The plan will be implemented in seven districts in Eastern Uganda including, Amuria, Bududa, Butaleja Iganga, Kapchorwa, Katakwi Mayuge
The health ministry will intensify the supply of contraceptives and sanitary pads and increase access to life skills for girls between 14 and 19 years in selected 14 districts in Uganda to stop teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
Under the plan, funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency ($5m), emphasis will be concentrated on creating an enabling environment responsive to girls’ specific sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) needs.
The plan will be implemented in seven districts in Eastern Uganda including, Amuria, Bududa, Butaleja Iganga, Kapchorwa, Katakwi Mayuge and seven districts of Karamoja region — Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Napak.
It is estimated that “more than half” of the teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the communities will be averted by project closure after two years.
At the opening ceremony to kick-start the project on Tuesday, state minister for primary healthcare Sarah Opendi said girls needed to be given a chance to choose to not get pregnant or be married off when they are under-age.
“Adolescents and the girl children need to be facilitated and aided to abstain, but if they cannot abstain because we know they are sexually active, be encouraged to use condoms and other contraceptives to stop unwanted pregnancies,” she said.
She also called for tougher legislation against “possessed men” who continue to defile “toddlers”, borrowing former ethics minister Miria Matembe’s words that such men be castrated.
The Korean ambassador to Uganda Park Jong-Dae said the initiative paid targeted attention to girls’ education, health and profession. He said it was part of his country’s contribution to the global agenda of the sustainable development goals.
The programme will take a holistic gender-focused approach to empower girls and reinforce their position in the community. It will build on existing efforts, including the Let Girls Be Girls campaign to prevent teenage pregnancy that was launched in 2014 and the African Union Initiative to End Child Marriage that was launched by the gender ministry in 2015.
The interventions will adopt proven strategies, including increasing girls’ access to education and health care services; educating parents and communities on the dangers of teenage pregnancy and child marriage; promoting social economic empowerment of girls; and engaging men and boys to become part of the solution.
“We know the value of girls; we have seen how much empowered girls can contribute to their communities and countries; we have learnt that when girls can exercise their right to sexual and reproductive health, the ripple effects are strong and widely felt” said the United Nations Population Fund deputy representative Miranda Tabifor.
According to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, one in four girls aged 15 to 19 is pregnant or has had a child. “Each pregnancy poses great risks to a girl. It endangers her health. It takes psychological toll on her. Very often it forces her to leave school,” she said.
Statistics further show that 50% of married women and those in union get married before their 18th birthday. Child marriage is a violation of the rights of girls and women. Girls who are married as children are more likely to be out of school, suffer domestic violence, contract HIV/AIDS and die due to complications during pregnancy and child birth.