ignore the teenagers in our midst. Children are maturing faster, are becoming more sexually aware earlier and we need to equip them with information on how they can handle their sexuality before things get out of hand.
I will be posting the link to the full article by Santina on http://www.facebook.com/carolinemutoko later on today. The conversation continues on-air this Thursday. Please begin it in your home today.