Child marriages in Kyegegwa district hit a record high of 51.4% for girls aged 13-18 years, according to the district data obtained from the district’s bio-statistician and data from the gender department for the period of 2020 till date.

Teenage pregnancies have also shot high with 23 girls of ages 10-14, 4248 girls of age 15-19 years, and 7415 girls of age 20-24 years reporting for their first antenatal care visit. These are only cases that show up in the health facilities.

This was revealed during the district stakeholders’ consultative meeting on the development of the Kyegegwa District Costed Action Plan for ending teenage pregnancies and child marriages organized by the Uganda youth and adolescent health forum on 13th August 2021 at the district hall.

When completed, the plan will support the district to align efforts, improve coordination and allocate more resources for child protection and adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights services.

Mr. Mwesigye Patrick, the UYAHF team leader makes a presentation as the Kyegegwa district deputy CAO looks on during the stakeholders meeting at the district hall recently.

The meeting brought together various stakeholders including the RDC, DHO, CAO, CDO, Youth councilors, religious leaders, cultural leaders, teachers, health workers, police and other law enforcers, young people as well as other community and opinion leaders.

The acting District Health Officer Dr. Kandole Edison says the district is really concerned about the skyrocketing figures of teenage pregnancies.

“The trends have really gone increasing because when I reflect back in 2014, the numbers were very low and manageable but apparently we are seeing young girls below 15 years getting pregnant. For example, in the last financial year 2020/2021 we noted 66 girls under the age of 15 pregnant while over 3600 girls of age between 15 to 19 also got pregnant,” he revealed.

The acting DHO Mr. Kandole Edison gives addresses the stakeholders during the meeting.

Additionally, Mr. Byamukama Kisoke John, the Kyegegwa district LC5 chairperson said that the district reported over Ten thousand cases of teenage pregnancies and child marriages last year.

The Kyegegwa district RDC Ms. Grace Kakwenza says UYAHF has come at the right time when cases are skyrocketing and their involvement will greatly boost the effort to fight the rampant cases of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the district.

“It will be wrong for me to say that we have not worked hard to fight this problem but it is also not right for me to say that we are defeated. I have to admit that with the coming of UYAHF this will give us the district leaders more zeal and better approach to mitigate these high rates of teenage pregnancies and child marriages,” Kakwenza added.

She called for a multisectoral approach in the fight for the challenge.

Speaking to Sheikh Abdunur, the Kyegegwa district Imam who was at the meeting, he wronged some religious leaders who claim that Islam allows child marriages.

“Islam strongly calls for respect of state laws and structure, and we are all aware that the government of Uganda does not allow for marriages with a person below I8 years so anyone who goes ahead doing that is also disobeying Islamic teachings,” Sheikh Abdunur added.

Sheikh Abdunur (left) with a fellow religious leader in a focus group discussion during the meeting.

He applauded UYAHF for taking an inclusive approach by bringing on board different key players including the cultural and religious leaders for a joint fight against rampant teenage pregnancies and child marriages.

Meanwhile, the young people in Kyegegwa district have vowed to work with and hold the district accountable to ensure that the action plan meets their needs and challenges.

They made the vow during a consultative meeting held with them to also input into the costed action plan a day before the district stakeholders meeting.

Among the young people were young people living with HIV, young mothers, married girls, refugee youths, peer educators and change champions, young fathers, youth with disabilities among others all from the Kyegegwa district.