Failing the rights: sexual vulnerability, access to services and barriers to contraceptives among adolescents in Narok County, Kenya

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa); Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health


Purpose: Around one in five girls in Kenya, aged 15 to 19 years old are either pregnant or have given birth. Of 47 counties, adolescent pregnancy is highest in Narok, where about 40% of girls aged 15 to 19 years old have begun childbearing. This study aims to explore drivers to sexual activity, access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and barriers to contraceptive use among adolescents in Narok County, Kenya to inform the design of SRH interventions and safeguard young people’s rights to sexual health.

Design/methodology/approach: A cross-sectional mixed methods study was conducted in December 2019. Quantitative data were collected through structured questionnaires among girls aged 15 to 19 years old who were either pregnant or had given birth and those who had not and boys aged 15 to 19 years old. Qualitative data were collected through focus group discussions with adolescent girls and boys and through structured key informant interviews with parents, community leaders and health workers.

Findings: The mean age at first sexual intercourse for both genders was 15 years. While the majority of girls and boys knew where to access SRH services, few used contraception during their last sexual activity. There was no significant difference in the condom or other contraceptive methods use between girls who had begun child bearing and those who had not (p = 0.549 and p = 0.563, respectively). Key drivers for sexual activity among young people were poverty and peer pressure. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriage contributed to early sex. Community attitudes toward contraception discouraged young people from taking up contraceptives.

Originality/value: This mixed methods study explores the drivers of adolescent pregnancy in Narok, Kenya, the county with the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy; twice the national pregnancy rates. Understanding the drivers of pregnancy and the underlying human rights violations will help policymakers and health leaders to design interventions which will improve outcomes.

Publication (Name of Journal)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare