UYAHF Adolescents' Health Clinic
“I am using my personal experience, to change my community.” Meet Eveline, a beneficiary of our YMF.
It is Friday 4:30 p.m. at Peta Community Secondary school, as students race for the school exit gate to catch up with the weekend ahead, Emaly Eveline, a 17-year-old senior two student, and a young mother yet has one important item to wrap up her week before she leaves.
Every Friday is a special day for her and a team of about 4 to 8 other students, mostly seniors one, two, and three, as they convene under a noticeably big mango tree for their SRHR session.
“I have a group of girls and boys that we meet with every Friday here to share knowledge and experience. We really enjoy our sessions. With them, we discuss topics around preventing teenage pregnancy through contraception, personal hygiene, menstrual hygiene, safe sex, and challenging child marriage. I got the knowledge about these topics from the Young Mothers Forums (YMF) that I attended in 2021, organized by the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) in our village.” Eveline narrated.
With a broad smile, she confidently states that this is the most important support she can give to her fellow girls and Petta community, which is already devastated by school dropouts due to teenage pregnancies and child marriage, a practice that almost robbed her of her future two years ago.
“I want to use my experience and knowledge to support other girls to stay in school and also encourage those who are young mothers like me to get back to school” she added.
At 14 years old, Eveline got pregnant while in primary six after being sexually abused by a relatively old man during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“He told me that since COVID-19 has come, we shall not go back to school again and that he will take care of me if I am to be his girlfriend. He kept bothering me for two months, and then one day he asked me to his house, where he forced me to have sex with him.”
“Four months later, I realized that I was pregnant and informed him, but he denied the pregnancy and threatened to hurt me if I spoke out his name. Because my mother had known and already told my dad, I reported him, but unfortunately, he fled to the neighboring South Sudan in fear of being arrested.”
According to a March 27, 2021, article published by New Vision, a national newspaper, a total of 5616 girls in Tororo district got pregnant between March and December 2020, with the youngest victim being 9 years old. This statistic was listed for 12 hotspot sub-counties, including Petta, where Eveline is a resident.
“In my village alone, we are like 15 girls who have babies, many of whom got pregnant during COVID-19,” She revealed.
However, in 2021, Eveline was among the 70 young people who took part in our Young Mothers Forum (YMF) that was held at Peta Health Center III.
To her, the YMF forum ignited her lost hope. After the day-long activity, she was all changed and a well-informed young mother who wanted to reclaim her future.
About Young Mother’s Forums
Young Mothers Forums are an innovative strategy used by Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum with funding from the Fos Feminista project that convenes young people in vulnerable communities including young mothers, pregnant girls, girls at high risk of early and unwanted pregnancies, and young fathers to understand the key concept of safe motherhood ranging from family planning, maternal care health, health facility deliveries, antenatal and postnatal care, safe abortions, breastfeeding and nutrition, sexual and gender-based violence, elimination of mother to child transmissions among others.
“I regained my hope the evening I came back from Peta Health Centre III, where I was one of the many participants of the Young Mothers Forum, and up to date, I thank our Village Health Team (VHT) for picking on me to take part because, had it not been that, I would probably be married with more than two children,” she narrated. “During the training, I learned that it is my right to say no to sex and realized that even after giving birth, it is absolutely fine to go back to school. I learned about family planning, and the fear we used to have about contraceptives disappeared.” Eveline added.
She has made a choice to enroll in family planning for 5 years so that she is able to complete her school. And she says in her community there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about contraception, which have made adolescent girls fear taking them up even when the health workers encourage them. Her attending the forum made it clearer and elaborated to her that she could challenge such myths and not only inform adolescent girls in her village but also encourage them to enroll in it if they cannot abstain from sex.
“I now teach girls at school; I spoke to my head teacher, and she allowed us to meet. I started with two girls who are young mothers like me but now many others have joined, and our sessions cut across very many topics. Sometimes I call the senior woman teacher to help with topics like menstrual hygiene” she explained.
Eveline says that during Sundays, she also meets with girls in the community especially young mothers who have not had the chance to get back to school.
Besides being a teacher after school, Eveline wants to be a village health team member to ensure that girls in her community know their health rights and challenge harmful practices that make them vulnerable to teenage pregnancy, child marriages, and sexual abuse.
She believes that through programs and training like the YMF, the lives of many young mothers and adolescent girls have changed and will continue to change as they become aware of their rights and bodily autonomy.
“I will continue to thank UYAHF for bringing us Young Mothers Forums. I pray that our donors, FOS FEMINISTA, continue to support this initiative so that more girls and boys in the community get to know their rights and get back to school.” Eveline urged.
OUR IMPACT THROUGH THE YOUNG MOTHERS’S FORUMS
Over the years (how many, be specific), UYAHF has reached over 600 adolescent girls and boys through the young mother’s forum with key sexual reproductive information especially on contraception use in the rural communities of Butaleja and Tororo which are hotspot districts of teenage pregnancy and child marriages in Uganda. Following these forums, hundreds (would be nice to have the actual number if we can get it) have enrolled for family planning while others have become SRHR champions in their community