“For young people, especially girls, the beginning of a marriage is often the end of their education. However, “while marriage can wait, education can’t”, said Kyateeka Mondo, the assistant Commissioner for Youth and Children Affairs. He officiated the 4th ‘Girls Not Brides’ meeting on Thursday the 13th June 2019, at Nyumbani Hotel.

Some of the members on the steering committee during the Annual General Meeting

According to Kyateeka, many of the forms of violence in our communities are as a result of the many child marriages and teenage pregnancies, which robs them of their rights and dignity. Child marriage is a human rights violation that robs girls of their childhoods and denies them the opportunities to determine their own futures and moreover, that of the nation, Mr. Kyateeka stated.

According to the advocacy issue paper, which Girls Not Brides GNB) published for the day, ending child marriages could generate 2.7 billion USD in annual benefits (in purchasing power parity terms).  This, simply from lower population growth and a reduction in mortality stunting rates of young people under the age of five.

In Uganda, more than one-third of girls still get married as children. In some regions, even more, than half of the young women end their childhoods through marriage. Globally, an estimated 41,000 girls fall victim of the practice daily, resulting in a range of negative outcomes that follow the women throughout their lives and even affect their future generations.

Partners during the meeting

During the discussions, Ruth Muguta, the head of the family protection unit at the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development (MoGLSD), revealed that efforts towards ending child marriages are being hampered by dysfunctional families. That is because they make reintegration of teenage pregnancy victims very difficult. Therefore, she appreciated the alliance for helping in bridging this gap. “Teenage pregnancies and child marriages could easily be dealt with if there was sanity at the family level”, says Ruth as she unpacked the parenting guidelines that were formulated by the ministry.

She challenged men to take lead as family heads. Also, Mr. Muddu Kayinga, of the national steering committee -Men Engage Uganda, supports the idea of men involvement.  “We need to change perceptions that the patriarchal society holds against women. Men, therefore, need to start treating women as equals, not as subordinates’, said Mr. Kayinga.

Esther Nasikye, from World Vision, implored partners to maintain a strong partnership towards the common cause. “We need to solidify our connections towards achieving what we believe in”, she said. Also, Moses Ntenga re-emphasized the need to consolidate different partner approaches, in order to end the vice.  

The meeting formulated working clusters from which partner organization will be grounding their strategies to end teenage pregnancies and child marriages. These included among other things, education, livelihood, youth, health, and legal services. The Annual General Meeting also elected new, regional and representative members to add to the existing steering committee. The meeting also awarded distinguished members who have worked exceptionally hard to the fulfillment of ‘Girls not Brides’.

Currently, with 86 partner members, of which 56 are youth-led and serving, the ‘Girls not Brides’- alliance in Uganda started in January 2013. Their aim is to end teenage pregnancies and child marriages in Uganda, and they are still actively fighting to achieve this goal. Uganda Youth and adolescents health forum –UYAHF is happy to be part of this mighty alliance.