Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda

by Share Child Opportunity Eastern and Northen Uganda (SCOEN)
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Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda
Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda

Engaging youth through sexual health education to end child marriage

Our SCOEN's campaign/project is tailored to impart nuggets of information, inspiration and motivation in regards to sexual reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, life skills, teenage pregnancy to mention but a few.

 In the January to march, the girls parliament aimed at addressing youth issues in the quest to help young people make informed choices in life, and is set out to advocate for the issues that are impacting young people in Uganda and to hold policy makers and leaders accountable for the decisions that directly affect the youth. More importantly is to empower the youth to take responsibility for receiving knowledge and demanding for the access to sexual and reproductive health rights information and services as well as empowering their peers with the same ti end child marriage.

The girl parliament  brings together young people, government officials, policymakers, leaders, development partners, media and civil society towards the improvement of the Adolescents and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights with interest to end child marriage

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SCOEN's Girlss' Parliament initiate the voices and leadership of adolescent girls to address the root causes of child and early forced marriage.

In the 5 minutes it takes you to read this post, 152 girls under the age of 18 will get married—whether they want to or not. 12.5 of those girls are getting married because of the stresses COVID-19 has put on their lives, families, and communities. That’s hurting the girls and their life chances. It’s also hurting their communities, their nations, and generations to come.

SCOEN is committed to learn from and support diverse women and girls to challenge injustice, and strive for a world that is equal for all genders. Child and early forced marriage  undermines the effectiveness of those efforts including health, education, and overall equality  for girls in their families, communities, and world at large. With the support of The individual donors GlobalGiving and The Beyond Our Borders.

What changes have we seen?

  • Girls feel more confident because they have had more changes to lead. The Girls Parliament facilitated a safety mapping between the girls and boys. The adolescent girls presented the findings to local officials, raising their concerns, and succeeded in receiving funds to place lights in the identified unsafe locations.
  • Adolescent girls are challenging local norms. Recognizing dowry as harmful, adolescent girls, led a public exhibition throughout the community. After talking with boys, girls, parents, and leaders, they documented their conversations through comic character drawings answering questions like “Why the dowry?” and “How can we stop it?”. Testimonials from community members, including their vows to oppose the dowry within their families, were brought to public view to increase accountability through the comic exhibitions.
  • Boys are getting involved to support girls. Adolescent girls in are leading activities engaging boys to talk openly about menstruation.Girls learned to make washable sanitary napkins with the boys; helping with Tackling the Taboo around menstruation and resulting in a big shift in social norms—the boy are discussing menstruation and learning to sew with a needle and thread; making the menstrual pads and then distributing them in their own families, the boys are acknowledging that girls issues are their issues too.
  • Girls are advocating for their education – even when times get tough. Access to education during the pandemic has been a challenge for more reasons than one, and even more so for girls; whose parents are prioritizing their sons’ education, which puts daughters in danger of marriage (if she’s not going to school, the pressure mounts). However, girls are showing increased ability to advocate for their own education, including by communicating their aspirations through a community exhibition of drawings depicting their own ambitions and acknowledging the women who inspire them. As a result, their brothers have stepped up as allies, and parents are showing resilience, despite economic stresses, by centering their daughters’ priorities.
  • Youth are engaging in regional level advocacy. Beyond the local level connections established, youth activists in Teso, trained by Girls Parliament, have formed a network called Living out Loud to strengthen and consolidate the voices of adolescents, increasing their representation at the national level. This network will continue to engage in larger and more established movement spaces over the next year.

How did we get there?

  • Opening space for activism. Girls Parliament facilitated weekly sessions (before the pandemic) on gender inequity and sexual and reproductive health and promoted financial literacy through adolescent Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), which allow space for girls to save together while building a foundation business skills.
  • Facilitating conversations for intergenerational change.The initiative also engaged adolescents and their parents in intergenerational dialogues and community events that challenge the gendered division of labor and mobility and communication control of girls. Activist girls with opportunities to connect increase their access to technology and education, and shift the inequitable norms that lead to child marriage.
  • Prioritizing locally-driven change. SCOEN relies on local solutions to respond to the needs of the communities where we work for a sustainable end to child marriage. The Girls Parliament worked with partners who bring years of experience to our collaborative effort. The initiative has shifted its partnership model to connect girl activists with social movements, women’s rights and girls’ rights organizations and coalitions that seek to expand the voices, choices and agency of girls. This diverse set of actors in each context is instrumental to driving girl-centered change.
  • Adapting to the needs of girls during COVID-19. Supporting girl activists through mobile devices during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place directives, The initiative took the opportunity of more men being at home consistently to shift gender norms and relations to become more equitable. Norms that were addressed include the household division of labor and unpaid care work – e.g. water collection and work related to hygiene practices – which we know can positively affect the incidences of gender-based violence, including child marriage.
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With the Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda sessions we aimed at identifying the role of community engagement to to ending CEFM through ensuring equitable access of marginalised and out-of-school girls to education and training. 

To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, emphasises the need for “providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes [which] will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large”

Millions of girls are forced into early marriage for economic and cultural reasons and denied the opportunity for education. Within the context of sustainable development, it is critical to raise awareness among communities that child marriage has wide ranging negative consequences for development and that allowing girls to have education and training can add enormous value to their society as well as their personal and family lives. 

 

Sensitizing traditional communities about the dangers of child marriage. 52 Local communities have been sensitized about the dangers of child marriage.

In our sessions the following was passes out to the communities; Girls who get married before the age of 18 are at a higher risk of dying during childbirth. More so, when a child is born of a mother younger than 18, research shows there is a higher risk of him or her suffering from either stunting (physical and mental underdevelopment through undernutrition) or mortality. In addition, girls who marry early are more likely to experience poor health, have more children over their lifetime, and earn less in adulthood. This makes it more likely that their household will live in poverty. SCOEN therefore holds monthly sensitization workshops, community dialogues and parents schools in different Ugandan communities because together we can end child marriage.

 

This has created a platform that promotes critical reflection and allows for questioning of beliefs, myths, and practices in order to realize a change in social norms, accelerating the reduction of child marriage & gender-based violence. With 820 girls by our change agents as ways of a raising awareness on their rights; disseminated information on SRHR & Child Marriage among 112 communities, reached 164 policy implementers, and 2552 parents/leaders able to protect-support their daughters as rights advocates, take action alongside other community members to end child marriage.

The notes were qualitatively analyzed for themes relating to the key questions, and the following major findings relevant to child protection emerged:

 

The home and school contexts—where children spend most of their time—remain key spaces to target in child protection efforts.

Adequate provisions, resources, and facilities are fundamental to supporting children’s health, safety, and wellbeing. Within the home, this means ensuring the presence of basic physical necessities and positive socio-emotional relationships between parents and children. At school, this means promoting a sense of belonging, clean and safe environments, recreational activities such as games and sports, and good interpersonal relationships.

Social-emotional climates and interpersonal relationships should be a key target area for child protection strategies.

Girls and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by harmful factors in their environments. Girls are particularly harmed by sexual abuse at school, sexual activity and early pregnancy, gender-specific barriers to educational achievement, and gender-specific norms at home. Children with disabilities are ignored and sometimes even abused in their environment. Strategies to protect children and improve wellbeing must address these factors.

Thank you to our supporters and donaors, by adding your donation, you've become a part of our community of supporters and we're thrilled to have you on the team. We'll send you an update through GlobalGiving three or four times a year to tell you about the impact you've made.

 

You can advocate for us by sharing our mission with a family member or friend. Even a quick mention on your social media would mean the world to us. In times like this, we’re reminded of how interconnected we all are. Thank you for being part of our community. Without you, none of it is possible and we feel privileged that you selected our project to support out of so many wonderful causes.

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Through our activity on Girls parliament to end child marriage in Uganda which is funded by Beyond Our Borders, a group-advised fund held at The Women's Foundation of Colorado through GlobalGiving, we are engaging communities in Soroti and Bukedea District in Uganda through intergenerational dialogues to collectively abandon child, early or forced marriage. We have train 48 change agents to lead the girl’s parliament in the community to hold open discussions and help their peers, family and friends re-envision how girls are treated, why their rights should be respected and why they should finish their education. One of the innovative approaches of Girls parliament is engaging with clan elders, who make decisions for the rest of the community. This approach is working. In just 5 months, we reached 99 high level clan elders, 64 child government workers, 32 policy implementer all of whom have changed their hearts and minds about child, early or forced marriage

Promising practices

Engaging and empowering local actors to identify challenges and take action in their own communities is a powerful mechanism for addressing child marriage and other forms of violence against children. Community Change is especially important in fragile contexts, where the social contract between governments and citizens is broken. An engaged community can also contribute to a decrease in child neglect, improved nutrition, and greater child participation in household and community decisions.

In our current context, SCOEN’s work with policy implementers, local community leaders has seen tremendous success. These leaders are well suited to address child marriage and violence against children because they remain trusted and respected despite weak rule of law and broken government systems. The role of local actors involves regularly bringing together groups to discuss community business, which can be an effective forum for learning and dialogue around the well-being of children. For the same reason, local councils, are also important partners for facilitating such dialogue. These local leaders understand and care deeply for the communities they serve and are key partners in SCOEN’s work to end the practice of child marriage.

local actors play vital roles in protecting teenage boys and girls from too-early sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Why involve the local actors in  Teen Pregnancy Prevention? They are natural partners:

  • focus on values;
  • have community credibility;
  • have access to young people, parents, and potential volunteers;
  • have skills in reducing conflict; and
  • are willing to provide in-kind contributions.

With Girls Parliament to end child marriage in Uganda we are involving all stake holder to including local leaders, talking about Teen Pregnancy in their local community

With our new giving Girls & Women Marketable Skills for Livelihoods cross-cutting approach addresses the divergent and driving factors undergirding the cultural acceptance of child marriage. Its holistic approach paves the way for sustainable cultural change, supporting the empowerment of young women and girls and the betterment of their families and communities. The approach focuses on providing life skills education and entrepreneurial opportunities addresses the critical underlying drivers of child marriage, including poverty and food insecurity. At the district level, the public messaging campaign is also supporting shifts to change social and cultural beliefs about child marriage. Empowering young women and girls with the skills and opportunity to advocate for themselves is an essential part of this campaign. In addition, the meaningful engagement of men and boys can help to create lasting and sustainable change to eradicate this practice. This engagement creates a lasting change in norms over time, decreasing harmful attitudes and behaviors towards child marriage.

Thanks to our donors, we’ve been able to reach girls like 15-year-old Akareut. “I think all girls should go to school and protected,” Akareut said to us when we met her. Unfortunately for Akareut, her family could not keep up with her school fees. Akareut is the third child in a family of six children, supported solely by Akareut’s mother – a domestic helper for a wealthy family. “My mom struggled a lot to send me to secondary school even though I wanted to, I am happy to a change agent hoping to change the world around girls” she said.

Outreach targeting and engaging local community leaders increase their awareness. Public education programs encourage them to emphasize to their communities that marriage requires the free and full consent of both parties. It is essential that religious and traditional leaders understand domestic laws related to forced marriage and how the practice of forced marriage violates women and girls’ human rights.

 

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Covid-19 has united the world in an incredibly unique way. While it is true that everyone has struggled with the fallout of this global pandemic, it has had more serious consequences on some of the most vulnerable populations. Unfortunately, adolescent girls have been among the most adversely affected and for some, life has become downright dangerous.

In Uganda, as with many other countries around the world, Covid-19 has resulted in an increased rate of teenage pregnancy. In order to gain basic necessities like sanitary towels, girls have engaged in transactional sex with men who take advantage of their need for money. 

“Having been impregnated, this has not only ruined my future but also the trust that my parents had in me,” says Jane, who is facing a pregnancy at just 14 years old. Now, she finds herself out of school and afraid for her future. 

Jane is not alone. In the Kitgum, Ngora, Kyegegwa, Kases and Lyantonde districts of Uganda, close to where Art of a Child operates, there have been more than 2,372 teenage pregnancies during this lockdown. Adding to the burden, many girls are left without a partner and find themselves having to be the breadwinners of their families. 

Teenage pregnancies, among other risk factors, are adding to the number of girls who are not in school. Even before Covid-19, there were 98 million adolescent girls worldwide who were not in school and research suggests the pandemic could add an additional 20 million. 

Incidence of early-childhood marriage is also on the rise as poverty caused by the pandemic has forced families to marry off their daughters to help alleviate financial burdens. In Uganda, at least 128 school-age girls have been married off in the Kyegegwa, Rakai, Kamira Sub-county, Luweero District alone.

In addition to early marriage, many girls are also having to enter the workforce at a young age to help provide for their families. In some communities, girls are also forced to take on much of the domestic work at home, keeping them from seeing their friends and joining community-building activities. When schools reopen, many of these girls will not go back.

It should be noted that Covid-19 has also resulted in a secondary health crisis in Uganda. In some communities, girls have tried to remove their unborn babies themselves to terminate their pregnancies. They are also at increased risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. 

The pandemic has also resulted in limited access to health services for girls and prescription medication has been very limited. And, the effects on girls’ mental health is equally as troubling. Without their support systems, many girls have no outlet for the stress they are feeling during this devastating time. 

“These numbers are heartbreaking. As an organization, we are moving into the rural areas now [to engage girls],” says Global G.L.O.W. partnership coordinator Susan Tusabe. “We need to do more.” 

 

As COVID-19 continues to spread, the future has never felt so unpredictable. These are challenging times for us all, and we hope you’re in good spirits and health! Right now, we’re doing everything possible to sustain daily operations and provide services to our community. While there’s a lot of uncertainty, we know that we need to adapt fast to our changing reality. Now, more than ever, our community needs us and we need you. If you’re able, please make a donation to provide emergency and preventive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to our Girls empowerment programme at: Protect 3,200 Girls From Child Marriage in Uganda; sponsor some of our change champions for skilling programs.

If you’re unable to donate at this time, there are many other ways you can support us! by providing us with releive items such us, hande sanitizers, gloves, veronica buckets for routine hand washing, nose maks for our girls.

You can advocate for us by sharing our mission with a family member or friend. Even a quick mention on your social media would mean the world to us. In times like this, we’re reminded of how interconnected we all are. Thank you for being part of our community. Without you, none of it is possible and we feel privileged that you selected our project to support out of so many wonderful causes.

By adding your donation, you've become a part of our community of supporters and we're thrilled to have you on the team. We'll send you an update through GlobalGiving three or four times a year to tell you about the impact you've made.

We'll explain what work we've accomplished and hopefully have some great photos to share! Please consider telling your friends and family about our project. Sharing with your community why you chose to support our organization will help us increase the work we can do in our community.

Testimony

"I’m a member of a girls’ parliament. Thanks to the program, I am able to help raise awareness about child marriage and listen to and support my friends who are at risk of child marriage. I connect them with the Debout Fille center. Girls participate in our parliament club meetings with their friends and are able to share their experiences."
– Patricia sexual violence suviour

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Organization Information

Share Child Opportunity Eastern and Northen Uganda (SCOEN)

Location: Soroti, Eastern Uganda - Uganda
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Scoenuganda1
Project Leader:
Hellen Ijangolet
Soroti, Eastern Uganda Uganda
$21,552 raised of $82,350 goal
 
128 donations
$60,798 to go
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