AGAGO – A new study has revealed that Agago district in Northern Uganda has most child pregnancies in the whole country.
Speaking during the dissemination of the findings on Friday, Judith Franca Akello, the district woman Member of Parliament, said as district leaders, they have initiated community dialogues to address the vice because of several factors causing it which range from breakdown of rule of law to moral decadence.
“It is difficult for a child to access justice. When they go to Police to report, they are turned away. In some instances, Police asks for facilitation to follow up the case the parents are too poor to afford it,” she said, adding that at the family level, parents have abandoned their duties of raising the children in a responsible way which has led to school dropout and moral decadence.
Winnie Watera, the program manager African Youth and Adolescents Network, a coalition of 21 non-government organizations dealing in youth reproductive health issues, said Restless Development funded the research to find out the root cause of child marriages in Eastern and Northern Uganda.
“We sent 12 young researcher to the districts of Buyende, Mayuge, Pallissa, Jinja and Butaleja to find out why child marriages are rampant there. Buyende is unique because it has the youngest grandmother in the world but the highest number of teenage pregnancies is in Agago district,” she said.
Asked what prompted the survey, she said they were interrogating the 2013 and 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey findings which indicated a percentage point increase in the number of child marriages from 34 to 35 respectively saying their findings include lack of participation by religious and policy leaders in addressing it as well as lack of information among the children about reproductive health.
To shed light on the situation in their district, Isaac Mwiru the Butaleja district speaker, said 60 percent of women who go for ante natal services are children which has alarmed the district leadership prompting them to come with interventions like child friendly facilities where children can access services as well as district ordinances which provide sanctions against people who break them.
“We have a district ordinance against child marriage which we reading in council for the second time before we pass it to mitigate this vice of child marriage. Some people have been doing it thinking there is no law against it and we have brought on board religious leaders,” he said
Citing the six-year-old girl who was married off to a nine year old boy in Buyende last week and the youngest grandmother in the world who lives in the same district, Patricia Umora a Youth advocate working with Peer to Peer Uganda a youth led organization, said for a long time Eastern Uganda has topped in Child abuses. She said their findings indicate poverty, ignorance about sexual reproductive health, cultural norms and gender stereotypes as the main contributors.