Ugandan Citizens Engaging Decision Makers to End Teenage Pregnancy — Part 1
In a country where 25% of all teen girls are pregnant or already mothers, White Ribbon Alliance Uganda is changing society through the “Act Now to End Teenage Pregnancy” movement. This multi-part series by WRA Communication Manager Faridah Luyiga reveals the step-by-step actions taken to engage more 120,000 people and make the Prime Minister take notice.
Citizens Engaging Decision Makers to End Teenage Pregnancy
Youth driving change
People facing a problem are better placed to demand change and seek for solutions. This fact has been clearly reflected in the effort that Ugandan youth have invested in the national campaign dubbed “Act Now to End Teenage Pregnancy.” The campaign, spearheaded by the White Ribbon Alliance, Uganda (WRA Uganda) has collected 120,000 signatures to demand the Prime Minister urgently reduce teenage pregnancy in Uganda. Seventy percent of these signatures were from adolescents, demonstrating that young people really want to see an end to the crisis that is teenage pregnancy.
The glaring reality
The youths’ desire is driven by the glaring reality: 1 out of every 4 girls aged 15–19 years is already a mother or pregnant with her first child (UDHS2011). The national adolescent birth rate is 140/1,000. This compares unfavorably with other countries in the East African Region i e. Rwanda at 41, Kenya at 101 and Tanzania at 128 (Countdown to 2015. A Decade of Tracking Progress on Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival).
Teenage pregnancy robs girls of their potential and causes the death or disability of thousands of young girls and newborns every year. Babies born to adolescent mothers face a 50% higher risk of being stillborn or dying in the first few weeks of life, compared to those born to mothers aged 20 to 24 years (WHO 2015). Ugandan studies also show that 34% of teenage girls drop out of school due to pregnancy, and a World Bank Report indicates that teenage pregnancy costs Uganda 30%of its GDP. With 48% of Uganda’s population under the age of 15, fighting teenage pregnancy is one sure way of fighting poverty since staying in school longer ensures that teenagers acquire productive skills that would enable them to contribute to the economic development of the country.
Policies in place
Uganda has commendably developed a number of policies and regulations aimed at delaying and protecting teenage girls from becoming pregnant. Some of these policies include: the National Health Policy, the National Adolescent Health Policy, the National Policy on Young People and HIV/AIDS, the Sexual Reproductive Health Minimum Package, the Minimum Age of Sexual Consent Policy, the Defilement law, and National Education Sector Policy, among others.
However, there are still challenges, limitations and obstacles to these existing, including:
· Funding shortfalls for existing programs
· Inadequate comprehensive, youth-friendly services
· Religious bias toward sexuality education including family planning
· Cultural norms leading to early marriages
· Poor enforcement of laws, especially on defilement
· Contradictions in sector policies
To effectively address the teenage pregnancy dilemma, WRA Uganda created a plan to bring respective ministries together to cohesively and strategically address the issue.
In Part Two of our three-part series, you’ll learn just how WRA Uganda created a growing grassroots movement to tackle adolescent pregnancy.