It took nine months for Luscinia Maina, a final-year university student, to confide in her mother that she was pregnant.
She went home during the school holiday two months into the pregnancy. Still, she avoided going to church lest experienced church women notice that there was a life growing inside of her. At home, she was sorted. The weather corporated to conceal her secret; it was cold throughout therefore, she was always in a heavy jacket. On the other hand, her mother, who could have noticed that she was pregnant, always left for work early in the morning and returned home late at night and tired.
After an emergency Caesarean Section, the fear she harboured for nine months vanished in a flash. While holding her newborn and looking straight into his tender, innocent, almost vulnerable eyes, she finally dropped the bombshell to her mother on the phone. Now, my Kenyan peeps, this is where you can insert the wueeeeeh! Emoji.
Luscinia delivered when she was just about to sit for her end-of-semester exams. Determined, she carried her fresh CS wound and cracked boobs full of breast milk to the exam room. Three weeks later, schools reopened. She had to choose between her baby and her studies. She chose both.
Although the emphasis in recent times has been put on how pregnant teenagers cope in school, their experiences in the tertiary institution have not received much attention even though the requirements in academic work could pose a new set of challenges.
There is an increase in pregnancy rates among university students worldwide. These unplanned pregnancies threaten students’ psychological well-being because balancing studies and motherhood roles is a complex task.
The World Health Organization supports and recommends breastfeeding as the optimal way to nourish infants and children. While the benefits of breastfeeding for parents, children, and the community are acknowledged, many barriers exist for student mothers who wish to reap those benefits. Some of these barriers include:
- Inadequate lactation support at the school
- Lack of private space to breastfeed or express human milk
- Policy prohibiting children on-campus or lack of daycare facilities on campus.
Against this backdrop, an organization known as Niko Green, in collaboration with the World Student Community for Sustainable Development, initiated Nyonyesha Program, aimed at establishing 500 model lactation and daycare facilities, dubbed Nyonyesha Hubs, in colleges to promote breastfeeding and support women’s economic empowerment.
World Breastfeeding Week is marked during the first week of August. This year, Kenya celebrated World Breastfeeding Week in the first week of July because of the general elections scheduled for the 9th of August.
As we reflect on the theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2022, ‘step up for Breastfeeding, Educate and Support’, it is important to acknowledge that the lack of lactating support makes universities less accessible and desirable for women who don’t want to and shouldn’t have to, choose between motherhood and academics.
I know you are itching for more of Luscinia’s story and Niko Green’s next steps in developing lactating centres in our universities, right? Get your earphones and some hot tea (if your place is as cold as mine) and listen to the podcast below that was produced by yours truly and aired on KBC English Service.
As always, THANK YOU for stopping by!