Teenage mothers have a right to go back to school
East West Management Institute- EWMI began the implementation of Uganda Civil Society Strengthening Activity (CSSA), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented in partnership with International Center for Nonprofit Law (ICNL), Uganda’s Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA), Common Ground Consulting (CGC), and a number of other Ugandan civil society organizations and small businesses and I am privileged to be among the leaders that are being mentored and trained. We started in January of this year and we have learned a-lot especially on servant leadership and personal growth. When our trainers mentioned that each of us will have to implement a project during this program to test our leadership abilities, I didn’t have to look very far for my project than the ever increasing teenage pregnancy and child marriages in Uganda, which I started to implement this June.
According to Makerere university school of public health, the number of teenage pregnancies rose by 28% during the first lockdown and increased significantly during the second lockdown since the schools were also closed. The ministry of education says pregnancies among school girls have risen by 30% since the covid-19 breakout. Unlike well-to-do areas, slum teenage girls are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse since they are too poor to afford basic needs like food and education. The years I have spent working in slum areas have taught me that poverty was born in slums and it grows daily which pushes the slum dwellers into the wall and they have to look for means of survival.
Community leaders and parents have a big role to play
I started with meeting the local leaders and the community to inform them about the project and their role in ending this vice that is eating up the future of the girl child. We discussed intensively on the causes of teenage pregnancy and how they can be prevented because community has a big role to play if teenage pregnancy is to end. Parents need to be present to take care of their children, “make your children become your friends that they can tell you anything about them or what someone else is doing to them” one mother noted. Learn to be a good listener and not as judge because some of these girls were impregnated by their fathers and uncles, the very people that are supposed to protect them but seek understanding as you listen. when happened to the community raising community children? where did the good traditions go? The men impregnating the teenage girls and children are from within the community and they should be dealt with by applying the law.
STOP Stigmatizing the teenage mothers
When I reached out to most teenage mothers, some didn’t want to leave their houses for the fear of how people will look at them and the insulting words that follow them when they are walking on the street. For one girl in particular, it was a tag of war to get her to SYRADO offices because, since she got pregnant she has never left the house, she does everything inside the house to avoid people’s judging words and eyes. The moment the community knew she was pregnant, all she got we were insults that even her mother wanted to throw her on the streets. We found out that she is now depressed and went into self condemnation, we have heard to talk to our counsellor to reach out to her and empower her. “We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, if one says he/she is not a sinner is liar” those are the words found in the bible which I follow. Who are you then to judge another? Show these girls mercy and kindness, because most of them were raped and abused to be where they are now, some is. because of the fallen society morals and lack of sex education from their parents or the community.
RIGHT to EDUCATION
Teenage mothers should not be denied their right ti go back to school after giving birth. Stop this saying that they will spoil other children if they mix with others. They have already been through so much and if they feel that they can go back to school and concentrate on their studies why stop them. Everyone deserves a second chance in life, their future depends on this education. The government and civil society need to counsel the teachers and students not to discriminate or stigmatize teenage mothers because they deserve equity and a fair treatment. Also the girls need to be empowered to know that what they have gone through is not the end of life, they can still achieve their goals and dreams if they work towards it by going back to school and finish their education. Most of these girls need to be empowered because their self esteem has been shut down and some hate themselves because of the ordeal they have gone through.
Hold a TEENAGE Mother’s Hand today
Most to the teenage mothers in the slums that I have spoken to, are willing to go back to school after nursing their babies but most of them lack the financial capacity to do so. some don’t even have any source of income since most are orphans leaving with relatives, others are from very poor families while others are from single mothers. I found out that most of them do peddling for a living which is not sustainable now that KCCA has removed them from the streets.
The re-usable sanitary pad making project
After making some research, I found out that most teenage girls in the slums have no sanitary pads during their menstrual periods. This is a necessary especially for teenage mothers who have their hands full to buy sanitary towels. This project is empowering 20 teenage mothers with re-usable sanitary pads making skills not just for themselves but for income also. I believe in teaching them how to fish than giving them a fish. After learning they will be able to make for sale to sustain themselves and their children. We are working with 20 teenage girls from Katanga and Kamwokya but there are many in these area and also in different slums but need help but due to financial constrains, can only work with these for now. I still believe one life changed is better than sitting and waiting for big things to happen. Start with what you have to help and support one teenage mother in your community or you can also partner with us to reach more teenage mothers in the slums.