Absa skills teenage mothers

A member of staff from Absa Uganda skills the teenage mothers in knitting in Kyegegwa. PHOTO/PROMISE TWINAMUKYE

What you need to know:

  • Teenage mothers do not get enough support to stay in or return to school, and due to the stigma attached to teenage pregnancy, some young girls opt for marriage over returning to school. 

Winfried Namata joined Integrated Efforts for Youth and Women Empowerment Uganda (IEYAWE) in 2019 after witnessing the positive transformation some of her peers in Kyegegwa District had undergone. 

“I needed to gain some skills in making sanitary pads, liquid soap and jelly,” the   teen mother of a seven-month-old baby boy says.

“I got to know about IEYAWE during a workshop organised by Phiona Hadoto Bright at St. Thomas (Junior School). The skills have helped me fend for my son Adams,” she adds. 

Namata, divides her time between attending classes at Humura Secondary School in Kyegegwa Ward, Kyegegwa District and IEYAWE organised courses.

She is one of the over 500 teen mothers who have learnt several skills through the community-based organisation ‘whose operations are guided by our mission to transform communities through initiatives that sustainably address climate change, unemployment, inequality and stigmatisation towards achieving healthy and prosperous communities.’

Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 78 per cent aged below 30 years. And with this comes challenges such as teenage pregnancies. 

According to the United Nations Population Fund-UNFPA, at least 644,955 teenage pregnancies were recorded during the Covid-19 lockdown in Uganda. These were mainly brought about following the following the closure of all schools in the country. An additional 290,219 pregnancies were reported between January and September 2021 - over 32,000 monthly. 

The body - quoting data from the District Health Information System (DHIS-2) – also says there was a 17 per cent spike in teenage pregnancies between March 2020 and June 2021. 

Some of the districts that recorded the highest number of teenage pregnancies were Wakiso and Kampala which recorded 10,439 and 8,460 cases respectively. Kasese (7,317), Kamuli (6,535) and Oyam (6,449) followed while Mayuge and Mukono were not far behind with about 6,205 and 5,535 cases of teenage pregnancies.

Also, the National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy 2022/2023 – 2026/2027 report by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and Unicef Uganda, puts teenage pregnancy rate at 25 percent, the highest in East Africa. 

The report adds that between March and June 2020 alone, pregnancies increased by25.5 percent among girls aged 15-19 years and 366 percent among girls aged 10-14 years, adding that child marriages and teenage pregnancies jeopardize our country’s strategy to achieve results under the Human Capital Development Programme outlined in the National Development Plan III. 

It is for this reason that staff from Absa Bank Uganda embarked on a journey to skill over 500 teenage mothers and women from the Central, West Nile and Albertine regions of the country in financial literacy and other skills necessary for their getting employed or starting businesses. 

Under the bank’s Women’s Network Forum (WNF), the staff members have donated over 25 laptops that will enable the recipients in the various centres to sign up for and benefit from the bank’s ‘Ready to Work’ programme, which helps them develop work, people, money and entrepreneurial skills. 

In Kyegegwa, the financial institution donated assorted items and provided skilling to 70 teenage mothers at a ceremony held at Kakabara Primary School. The ladies donated assorted essential items such as toiletries, diapers and bedsheets and handed over five laptops. 

Additionally, they conducted training in financial literacy and knitting and planted 100 fruit trees at the school in a drive to increase the area’s green cover and boost the nutrition of the members of the community. 

Chloe Kermu, the chairlady of Absa’s Women Network Forum, said the group was responding to a 2021 United Nations Population Fund report that said that Uganda had recorded 290,000 teenage mothers from January to September. 

She said, “As one of Absa’s citizenship pillars to create a just society, we are here in response to statistics that show that the teenage mother is not supported to return to school after they have gotten pregnant. So, we are bringing a message of hope and giving you the skills you need to take control of both your and your child’s life.” 

Other beneficiaries in gardening, baking, crocheting and knitting, and financial literacy were drawn from Wakisa Ministries Uganda in Wakiso and The Association for the Rehabilitation and Re-orientation of Women for Development (TERREWODE) in Soroti. 

At Wakisa Ministries Uganda in Wakiso, Irene Mutyaba - Absa’s Corporate Banking Director and Patron of the WNF - said, “For a majority of teenage mothers, having a baby more often than not leaves few options for self-sufficiency, with many dropping out of school, opting for early marriages or other vices as safety nets.

Through this intervention, we will empower these ladies to continue their journey of education and obtain the skills they need to navigate the world of work and build a life for their families.”

She added, “We believe that for Uganda and Africa to truly develop, education and skills development will be key to helping our young population get the skills needed to support their employability and self-employability.

This is part of our commitment to being a force for good in the communities within which we operate.” 
According to Phiona Hadoto Bright, the IEYAWE Executive Director, there is need for the mothers to capitalise on opportunities that will add value to their lives and help them become self-sufficient.   

Mrs Vivian Kityo, the Director of Wakisa Ministries – a charity that offers temporary shelter, educational opportunities and counselling support to pre-teen and teenage girls with unwanted pregnancies, said, “Education and skills development are integral to empowering teenage mothers. I appreciate Absa for this support because by educating these ladies, they will get to be part of a productive community after the stigma they face in society and also get the opportunity to learn skills that will help them develop income-generating activities to help them provide for their families.” 

She added that it would take an intentional and concerted effort by multiple stakeholders to help Uganda’s teenage mothers escape the shackles of poverty, illiteracy and misery that follow unwanted pregnancies.