COVID-19 has come with an increase in Sexual Reproductive Health violations like gender-based violence, high teenage pregnancies among other issues. In Mayuge, there has been an increased number of teenage mothers. Girls as young as the age of nine and ten are giving birth. The high increase in teenage pregnancies in Mayuge can partly be attributed to the stigma that comes from access to contraceptives and other reproductive services and information.
As a way of amplifying young people’s voices for health in Uganda, on 16thOctober 2020, Reach A Hand Uganda held a regional youth summit in the 4 districts of Kampala, Mayuge, Adjumani and Kasese. In Mayuge, the conversation was focused on “Lived experience of adolescent mothers: Keeping young girls in school.”
While giving her keynote address, the Busoga Youth Minister, Ow’ekitibwa Hon. Veronica Kagona pointed out that young girls and boys in the region are not being given the information that they need to make informed decisions especially when it comes to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. Hon. Kagona also pointed out that young boys are being left out of the discussion and called upon local leaders and the community to also educate and involve them in the discussion on SRHR and the impact of early pregnancy.
During the panel discussion, 17-year-old Asia Wakisa shared her experience as a teenage mother from the time she found out she was pregnant until she gave birth. She highlighted that it was a challenging time for her especially since her family was disappointed and asked her to leave home. She also pointed out that, during her pregnancy it was hard for her to get the health services she needed as an expectant mother even at the health centers.
Just like Asia, many other teenage mothers in Mayuge expressed the same challenges and emphasized that the reason for high pregnancy rates in Mayuge could be attributed to the urge young people have to have materialistic items they and their families cannot afford.
As part of the panel discussion, the District Health Officer Dr. Fred Tagahnye mentioned that the District Health Officers office is trying to establish youth friendly corners at the health centers and facilities across the region. The youth friendly corners will ensure that young people freely access health centers to get the information and support they need when it comes to SRHR.
Also present at the summit was Nyende Mohammad, a religious leader who asked religious leaders to get involved in sensitizing young people in their communities on SRHR and also highlighted that lack of information is one of the reasons for the high rates of teenage pregnancies in Mayuge and Eastern Uganda.
Access to SRHR information and services is a great advantage to many young people in Eastern Uganda and the country as a whole. With access to the relevant information, young people will be able to make informed decisions about their sexual reproductive health. It is also important to continuously engage local leaders, religious leaders, parents and the community as a whole on matters to do with SRHR