By David Mafabi
KAMPALA– Government in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has launched a programme aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies in the country.
While presiding over the launch, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said the programme seeks to contribute to a reduction in teenage pregnancies through supporting increased access and utilization of Sexual reproductive health and family planning information and services by adolescents.
“But besides, there is need to take Education and Health services close to the girl-child for easy access and as government we shall ensure that all these services are accessed by girls and women across the country in order for them to live their dreams,” Kadaga said.
The UNFPA in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Gender and National Population Council, launched the “LIVE YOUR DREAM” Campaign at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala Feb 6.
She explained that the launch of the “Live Your Dream” campaign was not different from a health ministry campaign dubbed “Let girls be girls” aimed at reducing maternal deaths by 15 percent by July 2015.
She said teenage pregnancies imply that the individual is carrying a baby while she is still a baby herself or under 18 and is prone to experiencing many risks that endanger her health and that of her unborn baby.
Mr Kadaga urged religious leaders, cultural leaders and parents to join the fight against the high rate of teenage pregnancies in the country to allow girls and women live their dreams.
“In Africa it is difficult to find a parent talking to his/her child about sex because of our cultural norms, yet it is a reality that children as old as 10 years engage in sex. We need to get out of our comfort zones and speak about sex with our children, we must find a way of addressing this issue,” Ms Kadaga added.
Dr Jane Aceng, the Minister of Health, said the “Live your Dream” national campaign to prevent teenage pregnancies was a good campaign given the rising numbers of the teenage pregnancies in the country which stands at 25 percent.
She explained that statistics from the Uganda Demographic study  indicate that of the 1.2 million pregnancies recorded in Uganda annually, 25 per cent of these are teenage pregnancies.
She added further that this state of affairs has not spared either the school goers or the non-school goers and that the effects spill over on to their health, economic and social status.
She said according to the Uganda Demographic Health survey 2011, about 14 per cent of young women and 16 per cent of young men had their first sexual encounter before the age of 15 while 57 per cent of young women had their first encounter before the age of 18.
She explained that while the activities continue, all girls should be encouraged to stay in school long enough to acquire education and skills and that all teenagers should abstain from sex until they are old enough.
“The Ministry also advocates for young mothers to be encouraged to go back and complete school and all pregnant teenagers should deliver under skilled care in a health facility,” added Ms Aceng.
Mr Tabuley Bukyaita, a commissioner at the Ministry of Health, said the “Live our Dream” campaign has three components that include Live your dreams, let girls be girls, Live your dream by choosing books before babies, Live your dream with youth and you and Live your dream by bringing gender issues together; generation to generation.
He revealed that the ministry is using posters-shirts, Live your dream drama set in Karamoja and Busoga, Radio spots, Songs-Bakaleka, T.V drama [set in Busoga and Karamoja] to equip girls with the dangers of teenage pregnancies in Uganda.
According to UNFPA country representative, Mr Alain Sibender, UNFPA envisages to impact on the lives of more than 6,000,000 most vulnerable girl-child and women across the country following the launch of the new strategy.
He revealed that the programme is funded by South Korea, Swedish international development Agency and Danish international Development Association. Ends
About the Campaign
With its beneficiaries being young people (10-24) and women of reproductive age (15-45) and their partner, the nationwide campaign will use a multi-channel approach to increase access to and utilization of family planning, HIV and maternal health services as well as contribute to efforts to end teenage pregnancy, child marriage and Gender Based Violence (GBV) by engaging communities in dialogue aimed at addressing factors that lead to exploitation of women and girls guided by four components:
-Live your dream: by Letting girls be girls: addresses GBV, Family Planning and Teenage pregnancy.
-Live your dream by choosing Books before Babies: keeping girls in school, getting proper education about SRHR and avoiding teenage pregnancies and HIV
-Live your dream – With You(th): reflects UNFPA’s role as the lead Youth Agency, unleashing potential, empowering for innovation and social change. With You(th) also showcases UNFPA’s work in humanitarian setting, bringing host communities and refugee populations together to build resilience through SRHR.
-Live your dream by bringing generations together (Generation for generation – G4G), sharing the wisdom of the elderly with the energies of the youth.)
Live Your Dream campaign is being implemented in partnership with Communication for Development Foundation Uganda (CDFU) and Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU), with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency