The Aga Khan Foundation Uganda and Triggerise, a non-profit company that developed the user-centric digital platform, TIKO, have launched a new campaign in Kampala and Arua to increase youth’s access to reproductive health services.
The purpose: empower young people with relevant information to fight unplanned teenage pregnancies.
The new campaign in the two cities is jointly bankrolled by the Aga Khan Foundation UK and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.
Speaking at the launch last Thursday, Ms Meralyn Mungereza, the country manager for Aga Khan Foundation Uganda, said the campaign in the capital, Kampala, and the north-western Arua City aims at increasing access to information and quality adolescent-friendly reproductive health services for young girls.
“The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, there was a rise in teenage pregnancies, school-going girls [gave] birth during [national] exams. The challenge is real. We need to empower girls with information and bring services near them,” she said.
She explained that they have identified private clinics in two cities whose staff have been trained to offer services for young people.
The clinics will also stock reproductive health products suitable for youth and they have trained peer educators on how to give youth appropriate information.
Asked about the key drivers of teenage pregnancies in the country, Ms Mungereza cited limited knowledge among youngsters because sex and family planning are taboo subjects for family or public discussion in Uganda.
As a result, she said, adolescents lack correct information about sex, with several studies suggesting sexuality education is a no-go area for majority Ugandans due to social-cultural attitudes towards the subject.
Early this year, the Aga Khan Foundation Uganda piloted the project and it attracted up to 600 girls, which Ms Mungereza said suggested a high demand for information about adolescent reproductive health information.
“We piloted the project in March and in a period of three weeks and we enrolled 600 girls, meaning the demand is high and I am sure we shall impact our target of 20,000 (young people) by the end of the year,” she said.
Triggerise’s Nathalie Ann disclosed that more than 400,000 girls in Kenya have benefitted from the services provided on the Tiko platform and that enabled them to partner with Franchise networks such as Marie Stopes, Reproductive Health Uganda and the feat can be replicated in Uganda.
“As pioneers in the adaptation of technology, Uganda provides the perfect opportunity for innovation around positive adolescent health outcomes,” said Ms Hasina Daya of the Aga Khan Development Network.
Ms Rowena Kamasai, the programme lead, said they hope to see a future where adolescent girls are no longer burdened by unplanned pregnancies, but are adapting to healthy behaviours and self-efficacy.
According to Ms Kamasai, the young people will access quality adolescent reproductive health services and working with communities, they hope to remove barriers to accessing quality comprehensive health services for teenage girls.
“Through immersive research with adolescent girls, health workers as well as line ministry and local government officials, it was noted that despite a supportive policy environment there are still limitations regarding quality adolescent-friendly service provision,” she said.