I recently engaged myself in a heated debate online in response to a post shared by a friend on Facebook that read:

"1 out of 5 girls in Kenya do not understand how menstruation is linked to pregnancy".

A good number dismissed the statistics stating that the figures were quite unrealistic. The basis of their argument was that most girls have been educated about Sexual Reproductive Health in Schools and thus, there is no way they would not understand the connection between menstruation and pregnancy. Whether the statistics were on point or off limit is besides the essence of what laid underneath.

Having gone through Kenya’s 8-4-4 education system(8 years in primary level, 4 years in secondary level and 4 years at tertiary level), I am of the understanding that Sexual Reproductive System, Growth and Development and Contraceptives (at the Secondary level) are taught in schools. It is in the Kenyan curriculum. This is an effort worth applauding towards Sexual and Reproductive Health Education. However, in most schools, these topics are taught for the sake of passing exams.

I recall back in high school how my teacher of Biology declined to teach us more about the menstruation cycle. As teenagers, we were interested to know more about the famous “safe” and “unsafe” days. A promise was made- it would be a topic for another day. Another day never came. As for contraceptives, the emphasis was on how they are administered, the effects and the famous warning: "it is not for young girls like you. In fact, it should not be in the curriculum." And we would call it a day.

Clueless, I joined university unknown of what the world is yet to teach me. Now I know better. I had to find more on my own. Google at hand, youth groups at heart and through passion in facilitating Comprehensive Sexuality Education as trained, I built my understanding. It is in the university that I realised that I was not alone. While I was left in the dark by my teachers and parents, a good number had been misled or rather; misinformed by their teachers and peers. Or could it be them (my colleagues) who misunderstood what they had been taught? Either way, one thing was clear. Most young adults misunderstood the relationship between menstruation and pregnancy.

A friend of mine once warned me that I should not have sex on my periods. Out of curiosity, I inquired to know why she thinks so and she confidently told me that it is unsafe and I might fall pregnant and thus, I should wait a week later. According to her, one would likely become pregnant on periods because the menses is a sign that the ovum has been released and ready to be fertilised. Puzzling, right? But hold on, the most interesting part is when she informed me that that is what she had been taught in high school. I cannot verify her assertions regarding her source but one thing was clear- she was misinformed.

In my numerous encounters, many more shared her thoughts. This got me thinking, could this probably be one of the reasons we have cases of unexpected pregnancies? And how many more would be of the same thought? We have had ladies who upon realising they are pregnant would be convinced that they were on their "safe days" when they had sex. But how safe are their "safe" days? How well do they know their cycle? Do they really understand how menstruation is connected to pregnancies?

With these questions and encounters in mind, I feel that more should be done with regards to educating young women to understand their body, their cycle and how safe "safe" days can be in pursuit of broadening their understanding on the connection between menstruation and teenage pregnancies. Men too should be brought on board.

After the talk, I took my sweet time to explain to my friend more about the menstruation cycle. Being a mother at 19, unexpectedly, she understood how it happened. The days she considered safe were her fertile days. Had she been well informed about the cycle, maybe, she would not have taken the risk. I am glad she now knows as much as I do. How about you?

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