Delay Marriage Promote Schooling for Ugandan Girls

by Joy for Children-Uganda
Delay Marriage Promote Schooling for Ugandan Girls
Delay Marriage Promote Schooling for Ugandan Girls
Delay Marriage Promote Schooling for Ugandan Girls
Delay Marriage Promote Schooling for Ugandan Girls
Delay Marriage Promote Schooling for Ugandan Girls
Delay Marriage Promote Schooling for Ugandan Girls

Child marriage is a human rights violation; girls are at a higher risk compared to the boys. Girls who are married off at an early age are likely to drop out of school, become child mothers, endure complications from child birth, and often experience gender based violence.

Approximately 650 million girls are married before their 18th birthday (UNICEF 2018) In Uganda; there are 5 million child brides of which 1.3 million are below the age of 15 years. (UNICEF global data bases 2020.) Children in Rural areas are more affected by child marriage than those in urban areas which is highly attributed to poverty and conservative cultural norms and traditions that perceive the girl child as being inferior to the male child. The poorer is the family, the more the girl would be subjected to this practice for economic purposes (World Bank, n.d)

Ending Child marriage today could generate up to $2.7 billion for Uganda in annual benefits by 2030(World Bank report 2017).

Joy for Children –Uganda and World Vision –Uganda chair the Girls Not Brides –Uganda (GNBU) a national alliance with a membership of 103 Non-Governmental Organizations at community, district, regional and national level committed to Ending Child Marriage and enabling girls fulfill their potential. It has been a key partner to the Ugandan government in implementing the National Strategy to End Child Marriages and Teenage Pregnancies. (2014/2015 -2019/2020). The strategy is currently under mid-term review with UNICEF, UNFPA and Ministry of Gender, Labor and social development. The key strategic focus areas are; improved policy and legal environment to protect children and promotion of the girl child’s rights; improved access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, education, child protection services and other opportunities; changing dominant thinking and social norms related to child marriage in the communities; empowerment of both girls and boys with correct information to enable them recognize child marriage and early pregnancy as a gross violation of their rights and take mitigating action; and coordination, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the implementation of the strategy.

In November 2018, GNBU convened its first ever national summit to end child marriage in Uganda and it later proceeded to the following years leading to the fourth summit that is happening on the 30th November during the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala 2021 with pre-summit events in western, northern and south western regions. The national event will be hybrid.

GNBU joins the Generation Equality Forum which is an international initiative in favor of gender equality organized by UN Women and co-chaired France and Mexico governments in partnership with the civil society.

Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the risk factors for Violence against Children including harmful practices like child marriage, lockdowns and school closures have led to school dropouts and this has put girls at risk of teenage pregnancies. It has been estimated that 11 million girls may not return to school because of covid-19, thereby increasing their risk of child marriage. (UNICEF)

The purpose of the summit is to provide a regional and national platform where governments, civil society, UN agencies, private sector, academia, girls, policy makers, religious and cultural leaders will meet to discuss about the situation of human rights of girls in the country, provide a platform where girls voices are amplified and an opportunity to rally governments accountability towards the commitments made in promoting the rights of girls in Uganda.

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On the International day of the Girl child, October 11th 2021, Joy for Children-Uganda recognizes the rights of girls and the challenges they face every day.

The international day of the girl child focuses attention to addressing the challenges that girls go through and promote girls empowerment especially during these unprecedented times of covid-19. Girls have the right to a safe and healthy life. If they are effectively supported even in the face of covid-19, Girls have the potential to change the world.

The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development Goal 5 which is bold and broad focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. But tackling the underlying gender inequalities that exist between men and women doesn’t end with one goal; the other 16 goals cannot be achieved without empowering girls, women, boys and men to achieve their full potential.

The covid-19 pandemic made these inequalities even more severe where lockdowns have increased violence against women, 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 years being violently abused (UN WOMEN). The Uganda Police annual crime report (2020) reported 1,521 women were raped, 17,644 domestic violence cases of which 13,145 are female adults and 14,134 are female juveniles. There has been a rise in teenage pregnancies which has been largely attributed to closure of schools in response to managing covid-19 pandemic. A survey carried out by Plan International- Uganda reveals 8,736 teen girls aged 15-19 years were defiled and impregnated in Lango sub-region between April and June 2020.Reports of the daily’s also indicated 950 teen pregnancies in Kabale and 1,300 in Rukungiri.

These sobering statistics provide the momentum for change and it is possible if governments, civil society, teachers, parents and the girls themselves came together to solve for a common challenge. Despite the challenges that girls continue to face around the world, many organizations and policies have attempted to address the needs of girls.

International day of the girl child 2021 theme; “Digital Generation, Our Generation”.

The covid-19 pandemic has changed how things operate around the world, re-emphasizing the importance of digital technology and digital transformations which have become the new normal on many fronts in the face of the pandemic. It has accelerated the use of digital platforms for learning, earning and connecting yet 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 still do not access internet at home. (UNICEF).The platforms have come in handy in facilitating remote learning. According to Uganda communications commission, 48% of the population are using internet.

But what do these digital transforms mean for girls who cannot access digital devicesparticularly those in rural areas this is due to the fact that either these girls cannot afford the devices/internet or due to social norms that deter women and girls from accessing information using digital platforms.

“The covid 19 pandemic took the world by storm and many countries especially those in the global south are yet to learn how to deal with it. School has remained closed for nearly two years, businesses disrupted by lockdowns for months threatening to plunge millions into poverty”- Moses Ntenga, Executive Director, Joy for Children-Uganda.

What is more concerning is that even when the schools reopen, many children especially girls may not return to school due to high number of teen pregnancies ever recorded in recent past, poverty and permanent closure of schools that are near the learner. Like in most parts of Africa, the digital transformation would most benefit children who are in school than those out of school. And yet, with this digital revolution, will dictate on how we study, communicate or do business or deliver at work places. Girls who fail to return to school are most likely to miss other opportunities in future shrinking their chances of realizing their full potential. As actors, we need to work together, removing barriers to girls return to school in the era of covid19 pandemic.

Nearly half of the world’s population remains offline and excluded from the benefits of digitalization. (UN report October 2019), this has created a “digital divide” which has negatively affected the social-economically disadvantaged persons including women and girls. The way forward to reducing the digital divide is in recognizing the role of digital platforms which continue to convey information and increase access to learning opportunities. Girls must not be left behind; we need to move from talking to taking action if we are to achieve sustainable development Goal 5 (Gender Equality).

  • Recognize the existing gender inequalities that exist and find ways to address them to allow girls access technology.
  • Design and implement interventions focused on eliminating underlying harmful cultural and gender norms that deter women and girls from accessing information on-line.
  • Government of Uganda should provide active learning support to build digital literacy and skills.
  • Ease access to low-cost technologies and digital training for girls while safeguarding their online safety and privacy.
  • Programs should embed gender in all the activities, collect data on gender to aid in project implementation and how the activities directly impact the girls.
  • Develop policies and strategies that confront barriers to Gender equality and digital access.
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A visit to one of the internally displaced camps in Kasese district, one is welcomed by smiling faces from innocent Children and teenagers mostly below 18 years of age. Hundreds of households were displaced by Floods after River Nyamwamba burst its banks in May 2020.

According to the internally Displaced Monitoring Center (IDMC, 2019) around 16.1 million people in the world were displaced in 2018 because of weather-related events; among them 33 %( 5.4 million) were displaced by floods.

According to the office of the prime minister, disaster department, 65,250 people have been displaced by floods. (Uganda –Flood Impact Mobility Assessment, 4th-28th may 2020)

Hundreds of households have sought refuge in camps and nearby schools. The displacements do not spare the young as they automatically move with their parents or Guardians in times of disasters. They are forced to flee their homes due to the damage caused by the disasters but have not crossed international borders.

On a visit by Joy for Children-Uganda to Kanyangeya internally displaced peoples camp in Kasese district, western Uganda parents spoke of walking for hours to search for fire wood, food and water.

“Every morning i walk from here to Rukoki and Kahonda in search for work so that I can feed my Family, on my way I have search for firewood to use the next day. I cannot sit at home because we have no food”, said the mother of four.

She said she eagerly waits when the Government will relocate them to a safer place with decent accommodation.

One of her daughters, Olivia (not real name) was knocked down by a speeding motor cycle as she was crossing the road to go and look for food.

“I was at home and my siblings started crying because of hunger, so I had to run to look for food but unfortunately as I was entering the road, a motor cycle knocked me and I started bleeding”, says Olivia as she points to the injury on her forehead.

The mud sucks at the little Children’s feet as they play about in the camp and water enters the make shift structures whenever it rains. The head of the household Ndaizimana says the floods destroyed their house, crops and life has been tough ever since they relocated to the camp.

The Children only feed on one a meal day and the adults often sleep hungry or they collect wild fruits for food. She says she has limited knowledge about covid-19 because they have no access to television or radio in the camp.

“We only heard about corona virus when we were still school and we live our normal life in the camp without any precautions of avoiding the virus,” she adds.

On 5th September, Joy for Children-Uganda visited Kanyangeya camp for the displaced persons and talked to the teenage girls and distributed sanitary towels to the girls who are currently out of school due to closure of schools and floods. Kasese has been among the districts with high cases of teenage pregnancies in the country since March 2020(2300 cases).

The challenges they express are majorly the lack of sanitary towels, lack of education materials, food and sexual and reproductive health services. Some of the young girls confessed to having slept with older men to get money for buying sanitary towels.

Our campaign is still running and we request for your kind donations to continue supporting these girls so that they can keep in school.

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As the second wave of the corona virus infections continue to raise in Uganda with 92,490 and 2,557 Deaths (Ministry of Health), Government  put in place measures to curb the rapid spread of the deadly virus. The measures have had an influence on both the young and the old but Children living in the slums have been affected the most.

In the slums of Kampala, the country’s capital city, Misery and pain are evident. Households are constantly suffering from hunger due to the loss of jobs and immobility. Children have also been obligated to sell merchandise on the streets to support their household incomes and retire home in the evening.

“The days are tough, many of us are not happy because we do not have what to eat. When we get food from well wishers, we eat one meal a day, so that food can take us for many days”, said a 16 year old Girl in Bwaise, Kampala.

The above narration tells a story of how the hunger situation is dreadful; it not only shows how these Children lack access to food but also intimates their susceptibility to diseases and malnutrition.

Growing up in the slums is already an unfortunate experience, but greater despair comes with the hardships caused the covid-19 pandemic. The communities are characterized by filthy structures, typically lack safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and there is usually shortage of space inside the houses where the Children live. On a normal day, some of the Children in the slums are involved in several activities to supplement on their household incomes for insistence finding metal scraps on the streets to sell to auto mechanics. Unfortunately for these Children, their daily activities have been halted by the Lockdown restrictions.

The pandemic has intensified the vulnerability of the Children in the communities, some of them lack face masks yet they interact with other Children who are as vulnerable as they are. Others share masks or pick used masks on the road. This threatens their health and the people they live with.

Temporary school closures have also exposed young Girls to Child marriage; 17,000 teenage pregnancies have been registered in Northern Uganda (NTV-Uganda) during lockdown. There is a strong connection between Girls being out of school and them being forced into marriage. School is not only a place for learning but also provides a safe space from violence .As Children in urban schools resorted to e-learning; it was not a feasible option for most Children in the slums. A recent report by NBS, a local television station in Uganda revealed that Parents in Amudat district are selling off their daughters as young as 10 years into marriage to cope with the economic situation created by Lockdown.

Teenage Girls are also in need of sanitary towels as most of the households no longer afford to provide them for their Children.

Joy for Children-Uganda works with Women in the four slum of Kampala –Makerere Kivulu, Bwaise, Bukoto and Mulago. We reached out to some Households within the communities with relief items such as Maize flour, Beans, soap, sugar and cooking oil. This so little compared to the need that is evident in the communities. We are also working with parliamentarians to urge the Government develop policies and strategies to protect Girls from the escalating cases of Teenage Pregnancy and Child marriage during and after the Covid -19 pandemic. Community dialogues with religious and local government structures to enforce the already existing laws to protect Children from abuse.

The plights of the Children and women calls for a prompt response to provide relief and welfare items to them and if possible conduct covid-19 testing in the communities

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Uganda registered the first case of COVID19 in March 2020 which led to the closure of all institutions of learning. More than 15 million learners were sent home in response to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Uganda has been grappling with cases of Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy at 35% and 25% respectively, the closure of schools and countrywide lockdown has precipitated violence against children including sexual abuse and exploitation. This has led to the surge in numbers of girls getting pregnant and those being forced into marriage. Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy are violations of children’s rights and expose them to unwanted pregnancies, health complications during delivery, risks of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, interruptions in their educational progress, further precipitating the vicious cycle of poverty.

With a new lockdown in Uganda for more than 42 days, many girls are at risk of sexual abuse that might result into pregnancy and marriage. We need to take action; mobilize citizens to ask the government to prevent and respond to cases of Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda. We also need to call upon the private sector, civil society organizations and all people of good will to take action to prevent abuse of girls.

It’s against this background, that we organized an online campaign dubbed tweet chat to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda on Thursday 24.06.2021, 2:00pm to 3:30pm. The momentum will be sustained throughout the lockdown and leading into the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence and the National Girl Summit in November 2021.

Goal: Uganda without Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy

Objectives:

Objective 1: Raise awareness about extent and impact of Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda.

 Objective: 2: National and local leaders mobilized and taking action against child marriage and teenage pregnancies.

Objective 3: Programs and project in place to prevent child marriage and teenage pregnancy and supporting teenage mothers and married girls.

We had a set of questions in regards to Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnacy and below are some of the responses we gathered.

 

  1. What are the triggers or drivers of Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancies in your community?
  • Poverty: Poverty has been reported to fuel the prevalence of child marriage in many communities in Uganda where the girl may be conserved as an economic an asset from which families can gain wealth (Rubin et al. 2009, Lubaale 2013).
  • personal beliefs and practices that promote and perpetuate the practice of child marriage.
  • High levels of illiteracy among both families.
  • Political and financial reasons.
  • Cultural practices like Female Genital Mutilation like Labia elongating among the Baganda girls which impliedly communicate to young girls that they are ready for marriage hence the increasing numbers on early sex debut among adolescent girls.

2.Who is most at risk of child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Uganda?

  •  Girls / children  from poor/ vulnerable household .
  • Girls / children   that are out of school
  •  Girls / children  leaving in humanitarian or emergency situations  eg refugees and refugees hosting communities
  • Girls from communities where Female genital mutilation is practiced – for example sebei region in eastern Uganda
  • Girls in one roomed homes that overhear their parents/guardians having sex in the night. This exposure predisposes them.

3. What laws and policies exist in Uganda against child marriage and teenage pregnancy and how effective have they been?

 

  • Articles 31(1) and 34 (4) of the Constitution prohibit child marriage and obligate parents to care for and bring up their children respectively
  •  The right to family and marriage is provided for in the Uganda 1995 Constitution with the age of consent (minimum legal age for marriage) set at 18 years for both males and females (Republic of Uganda, 1995)
  •  The Uganda Constitution (1995) sets the age of marriage at 18 years
  •  The Children Act, Cap. 59 and the Penal Code Act Cap. 120, all contain specific provisions aimed at protecting the girl child against sexual offences including rape, defilement, and child marriage, both within the community and the family setting

 Uganda has also ratified a number of International Conventions aimed at the protection against human rights abuse and child marriage of the girl child including;

  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
    Against Women;
  • the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s
    Rights on the Rights of women in Africa;
  • the Maputo Plan of Action; and
  • The International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural
    Rights;

Policies 

1. National strategy to end child marriage.

2. The National Framework for Adolescent Girls In Uganda.

3. The multi sectoral communication for development strategy for adolescent Girls in Uganda.

4.The National Sexuality Education Framework.

4. What can be done to protect Girls against Child marriage and teenage pregnancies during lockdown?

  •  Sensitize Children about their rights considering that many of them hardly know that it’s against the law to be lured into marriage against their will regardless of who has pushed for or orchestrated the marriage.
  •  Since many child marriages are reported to be orchestrated by relatives, parents/guardians/relatives should be involved at the forefront of fighting against the vice, teach them about the dangers of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.

With comprehensive efforts of all key stakeholders,we strongly beleive the evil vice of Teenage preganacy and Child Marriage can be put on an end.







 



 

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Joy for Children-Uganda

Location: Kampala, Uganda - Uganda
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Twitter: @joyforchildren
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Joy for Children Uganda
Kampala, Uganda
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