The Minister of State for Gender and Culture Affairs, Hon. Mutuuzo Peace Regis has today met with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative, Suzanne Mandong, during which they resolved to partner on activities to stem the increasing teenage pregnancies in the country.
The meeting held at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development offices in Kampala resolved to engage the high-level policy dialogue on eliminating Gender Based Violence to draw immediate actions to end teenage pregnancies.
Uganda has experienced a high rise in teenage pregnancies over the period of lockdowns and school closures instituted to curb the spread of the novel Corona Virus.
The 2020 annual Uganda Police Force crime report put the number of defiled children at 14,230, however the figure is projected to be far higher than this as most cases are never reported.
Mandong, who has been in the country for a month and a half now, said the skyrocketing teenage pregnancies were the first news item she noticed upon arriving in Uganda and it has been troubling her.
“Looking at the babies having babies is very painful. My heart has been bleeding. We need to look at things we can do together (immediately) to address this challenge. Otherwise we shall have failed our children,” an emotional Mandong noted.
Minister Mutuuzo, who is also the Women Member of Parliament for Bunyangabu District, said she had done a survey in her district over the last weekend and registered over 3,000 teenage pregnancies across the sub counties.
“It’s now clear that the state of affairs is threatening to erode the achievements the country has made over the last 20 years in eliminating Gender Based Violence. Many harmful practices have made a return including forced marriages.” She said, adding that there is also a danger of increased HIV infections.
She observed that it’s unfortunate to force the victims of teenage pregnancies into marriage because it was never their wish to get pregnant.
Mandong noted that there is need for concerted effort ranging from prevention, response to management of teenage pregnancies.
“Our programming can look at returning the children to school, as first priority and skills training for those who won’t be going back to school.” She said, adding that mental health and psychosocial support would be a great incorporation to the interventions.
Meanwhile, Mandong commended Uganda for the overall success in eliminating Gender Based Violence especially Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) whose prevalence now stands at 3 percent down from over 50 percent.
She emphasized that it was achievable for the country to totally eliminate FGM to zero percentage by 2030.
Mutuuzo revealed that FGM is now being practiced clandestinely in only five districts and specific sub counties due to the increased awareness and the enactment of facilitating laws.
She however decried the continued prevalence of the vice in Kenya, which is having ripple effects in Uganda especially in those districts and sub counties that border Kenya.
She appealed to UNFPA to prioritise the establishment of an FM radio station in Bukwo to support the FGM elimination interventions since the population in Bukwo depends on radio frequencies and programmes from Kenya.
Mutuuzo hinted on the need for a baseline survey to establish the remaining cultural harmful practices so as to devise appropriate programmes.
She also underscored the need for GBV shelters across the country where survivours can access a string of support services in the line of prevention, response and management of Gender Based Violence.
UNFPA supports various programmes in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development towards the elimination of GBV through policy development and implementation, support to Community Development Officers and law enforcement officers, legislation, engagement of cultural institutions and communities, data collection and analysis and support to the Sauti 116 Helpline, where GBV and violence Against Children cases are reported and addressed.
The meeting was also attended by the Commissioner Gender and Women Affairs, Angela Nakafeero, the Principal Women in Development Officer, Annet Kabarungi, the UNFPA Programme Analyst on GBV Harriet Ndagire and the UNFPA programme analyst on Gender and Human Rights, Grace Ikirimat.