By John Masaba
Girls in Kitgum and Iganga are more likely to get pregnant before the age of 16 and drop out of school than their peers anywhere in the country, according to a report released recently by ANPPCAN, a child rights organisation.
The development is blamed on the rising number of young girls who are engaging in early sex, a trend which is exposing hundreds of them to the threat of contracting HIV.
The study which was conducted in the sub counties of Igombe and Nabitende in Iganga district and Orom and Namukora in Kitgum districts between January and May last year found that 57% of child mothers in the two districts gave birth before the age 16 and 22% before the age of 14 years.
The development, the report said, portends a grim future of the girl child as many abandon education to raise young families.
Poverty to blame
The report cites poverty as the major contributory factor to the girls’ increasing vulnerability to early pregnancy as it makes them easy prey to abusive adult males.
“For instance in 2013, out of the 4,176 cases handled by ANPPCAN, 2,630 (62.9%) of the victims came from families that survive on less than 2,000 shilling a day,” the report said.
Other factors contributing to the trend, the report said, include high school dropout rates and curiosity among young girls leading to early sex. Culture is also cited as worsening the situation.
“Early marriage as a practice is seldom questioned, and hence seen as morally okay in the eyes of those promoting it. In Kitgum for example, it is believed that once a girl develops breasts, she is fit for marriage,” said the report.
Releasing the report, Anslem Wandega, ANPPCAN Executive Director said: “We ought to invest more time and resources in sex education; to equip young girls and boys with knowledge and skills to defend themselves from sexual exploitation,” he says.