On a cold Monday morning, in this town located 75 miles northeast of Nairobi, two teenaged girls sit in a room nursing their children. A baby lies playing on a mattress on the floor at their feet. Her mother, a sixth grade pupil, has gone to school and won't be back until the evening. A fourth girl, who is pregnant, is cleaning up in the kitchen.
This place, the Annunciation Home Crisis Pregnancy Center, established and run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, will be home to these four girls, aged 13, 14, 16 and 19, until the sisters persuade their families to take them back, or find them a safe place to stay.
"These girls are sent to us by different people who come across them," said Sr. Margaret Wangeci of the congregation. "Some get pregnant through defilement and are brought here from the court or by children officers, while some are brought here by people of good will who know we offer the services."
In Kenya, society frowns upon early pregnancy, viewing it as a result of poor upbringing by parents or of teenage promiscuity. Getting pregnant at an early age, therefore, comes with stigma, accompanied by dropping out of school and, at times, rejection from parents, relatives, and the man responsible for the pregnancy.
In this country of nearly 50 million people, almost one in five girls aged 15-19 has already had a baby or is pregnant, according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. That rate doubles for young women who have reached age 19.