KAMPALA- Civil Society Organisations (CSO) have called on government to take action on the alarming rate of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the country.
Speaking during a half day high level advocacy workshop at Imperial Royal Hotel in Kampala that brought together stakeholders including legislators, government ministries, Josephine Pedun, the Programmes director at Trailblazers Mentoring Foundation (TMF) said the statics are worrying.
She said that child marriage and early childbearing remain common especially in the eastern districts despite legislation against them.
Mr. Mondo Kyateeka, the Commissioner for Youth, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) revealed that the government has taken steps to curb the vice through a national strategy.
“The ministry has put a hotline  for the public to report cases of both sexual harassment and child marriages,” Mr Mondo said calling on the Judiciary to take tough actions against culprits.
Mondo said that research has attributed the vice to increasing poverty levels in the country.
Mr Bernard Atiku, the Ayivu County Member of Parliament also the chairperson Gender and Social Development committee of Parliament said there is laxity on the side of government in terms of choosing priorities.
“It is sad to report that it is one of the government least funded areas making the implementation of the law on child marriages difficult,” Mr Atiku said.
According the report three in ten Ugandan girls have their first child before their 18th birthday; more than a third marry before the age of 18. Indeed both child marriage and early childbearing lead girls to drop out of school prematurely.
The survey summarised that many girl children are married off at the age of 15, while at least 40 per cent are married before they are 18.
By 2014, 61 per cent of Ugandan children below the age of 18 years had been married.
Despite government’s effort to offer free primary and secondary education, the rampant cases of early marriages have derailed the primary school completion rate among girls in most regions of the country.
TMF revealed other emerging challenges such as high levels of drug abuse among youth out of school in the districts of Kamuli, Lira and Moroto.
“There is reportedly a new weed youth are smoking in Tororo, it is reported to be very dangerous,” Pedun said without mentioning the weed’s name.