Religious and cultural leaders in Kampala subregion have committed to mobilise their respective communities to challenge all forms of harmful practices and put an end to teenage pregnancies, child marriages, and restrictive cultural norms that promote gender inequality.

They made the commitment during a one-day orientation workshop for religious & cultural leaders on strategies to end teenage pregnancy, harmful practices, sexual gender-based violence and improving access to quality family planning services in communities held at fairway hotel Kampala on 22nd November 2022

The workshop aimed to derive commitments from religious and cultural leaders towards leveraging their platforms of influence to play a role in the elimination of teenage pregnancies, harmful practices (Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriages), Sexual Gender Based Violence as well as improving access to family planning services in Kampala sub-region.

It was attended by 35 participants including Reverends, Pastors, Canons, Sheiks, Imams, Amirats, and several cultural leaders who shared their personal and community experiences on some of the harmful practices and key drivers to teenage pregnancy and child marriages.

While welcoming the participants to the workshop, Leah Oketcho Grace, the Power to Youth project coordinator UYAHF, noted that they are a unique group because they have much more influence both spiritually and morally in their communities and they command an obedient audience that listens to them.

“It is that power, that influence and decision-making ability that makes us want to front you as influencers, champions and frontliners in challenging these issues and normalise the use of family planning methods and contraceptives.” Oketcho added

Sheikh Ali, an Imam and theology expert while sharing his opinion on the key drivers to some of the harmful practices, noted that men and boys are often left out in sexuality education which creates a communication gap which in the long run perpetuates harmful practices.

“We appreciate the fact that girls are more vulnerable and they need help but what about the young boys, the men who are directly responsible for all these.

He further noted that in Kampala, the gender roles, and negative social norms often are abused/exploited at the expense of adolescent girls and women (AGYW)”

While Reverend Nathan, a well-known sexual and reproductive health advocate, stated that as long as there is a beneficiary in child marriages, it will be difficult to put an end to them. Rev Nathan proposed that key stakeholders, including all religious and cultural leaders in the room, address the vices and causes of child marriages in order to eradicate them from society.

In the discussion, it was noticed that there is also a gap between parents and young people that needs to be bridged. The leaders re-emphasized the need for parents to retake their roles to improve access to information for their children, in addition to other avenues.

Additionally, most of the religious and cultural leaders were not aware of the provisions in the law that speak about children’s rights specifically article 31 on rights of the family and 34 on rights of children which protect children under the age of 18 years from child marriages among other harmful practices and speaks to their rights as children in general as well as the role of parents/legal guardians.

The participants developed a road map on how they are going to involve other community and religious leaders to fight the harmful pratices by incorporating messages on ending teenage pregnancy, child marriages and SGBV in their prayer and sermon sessions.

Reverad Mugalu Nathan agreed to form and lead a committee of members who will be in charge of checking the progress of what the religious and cultural leaders are doing in regards to what they have learnt and the commitments they have made towards ending teenage pregnancy and child marriage.

Conclusively they developed an interfaith action and commitment document with advocacy messages which they will use as a guiding tool towards advocating for girls` rights and championing the fight against all the SRHR challenges facing the young people