End increasing teenage pregnancies

Thursday July 30 2020

Kasese District information officer John

Kasese District information officer John Tawithe speaks to a teenage mother in Mukunyu Sub-county in September 2019. Leaders blame the rising teenage pregnancies on primitive cultural practices. PHOTO | FILE 

According to a survey findings from the districts of Ngora, Kyegegwa, Kitgum, Rakai, Kayunga, Ntungamo, Kayunga and Kasese, 2,300 schoolgirls conceived and 128 got married during the lockdown.

Much as some leaders are blaming the increasing teenage pregnancies on primitive cultural practices, we must admit that the reluctance of communities and leaders escalated the vice. Imagine, 20 cases of child marriage and teenage pregnancies have been recorded in Kamira Sub-county, Luweero District alone.

These are statistics obtained from district health and education departments and the probation and social welfare departments. Think of the unreported cases, that means the number could be double or more!

The official legal age of consent into marriage in Uganda is 18 years and above. Parents in whose hands these children have been married off should be held responsible.

Let the government caution and punish the parents for forcing these children into labour because it is through such situations that the perpetrators exploit to prey on teenage girls. Any person having custody of a child should protect that child from discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect.

Sexual abuse degrades and exploits children causing serious damage to cognitive, social and development of a child. At worse, it might not only end up destroying her dreams, but also her life generally.

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Throughout my entire life, I have never seen or heard of anyone getting rich from marry off their daughters.

It is a shame watching parents trade off their children’s lives for mere peanuts or food! Do such parents realise that if they kept the same children in school, the benefits would be big? The tendency of viewing children as a source of income should stop.

Why are some parents so greedy to the extent of not letting their teenage girls grow and fulfil their aspirations? Let us not give up due to Covid-19 as there will be life after the pandemic. Will these children resume school after they have been wasted?

Much attention has been focused on and resources directed towards holding election and all we have been served are statistics of the affected girls. Many politicians care less not knowing that it is these defiled girls they will be burdened with. You cannot expect to be a successful leader when the people you are leading are bleeding and drowning in illiteracy.

Even when different non-State actors have tried to address the situation, they have made little impact in the communities. Are our leaders aware of what is happening? Or they are part of the cause for the increasing evils. What is being done to curb these rates?

No sooner had we thought that homes are safer, than the statistics of wasted girls were released. The same children we are trying to save from being infected by Covid-19, are still getting destroyed psychologically, from the trauma of being forced into underage marriage.

When will schools be opened? And when they eventually open schools, what will the number of girls who will return to school? Now to the responsible ministries, aren’t they so embarrassed seeing how they have failed to care for schools yet they are always allocated huge sums of money to ensure that schoolgirls are taken good care of?

Carol Mukisa Nyangoma,
cnyangoma.22@gmail.com

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