All Ugandans should join the campaign to save young girls from teenage pregnancies and back the ongoing drive to let girls be girls first. Primary Healthcare state minister Sarah Opendi should be fully supported in this 12-month push to prevent teenage pregnancies.
The situation is grim, especially in rural Uganda, where parents marry girls off to obtain bride wealth to sustain homes. And this practice, says Ms Opendi, is common, with girls as young as 12 years engaging in unprotected sex. Yet, as the minister says, only 11 per cent of the adolescents access family planning services. Little wonder, 24 per cent of adolescents become pregnant before 18.
According to the Uganda Demographic Health and Survey (UDHS) for 2011, one in four Ugandan girls between 15 and 19 years have either had a child or are pregnant. And early teenage pregnancies radically change and endanger girls’ rights to health, education and realising her full potential and contribution to society.
As Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga warns, we must not surrender the rights of this country’s teenage girls for a bargain price of some sugar, salt, paraffin and other domestic needs. As UNFPA State of World Population report for 2013 cites, adolescent pregnancies damage girls’ education, health and job opportunities. This is why Ms Kadaga as a torchbearer of the campaign against teenage pregnancy gives a very loud statement. Her tiptop career implies every young girl can develop her full potential when her chances are promoted and not robbed of her childhood and a future by early teenage pregnancies.
Certainly, our local communities, parents, pupils and teachers should work to cut back teenage pregnancies because maternal mortality ratio at 438 per 100,000 live births is not acceptable. Moreover, 24 per cent of the deaths are blamed on teenage pregnancies. At a tender age, girls’ bodies are not developed enough to become mothers.
This calls for a sustained effort against teenage pregnancies right from community level. The starting point is for Ugandans to endorse the ‘Let girls be girls’ campaign launched by the Ministry of Health in Buteleja District on Sunday. It requires parents, young girls and teenage mothers to attend health units on unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancies and family planning services. Equally crucial is the need to discuss risks and complications to mothers and their newly born babies.
Ugandans should protect young girls’ rights and wellbeing. We can do this by keeping girls longer at school to stop motherhood in childhood.
The issue: Teenage pregnancies
Our view: This calls for a sustained effort against teenage pregnancies right from community level. The starting point is for Ugandans to endorse the ‘Let girls be girls’ campaign...