Mayuge district boasts of some of the highest levels of HIV prevalence rates, teenage pregnancy, child marriages, and girl child rights violations in Uganda. From 29th October to 2nd November, together with other SRHR Alliance partners like RHU, CEHURD, FLEP, NAFOPHANU, UNYPA, Straight Talk Uganda, and Restless Development, we were engaged in various activities in Mayuge district in what was dubbed the ‘Alliance Week’ that was running under the theme “Safe Spaces for young people” under the Get Up Speak Out (GUSO) program.
Implemented together with partners in the SRHR Alliance, the GUSO program is a 5 year (2016-2020) strategic partnership between the Netherlands, MoFA, and the GUSO consortium (dance4life, Rutgers, Simavi, Stop Aid Now, Choice and IPPF). GUSO is building on Access Skills and Knowledge (ASK) achievements and lessons learned implemented by the SRHR alliance.
We started the Alliance week, with inter-school debates under the motions; Menstruation is the leading cause of teenage pregnancy and child marriages between Hilton Primary School and Wamulongo Primary school. The secondary schools (Sarah Ntiro High School and Delta high school) debated under the motion; underage/forced marriage is a safe space for young girls.
It’s very absurd that the myths and misconceptions about SRHR are still very much alive in Mayuge district. Many young people still thought that one can’t contract HIV if they have sex while standing while other young people still used two condoms for extreme protection. Being on ground, our teams disseminated the right information to young people in school on teenage pregnancy, menstrual hygiene, HIV/AIDS, and child marriages. We continuously cemented the message of reporting to the authorities when young girls are coerced into child marriages encouraging them to stay in schools so as to achieve their dreams.
On the fourth day of activism, we were joined by the State Minister for Primary Health Care Hon. Joyce Moriku and the Dutch Ambassador H.E Henk Bakker with whom we held various discussions including the Busoga regional leaders Luncheon that was held at Zeu hotel in Mayuge district under the theme “The role of community leaders in ending teenage pregnancies and child marriages in Busoga region,” where many community leaders made various commitments towards fighting teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
The Assistant DPC of Mayuge district, Afande Kenneth Ahimbisibwe committed to continue with the on-going strengthening of community policing, in-school and out of school empowering of youth to report cases of violation/sexual harassments. “Through the use of child protection officers, we are building an army of foot soldiers that are in place to help us curb these vices, we have also gone the extra mile to sensitise the people on the role of the police as well as encouraging them to report cases of teenage pregnancy, child marriages, and sexual violence,” he commented.
Statistics at the ministry of education indicate that Busoga region has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies, early and forced marriages in the country reported to be at 42%. Hon. Joyce Moriku thet State Minister for Primary Health Care emphasised that it’s only by collective responsibility that we shall make meaningful impact. “Despite the noise, it’s only by collective responsibility that teenage pregnancy and child marriage can be averted,” she said.
In the same spirit, H.E Henk Bakker the Dutch Ambassador committed that his government will continue to fund programs like the GUSO program that enables young people make informed life choices.
Together with the SRHR Alliance partners, we conducted services such as HIV testing and counselling (2,800 people), Family Planning services like implants (630), injectables (996), and bilateral tubal ligation (120) were carried out. We reached out to 10,000 young people through table talks, 748 people were engaged with us in our community dialogues, in school health talks in 8 secondary schools and 8 primary schools and these included Sarah Ntiro high school, Rena College school,New Hope secondary school,Bunya SS,, Iganga star college, Delta high school, Mwezi primary school,Hilton primary school among others. Information was disseminated to over 12,960 people, and 720 IUDs were inserted.