Rt. Maj Jessica Alupo, the Vice President of Uganda has urged all sectors to work together towards narrowing down early marriages and pregnancies
The call comes at a time when Uganda is recording the highest child marriage rates in East Africa.
While she graced the national girl summit themed; Children need a society free from child marriage and teenage pregnancies on Wednesday, Alupo noted that Uganda’s teenage pregnancy is one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and thus needs urgent attention.
“The theme for today’s summit reminds us of the need for children to grow in a society free from child marriage and teenage pregnancy. This affects both boys and girls but the burden has been found to be higher among girls” Alupo highlighted.
“We need a social movement against child marriage with communities, government, and NGOs working together to make societies violence-free for every girl,” she further echoed.
The government, she said has committed to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, including targets for ending child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
In this regard, it has signed treaties both global and national that recognize SDGs to protect girls from Child Marriage.
“We commit support to CSOs in the essence of empowering girls & women,” she said.
Alupo also highlighted the importance of Male participation as well as equipping girls and women with knowledge and technical skills in ending child Marriage amongst selves.
The National Strategy for Ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy 2022/23-2026/27 was later launched by Alupo on grounds of aiming at ending child marriage in Uganda and ensuring prosperity and social-economic transformation for all.
In context to the national strategy, Moses Ntenga the Chairperson of Girls Not Brides Uganda noted that; in 2019, a global network was formed to end child marriages and Teenage Pregnancies. As part of this network, countries were tasked to end child marriages prompting Uganda to develop a national strategy to end child marriage and teenage pregnancies.
“The national strategy is hinged on changing negative and harmful social, cultural, and religious norms and practices that drive child marriage and teenage pregnancy,” Ntega articulated.
Charles Ogari, a programs Officer at World Vision emphasized the importance of the children’s Parliament in addressing early pregnancies.
“Children Parliament is an environment where children come together to advocate for their own rights and remind policymakers to implement developmental programs around children” Ogari explained.
Jeremiah Nyagah the Programmes Director at World Vision justified the need to create an environment that enables girls and boys to hope and aspire for a bright future.
“We should create a country that is free from gender bias an Uganda free from child marriage and teenage pregnancy is possible” he highlighted.
According to UNICEF data, Uganda is home to 5 million child brides. Of these, 1.3 million were married off before age 15.
Recent data from the District Health Information Systems by UNFPA revealed that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it increased rates of teenage pregnancy with up to 50% increase in teenage pregnancy in districts of Namisindwa, Bugisu region, Amudat in Karamoja and Kitagwenda in Tooro Region.
Country-wide data further revealed that there were over 31,565 teenage pregnancies reported every month in 2021.