Peris Wangari, a first-year Clinical Medicine student at JKUAT is making global headlines through her initiative Save the Teenage Girl. Her mission is aimed at eradicating the rising numbers of teenage pregnancies, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic through mentoring young girls.
For Peris, the need to start this programme in April 2020, arose from the disturbing cases highlighted by the media courtesy of the research carried out by Non-Governmental Organizations in the country. It is for this reason that she, together with her classmates decided to conduct an informal research in various counties to find out how they could contribute towards finding a solution.
Their efforts revealed that most girls were lured by old men with the hope of receiving money to buy necessities such as food and sanitary towels, a result of which ended up in full-term pregnancies and many backstreet abortions. This prompted Peris and her friends to start a campaign to end this vice, and since charity begins at home, Peris decided to launch her campaign at her home turf – Murang’a.
“I chose to launch the campaign in Murang’a County because that is where I come from. I know the area very well. We have also toured some parts of Kiambu County because that is where our University, JKUAT is located. We also focused on Nyandarua because it is among the leading counties in teenage pregnancies.”
During the campaigns which target young girls from these counties, Peris and her friends have been discussing reproductive health, drugs and substance abuse, as well as mental health. The rationale for this is that all these issues are interrelated.
According to Peris, “it is important to explore these topics with the young girls so that they can gain the necessary skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage their sexual health. We also realized that since drugs motivate promiscuity, it was important to include it in our discussions.”
As an upcoming philanthropist, Peris has benefitted from support given to her by her parents, friends, classmates, and lecturers such as Dr. Joseph Kweri the Chairperson of Human Anatomy department at the College of Health Sciences, JKUAT. This support group has contributed the funds used so far to spearhead this campaign. The Catholic Church has also pledged to support the initiative. So far, only FIDA Kenya has sponsored the cause by donating 20,000 sanitary towels. The team is hopeful that other well-wishers will come on board.
Peris has big dreams for this initiative. She is currently looking into coopting other stakeholders like counselors, lawyers (to provide legal advice to victims of defilement), and lecturers (to serve as mentors). She believes that this inclusive team will train the young girls how to defend themselves against gender-based violence. She also intends to expand the target to young boys since they play a role.
With some staff members from the Human Anatomy department at the University, Peris is researching on how to produce reusable sanitary towels so as to sustain their availability to the young girls. They have come up with a few designs for use. She also aims to train a few young girls who can then train others and hasten the reach countrywide.
Given that this campaign has been on during University recess, Peris affirms that resumption of full-time study will not affect her mission because she is passionate about it. If anything, the reopening of schools will make it possible to access youngsters in primary and secondary schools. She also hopes that the community will embrace University mentorship programmes just as is the case elsewhere.
For Peris the future looks bright. As a Clinical Medicine scholar, she aspires to be a lecturer and a researcher especially in the area of reproductive health.