JINJA – First Lady Ms. Janet Museveni together with Development partners including United Nations Population Fund – UNFPA, United Nations Children’s Fund – UNICEF, and United Nations have come out to converge efforts to address defilement, teenage pregnancy, child marriage and promoting positive parenting in Uganda.
This was during the National Campaign held on Thursday, September 29 at Wanyange Girls Secondary School in Jinja to provide safe spaces, life-skills, and facilitate return to school for teenage mothers & bring perpetrators to justice.
Ms. Museveni noted that it is high time to employ all possible avenues to ensure that the girl child is kept in school and gets married at the right time.
She noted that the government of Uganda in response to challenges faced in the aftermath of COVID-19 launched the Nation Campaign in partnership with UNFPA and UNICEF to respond to the escalating cases of defilement, child marriage and teenage pregnancy nationwide.
“It seeks to equip adolescents with life skills and to create a safe environment for them to grow and thrive while promoting positive parenting. Likewise, in June 2020, we also launched the education plus initiative. These efforts ensure that the girl child completes secondary school.”
“Young generation, if well nurtured, it will result in Uganda’s continued growth and development, eventually culminating in the realization of a great nation. That’s what we want to see in our future. Therefore, we depend on you,” she added.
She noted, “So, for this to happen, the differentiating factor lies in the life choices you make today at this critical stage in your lives.”
The First Lady who doubles as the minister of education and sports also cautioned the young people to be aware of the current global agenda to sexualize young people, noting that much as it may be their right, the time and who to do it with matters a lot.
“It is God who created sex but he also gave it a time. It was not supposed to be done by children. You are not here to have sex or for marriage or to start having children. You are here to have your education in order to prepare for your future. So, I caution you to beware that sexualizing young people is currently evidenced in the immorality and evil witnessed in schools and society.”
Premier Robinah Nabbanja asked the young people to make full potential of their education if they must be productive for themselves and the society in future.
“You will only smile when you are able to take care of yourself, and your children, and able to have enough food. When you’re pregnant at the right time, you will have a smile and your child will also have a smile,” Nabbanja who was represented by the minister, office of the prime minister, in charge of general duties, Justine Kasule Lumumba.
She said that it is the responsibility of the government to make sure there is free primary, secondary and tertiary education but it is students’ responsibility to make use of them.
She, however, warned that “The choice the choice of inaction is not an alternative for our country or our children.”
Ms. Susan Ngongi Namondo, UN Resident Coordinator revealed that in Uganda, prior to the pandemic one-fourth of all girls between the ages of 10 and 19 got pregnant, noting that the already high number became shockingly high during the pandemic, where an average of 1,052 girls were getting pregnant every day!
She says that while the number of teenage pregnancies is on the increase in Uganda, some countries in the region have seen a decrease, including Kenya and Malawi.
“Analysis found that educational attainment, age at first sex, household wealth, family structure and exposure to media was significantly associated with this decline.”
Ms. Ngongi says that the cost of a teen birth on girls is huge for that child and her family and community, giving an example of medical risks in the pregnancy and birthing process for both the child mother and child-baby.
“For instance, infants born to teenage mothers is 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to the 25 per 1,000 born to mothers aged 20-29 years. In addition, adolescent girls have some of the highest maternal mortality rates in Uganda because their bodies are not developed enough to carry a pregnancy to term staggering 28% of maternal death occur among young girls 15 to 25 years of age.”
“There are also clear educational risks for girls who become pregnant in that they may not achieve as much as they could have otherwise. Low educational achievement leads to diminished future life options. When too many of our girls get pregnant, these risks affect our overall development trajectory-negatively influencing our health, education, employment, poverty rates, and other goals,” she said.
Ms. Ngongi noted that when one or two children get pregnant, the blame can be put on their families that they failed in their protection role but when so many children get pregnant, “then we have collectively failed as a society.” “We need to look at that and deliberately increase the protection offered, not only at the family level but also within state and cultural institutions.”
“Our social support systems are now weaker than before. The expectations and opportunities have multiplied and so have the dangers. So we can no longer behave like we did 30 or 40 years ago. We owe our children better access to knowledge and guidance. We need to become both brave and competent because if we don’t, they will have only their equally clueless friends, social media, and persons who deliberately want to take advantage of them for guidance to the disastrous consequences we see today in too many places,” she warned.
She decried the level of violence today amongst families, calling for investigations into the cause and find ways to reduce it.
In her part, Ms. Magarita Tileva, UNICEF Representative, in Uganda revealed that through their different campaigns, more than 1000 Child mothers have been returned back to school in ensuring the provision of services to teenage pregnant girls and mothers.
She says that they supported the Ministry of Health in the provision of anti-natal care services on human papillomavirus vaccination and providing high folate supplementation to prevent anemia.
She also noted that together with the Ministry of gender, labor and social development, they increased the management of the cases of sexual exploitation and gender by gender-based violence through capacity building of social workers, which provided support to more than 300 cases of gender-based violence.
“The birth registration of children of teenage mothers has been really supported and more than 8000 children receive their birth certificates, health services to new-born babies of teenage mothers, including nutrition and other essential services that we facilitated as well.”