By Andrew Masinde
In the village of Nakalya, Nakungube parish Masulita sub-county in Wakiso district, the rate of teenage mothers is high.
Many say the poverty in the area is what lures the girls into getting men for support.
However others say the problem is ignorance about family planning methods.
Shakilah Namuleme is a 19years old single mother of two. She got pregnant when she was fourteen in primary six. She dropped out of school and that meant the end of her education.
She used walk 7km to school, “I would wake up at 5am, since the school is far. I got a boy who could give me a ride on his bicycle every morning.
He also gave me pocket money (sh1, 000 sometime sh2, 000) not knowing that this was to ruin my future,” she lamented.
He convinced me and since he had been providing transport, I had no option but to give in and within a short time I realised I was pregnant. On giving him the news, he fled and I have never seen him again ,” Namuleme said.
She adds that she suffered with the child all alone until a well-wisher connected her to Single Parents Association of Uganda (SPAU), an organisation that helps girls acquire skills through an empowerment project.
SPAU imparts new life-changing skills to single parents mainly young women who have been abandoned with children by their spouses/fathers of their children.
Deborah Nassali (2nd right) with some of the teenage mothers she is helping out. Photo by Andrew Masinde
The skills include business education and tailoring.
These skills help the beneficiaries to get involved in new gainful self-employment.
Namuleme says if she had heard of family planning methods, she would not have given birth to the second child.
“The health centre is too far from the village, a Boda boda is sh5000. If people cannot afford buying paraffin in the home, where will they get money to go to the health centre. This is what is causing early pregnancies in this area.
I even got a second child when I was not ready for it, I was looking for money to support the first child instead I got another child,” she explained.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population 2013 report, everyday 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth, and 95% of these pregnancies occur in the developing world.
For these young women, the results can be devastating. They not only face increased risk of maternal death and other pregnancy complications, but are less likely to remain in school, which can limit their economic and other opportunities.
UNFPA also states that about 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year and that another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions.
The alarming situation of teenage pregnancies has made Robinah Nassali 38 who was also a victim of early pregnancy to come up and help girls and boys in the village to control these cases.
She organises the girls into groups where she councils and also advises them on how to abstain, and also give them hope that there is life after giving birth.
She also connects them to organisations that enrol them into vocational training schools.