District and cultural leaders in Bukwo district have said they are willing to fully engage and support any efforts to fight and address the increasing rate of teenage pregnancy, sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), and child marriages in their district.
They made the vow recently during the POWER TO YOU(TH) district entry meeting with District leaders, CSOs, religious, cultural leaders, and the youth in Bukwo.
Power to Youth is a 5-year advocacy program that will work with 6 districts of Mbale, Busia, Bukwo, Isingiro, Kalangala, and Kampala. The program seeks to build agency for girls and create opportunities for them to meaningfully engage in all decisions concerning addressing harmful practices like teenage pregnancies, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and harmful practices like Child Marriages and Female Genital Mutilation.
The meeting aimed to introduce the project to the various district stakeholders including the district health, gender, education, and planning departments, cultural and religious leaders, and young persons, and discuss ways to fully be involved and get engaged during the implementation of the project.
“We as district leaders cannot say that we have not tried to fight these harmful practices especially rape, child marriage, and teenage pregnancy but our hands cannot stretch to every conner because most of these cases happen deep in the village but with the coming of the POWER TO YOU(TH) project, this will boost the human resource and bring expertise especially in the area of advocacy and information on sexual reproductive health across the district,” says the CAO Bukwo.
Mr. Chelimo Julius lauded the project implementers for finding it wise to involve different stakeholders right from the start of the project most especially the youth who are the victims.
“Bringing us together to fully engage and contribute to the progress of this program is indeed the best approach, it shows us that you have come to help our community. And as we the district authority we shall provide all the support that you need for this project to be a success” Chelimo Added.
He challenged the youth to take this as a golden opportunity for them to stand out and amplify their voices to influence other young people and policymakers to take action on addressing harmful social-cultural practices that expose them to teenage pregnancies, child marriages, and female genital mutilation.
Speaking to Mr. Cherop Dafala an elder and cultural leader at the sideline of the meeting, he says their roles in policymaking have long been ignored. This has left a lot of gaps, hence the recurring situations in the community.
“I want to thank this NGO for allowing us to come out and take part in this program, for many years they have always considered us as the people who interfere with law enforcement especially on issues of teenage pregnancy and child marriages. I want to openly say this is not true because we are also concerned about the morals of our society,” he explained.
Mr. Dafala revealed that through the PTY project as elders and cultural leaders, they want to prove wrong such beliefs and work towards fighting such bad practices to save the community.
According to Chepkemoi Valarie a student nurse, the PTY program is a blessing to their community considering the high rates of sexual reproductive health rights challenges, especially during the covid-19 lockdown.
“Here in my district, many girls are less informed about sexual reproductive health rights and information, we have rape cases, harassments and many other problems which go unreported because the victims either don’t know where to go to or fear to report and even if they report nothing is done,” she added.
Valarie hopes that this project will enlighten and give adolescents the ability to make informed decisions in terms of their sexual reproductive health rights and also be able to access information and services.