The rate of teenage pregnancies and childbirth to women of less than 20 years continue to be a major global public health concern. The issue affects more than 16 million girls and young women worldwide.
In Uganda, this engulfs a larger percentage of Uganda youth leading to school dropouts, abortions and maternal mortalities, notwithstanding the risk of descending their families into impoverishment.
The maternal mortality rate is clear as it is indicated that 16 women die everyday while giving birth and about 10 of these are young/teen mothers.
Given the recent debate on the social pageants that have exposed Uganda’s promiscuity concerns, legislative, opinion and religious leaders have suggested that the morality of our country stands at risk if this is not regulated. The conversation started as if it would not be taken serious, with disagreements on how relevant a naturally God-endowed body would trade as tourist ambassador before it was twisted to an objectification.
Behind the scenes, the conversations would later digress into confrontations on how the Minister of State for Tourism was promoting objectification of women. Mood swings arose and petitions to the Speaker of Parliament by both parties ensued and I am imagining they were heard.
The ridicule, however, remains.
As we celebrated Women’s Day yesterday, teenage pregnancies countrywide persist, but it is widespread in rural communities. Rural health centres have an unprecedented report of very young girls struggling to deliver and likely developing complications, highly associated with previous abortions to women obscurity. Infant and maternal mortality rates, school failure and dropouts, as well as limited future career opportunities, are all indicators that the society has given up. To be precise, women clearly face many risks.
While the President last year promised to bring endless child marriages to an end, little progress has been made in this regard. On my visit to primary schools in Kanungu District, I noticed that senior women and men teachers were a no show in schools. They have shared roles as matrons at primary level with little knowledge on sexual reproductive health.
On opening up on the subject, there was general consensus that it would be too early for sexual orientation to children, yet a recent survey indicates that four of seven girls who drop out of primary schools are pregnant. Researchers and policy makers have concluded that teenage pregnancy and childbearing is a problem.
According to the findings of the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016, one out four (25 per cent) girls aged 15 to 19 years, have either a child or are pregnant. There is need for an integrated approach to curb teenage pregnancy in Uganda