Govt launches plan to end child marriage

Teenage mothers in Tororo District. Tororo District Council has passed a by-law to curb the rising cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages.  PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The State Minister for Children Affairs, Ms Sarah Nyirabashitsi Mateke, said the interventions are child-focused.

Government has launched a national strategy to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy in the country by 2026.

The strategy, developed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, focuses on four core areas; education, resilience and livelihoods, health and nutrition, and child protection.

According to the ministry of Gender, one in four children in Uganda is married off before they are 18 years.

The National Planning Authority (NPA) data, which was released last year, also shows that the country loses Shs1.6 trillion annually in tackling issues of harmful cultural practices, including child marriage.

The State minister for Children Affairs, Ms Sarah Nyirabashitsi Mateke, said the interventions are child-focused.

“This is part of the effort to end the harmful practices of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the country because such vices are shameful and disgusting,” she said.

She said the government is also committed to ending corporal punishment, child sacrifice, defilement, female genital mutilation (FGM), discrimination and gender stereotyping.

The minister announced the strategy in Butaleja District at the weekend during celebrations to mark the International Day of the African Child.

Ms Mateke urged parents to discuss reproductive health issues with their daughters as a way of avoiding early pregnancies. “Many girls make irrational decisions because they have not been guided enough,” she said.

Ms Victoria Nangwedde Mebbo, a Primary Seven pupil, who spoke on behalf of teenage girls, called for child protection.

“There is a need to implement policies passed by the government on children who are living under torture,” Ms Nangwedde said.

At least 5,265 girls between 10 and 19 years were impregnated and have dropped out of school in Butaleja from 2019 to 2020, according to data from the district.

Mr Jeremiah Nyagah, the programmes director at World Vision Uganda, said teenage pregnancy contributes to 20 percent of infant deaths and about 28 percent of maternal deaths in the country.

“Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the main cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15-19,” he said.

Ms Aidah Mugoya Nehole, the district secretary for gender, labour and social development, attributed the rampant teenage pregnancies to poor parenting.

The Butaleja District chairperson, Mr Michael Higenyi Bory, said as leaders, they support government efforts to ensure that children live in a society that is sensitive to their needs and concerns.

“But as a district, we still lag behind in many ways, more so in implementation of many laws and policies to safeguard a girl child,” he said.