On October 15th, 2021, the Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum held one of its own kind inter-generational policy level dialogues on addressing maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions and teenage pregnancies in Moroto district in the Karamoja region.
The dialogue brought together 56 key stakeholders including the District LC5 chairperson, The Chief Administrative Officer, the District Health Officer, the secretary for health, the District Police Commander, the District Education officer, teachers, health workers, young people, and representatives of youth-led organizations.
It was organized under the objective of building young people’s capacity in lobbying and advocacy to demand and hold accountable policymakers and duty bearers to create a supportive social, legal, and policy environment that advances access to quality and youth-friendly sexual reproductive health services, including safe abortion and family planning.
During the discussion, Mr. Koryawa David, the District LCV chairperson, stated that Western culture is one of the major contributors to the SRHR challenges that young people face. He said young people watch pornography on social media platforms, and this influences their sexual behavior.
According to Nangiro Simon Peter, a cultural leader, the local culture does not accept sex before marriage, but this is changing because young people are using their phones to watch pornographic videos.
“Many young people are constantly glued to their smartphones, watching pornography and other inappropriate content for their age. As a result, they are sometimes enticed to practice what they see, which has greatly contributed to behavioral changes and an increase in teen pregnancies in some parts of Karamoja, particularly in major cities, “Nangiro added.
During the discussion, it was also brought up that school closures due to COVID-19 have increased the number of teen pregnancies and child marriages in the district. The participants agreed that young people have become idle, particularly boys, who have turned to drug abuse, leading them to engage in unacceptable and illegal behaviors such as rape.
Furthermore, according to Kongai Christine of DMOS Clinic, a midwife, cultural norms have hampered the uptake of SRHR services such as family planning due to myths and misconceptions. She went on to say that young people are hindered by the inadequacy or scarcity of family planning commodities in most health facilities, which prevents them from using them.
One of the young people, Nakalei Aurelia, believes that parents have neglected their roles in their children’s upbringing, contributing to moral decay.
“Parents are more concerned with their businesses, particularly in urban areas, and forget about their children, leaving the children free to do whatever they want, including adopting bad behavior from peers,” she added.
Mr. Abel Barugahare, the District Police Commander, revealed that the biggest challenge is parents who are not supportive when it comes to reporting cases to the police, particularly teen pregnancies and rape. He explained that when parents refuse to testify, they instead engage in negotiations with their fellow elders and dialogue about a specific issue, such as child marriage, and the case is eventually dismissed.
At the end of the dialogue, the various stakeholders signed a commitment board as a sign of intent to take action on the highlighted challenges, particularly addressing maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions and teen pregnancies in the district.
Among the commitments, the Moroto DPC committed to always following up on rape, defilement, teen pregnancy, and child marriage cases that were reported.
The Deputy CAO also promised to connect UYAHF with other implementing partners in the district to help amplify the fight against the SRHR challenges confronting the region’s young people.