Some of the participants that came for the post women’s day SheDecides Open house 

Tororo district in partnership and with support from Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum UYAHF, She Decides Global movement organized the post women’s day She Decides open house under the theme “The role of Men and boys in ending teenage pregnancies and child marriage’’ on 24th March 2021, at Street ways Uganda offices, Tororo district. The post women’s day She Decides Open House was attended to by 50 participants (F 27, 23M). The post women’s day She Decides Open House was organised under the following objectives;

  1. Discuss avenues through which men and boys can lead the fight against teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
  2. Empower adolescent girls and young women with knowledge on legal provisions of the Ugandan law, regarding sexual reproductive health rights and gender equality for young people.
  3. Support She Decides friends and partners to stand up, speak out and take action so She Decides about her body with no question.
  4. To bring together different stakeholders to discuss key considerations, challenges, gaps, and opportunities concerning protecting adolescents from violence in the face of COVID19.

Ms Norah Nakyegera the advocacy and campaigns officer briefly shared with the participants about the She Decides Uganda movement. It is made up of friends and champions, young people, policymakers, politicians, women, feminists groups diplomats, media among others who yarn to have more inclusive and interactive engagements to harness energies together to stand up and take action for a world that is better, stronger and safer when She Decides. Without question. The She Decides Uganda movement was launched in June 2018, since its launch many champions including young people, policymakers, politicians, women and feminists’ groups, diplomats, media among others have committed to stand up and take action for a World that is Better, Stronger and Safer When She Decides. Without Question.

Mr Kalange Nathan Jesse Country Director Streetways Uganda while giving opening remarks informed participants that Streetways Uganda is a member of the Eastern youth network on adolescent contraception and SRHR which is made up of organizations in the districts of Mbale, Tororo and Butalejja. Streetways Uganda is an NGO that helps street children get access to education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. 98% of the children that are supported by us, do not know who and where their fathers are. It’s important for men to share the responsibility of child upbringing and not to leave it to the women. Am glad that today’s theme is around the role of boys and men in ending teenage pregnancy and child marriages because these are the biggest perpetrators. Let us brainstorm on the various ways we can work together to see that adolescents and young people enjoy their lives with dignity.

Mr Mwesigye Patrick thanked Streetways Uganda for agreeing to host this activity. Mr Mwesigye Patrick informed the participants that we live in a world where teenage pregnancies and child marriages have been normalised and this isn’t right at all. Adolescents are still young in both the mind and body, they aren’t able to make proper decisions and this is the reason why they need to continue with their education. They should get married and pregnant when they are through with their education and mature. UYAHF while implementing its activities it engages multiple stakeholders such as religious and cultural leaders, adolescents and young people, stakeholders, health workers among others. These intergenerational interactions enable each party to know the challenges experienced, solutions are shared with these dialogues teenage pregnancies and child marriage will be able to come to an end. The participants in attendance should take it upon themselves to raise awareness in their respective communities about the challenges associated with teenage pregnancy and child marriages. Teenage pregnancy has complications such as obstructed labour since their pelvic bones aren’t mature enough to deliver the baby, interrupted education, premature birth, maternal mortality among others. Some adolescents are sexually active there is a need to ensure that they freely access contraceptive services as this will enable them to know how to prevent and protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Some of these girls are pushed into child marriages because they have failed to cater for themselves and lack day to day necessities so they believe that once they are married their partners will be in a position to provide for them which isn’t usually the case.

Mr Okwange James made a presentation around the state of teenage pregnancy and child marriages in Tororo district. One of the leading causes of teenage pregnancy and child marriage is poverty stated ‘Mr.Okwange James’. Most of the families that are involved in these acts trade their daughters for material things. The number of teenage girls getting pregnant before 18 years is very alarming with the youngest victim being a 9-year-old whereas the boys have resorted to criminality and taking all sorts of drugs since they are out of school due to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Demographic health survey conducted by the district from March last year, a total of 5,616 school girls have gotten pregnant which has contributed to a high rate of school dropout leaving stakeholders in shock. The statistics were listed from 12 hotspot sub-counties which include; Osukuru, Mukuju, Kwapa, Mulanda, Magola, Iyolwa, Merikit, Kirewa, Paya, Nagongera, Kisoko and Petta. Despite the various interventions by Tororo district local government and development partners to reduce the causes of teenage pregnancy and child marriages they have remained a major challenge.

Tororo police force has done its best to fight SGBV and in situations where they can’t handle these cases, they refer them for further management. In the previous month, Tororo district has managed to have 5 defilement convictions. Many organizations in Tororo are helping the police department manage SGBV client cases such as MIFUMI that provided a doctor in the hospital where the police refer SGBV clients for management. He concluded his presentation by informing the participants that the police department encounters several challenges such as; inadequate manpower to execute the numerous tasks, lack of full orientation and training of police officers hence work overload to the experienced offices and clients don’t believe in getting services at the police outposts and all of them prefer going to CPS which leads to a work overload.

A panel discussion around the topic of the power of involving men and boys in interventions addressing gender equality and SRHR was held and it was moderated by Asiimwe Anna Ritah from Justice centres Uganda. The panel had 6 panellists, Nabwire Flavia, a young person, Rev. Masaba Paul a religious leader, Topister Nyadoi from Japhadola cultural institution representative, Mr. Ologe Albert chairperson Iteso cultural union and Pastor Annet Kimbowa are a religious leader.

Nabwire Flavia a young person shared challenges faced by adolescents and young people and how their rights can be better protected. She shared that one of the challenges faced by the youth is SGBV as seen by the high rates of teenage pregnancy, rape, child marriages, and these are common problems in my village, said Nabwire Flavia. She also shared with the participants the various ways in which the rights of adolescents and young people can be protected.

Rev. Masaba Paul shared why religious leaders don’t support certain SRH topics such as contraceptives, abortion and how the church can involve men in interventions addressing gender equality and SRHR. He informed the participants that as a church, the operational manual is the Bible and anything that isn’t biblical isn’t proper for example abortion isn’t accepted by the bible. Although the bible allows us to reproduce, let people produce the number of children that they are in a position to look after. Men can be brought on board by going to the drinking points in the trading centres where they usually gather and sensitize them about SRHR, create income-generating activities since most of them are very idle and unable to support themselves financially among others.

Topister Nyadoi from Japhadola cultural institution representative shared how a cultural institution has involved men in gender equality and SRHR. She stated that in comparison with previous years, this era has a lot of cultural erosion. They have set up structures right from the grass root level to the top and assigned 4 coordinators in every sub-county whose role is to educate people. The cultural institution has also engaged in radio talk shows and debates to sensitise the community on SRHR and the importance of male involvement. These have positively impacted the community because of the constant feedback they continue to receive from the people in the community.

Annet Kimbugwe a religious leader at one of the Pentecostal church in Tororo emphasised that since boys and men are the biggest perpetrators a ‘kisagati’ for boys and men should be put in place to help straighten the moral standards of the boys and men. Adolescents and young people need role models to look up to, older people need to carry themselves with dignity so that they are exemplary to the adolescents and young people.

Various stakeholders were called upon to give their messages of support and most of them called upon advocates to join together and use one voice to advocate for gender equality and adopt a multi sectoral approach to address the SRHR issues faced by adolescents and young people. The stakeholders also pledged to support all interventions that come on board and aim to end child marriages and teenage pregnancies.

Chief Administrative Officer Tororo Sabamo Samali in her closing remarks emphasized the need for male involvement as they are the biggest perpetrators.  Male involvement will broaden their understanding of the dangers of teenage pregnancy and child marriages and will contribute to positive behaviour change. There are many young mothers let us ensure that they aren’t stigmatized because the majority of them didn’t get pregnant at their own will. With the support from their communities, family’s teenage mothers can become valuable people in the community ‘said Sabamo Samali’.  She concluded by asking participants to always ponder on what each of them is doing at an individual level to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy.