ENTEBBE – The Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, Sarah Nyirabashitsi Mateke together with other child-rights fighting organisations including UNICEF Uganda, USAID, UNFPA Uganda, National Children Authority among others have made an alarm for the call of action to end child marriage and teenage pregnancies in the country.
This was during the National Dissemination of the 2nd National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy 2022/23-2026/27 at Admas Hotel in Entebbe on Tuesday.
According to the minister, Uganda now ranks 16th out of the 25 countries with the highest rate of child marriage in the world.
She says child marriage and teenage pregnancy is a human rights violation that not only deprives girls, families and communities of their lives and futures but also undermines the country’s efforts toward gender equality and increases the national burden of care for vulnerable children.
Study indicates that teenage pregnancy accounts for 22.3% of all school dropouts among girls aged between 14-18 years in Uganda.
The Annual Police Crime Report 2021 revealed that a total of 14,226 girls were defiled in 2021, 281 were defiled by persons who were HIV positive, 122 by guardians, 107 by parents and 60 by teachers. Over 10, 053 victims were aged 15-17 years and 80 of them were girls with disabilities.
In 2015, Uganda launched the 1st National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy (2014/15-2019/2020), however, the minister notes that the evaluation of the implementation showed that minimal success was registered.
This, however, she blamed it on the Covid-19 pandemic where the country registered 354,736 teenage pregnancies in 2020 and 290,219 in 2021 making an average of 32,000 teenage pregnancies per month, according to the UNFPA 2021 report.
A study by the National Planning Authority in 2022 shows that the Government will continue to lose UGX 645BN annually on healthcare for teenage mothers and their children if no action is taken.
“Implementation of the 2nd Strategy, which envisions a society free of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, is crucial to achieving national level reforms and the societal transformation we urgently need. I am also confident that it’s going to widen our scope of interventions to take care of both prevalent and emerging challenges,” Mateke said.
“We must increase our focus on adolescent girls as direct beneficiaries and active participants,” she noted, adding that “We must make deliberate and intentional efforts to reach those with the greatest unmet need, including girls who are part of impoverished, rural populations, as well as girls who are marginalized or isolated as a result of mental or physical disability, early marriage, or early motherhood.”
Over the next five years, this Strategy will focus on some of the following strategic areas;
Improving legal and policy environment to protect children from child marriage and teenage pregnancy
Strengthening family and community capacity to support children and end child marriages and teenage pregnancy
Changing negative and harmful social, cultural and religious norms and practices, patriarchal mind-sets and societal beliefs that drive child marriage and teenage pregnancy
Increasing access, uptake and/or utilization of quality social services (education, health, child protection, justice, social protection) at national, district and community levels
Strengthening birth registration and certification
Building avenues for economic empowerment, resilience building and improvements of livelihoods
Strengthening nationwide capacity for research, data management systems, knowledge sharing to improve programming and advocacy for ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy
Strengthening multi-sectoral coordination and collaboration (planning, budgeting, and implementation), monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism for effective management of the National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy; and
Financing, engagement, and partnership for effective implementation of the Strategy.