Uganda Youth and Adolescents  Forum with support from UNIVERSITAIR CENTRUM VOOR ONTWIKKELINGSSAMENWERKING (UCOS) is implementing a project in Kyegegwa district dubbed the Youth Advocacy Champions for Change project. This project seeks to address teenage pregnancy and child marriage in Kyegegwa district. Teenage pregnancy, or adolescent pregnancy, is pregnancy in girls aged 10-19. In Uganda, 1 in 4 girls aged 10-19 is pregnant or has already engaged in childbirth. In Kyegegwa district, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdown effects that led to school closure worsened the situation with many girls reporting early and unintended pregnancies often as a result of sexual violence including rape, defilement, sexual exploitation among others. According to data obtained from the district biostatistician, in 2020/21 out of all the pregnant women who attended their first ANC, 5,212 were 19 years and below. Addressing the teenage pregnancy and child marriage problem in Kyegeggwa, therefore, requires evidence-based and high-impact multi-sectoral interventions that draw a wide range of players together to take action.

Teenage pregnancy and child marriage were already a huge burden that the district was trying to address but with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, multi-sectoral interventions are needed to curb the sky-rocketing numbers and reduce the adverse effects of teenage pregnancy and child marriage on adolescent girls, their families, their communities and the district at large. On 6th May 2021, the UYHAF team held a planning meeting with the District Health Team in the council hall to discuss the development of a District Action Plan to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Kyegegwa district. The meeting was attended by 9 participants (5 F, 4 M).

Ms. Norah Nakyegera the advocacy and campaigns officer gave brief introductory remarks about Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF). UYAHF is a dynamic youth-led and youth-serving health and human rights organization that works to advance and promote sexual reproductive health and rights for young people, enhance gender equality and economic empowerment and promote meaningful participation. Our primary targets are the adolescents and young people who are in and out of school and our secondary targets are the policy and decision-makers, religious and cultural leaders, teachers, health workers, parents, media among others. Our geographical scope is in Mbale, Butalejja, Tororo, Kyegegwa, Moroto, Hoima, Fort portal, Rakai among others.  UYAHF’s niche is policy advocacy and that is one of the reasons we are here today, ‘said Ms. Norah Nakyegera.UYHAF wants to jointly develop a costed District Action plan which we shall use to advocate for the reduction of teenage pregnancies and child marriages within the district.

Mr. Kandole Tedson the acting DHO Kegegwa in his remarks informed the team that he was grateful to UYHAF because when one looks at the district data the rates of teenage pregnancy and child marriage keep raising. On all the various forums where am called upon to speak about adolescents, I always conclude by asking people to support the district to address the issue of teenage pregnancy and child marriage. Am glad my asks have finally been responded to, My humble appeal is that all the people on the District Health Team embrace this great initiative and not to frustrate the UYHAF team efforts said ‘Mr. Kandole Tedson’

Mr. Mwesigye Patrick the team leader from UYHAF informed the District Health Team that UYHAF wasn’t new in the district as seen from the several activities they have implemented such as school and community outreaches, mentored a breed of youth leaders that are passionate about young people, equipped the Sweswe youth center with items among others.  One of the negative results from the pandemic is the rising rates of teenage pregnancies that districts are struggling with. The saddest part is that for some of these girls pregnancy means dropping out of school and playing wifely duties.  The reason you were invited is for you to guide us as we implement the District Action plan and we want its development to have a multi-sectoral approach. How best can we address the issue of teenage pregnancy and child marriage from a service delivery point, religious point, educational point the among others.  The District Action Plan will be costed to enable the team to know the resources needed to address the issue of teenage pregnancy and child marriages. By the end of the meeting, participants had developed the road map for the development and launching of the District costed Action plan.