"This goes to all the men here, do not take advantage of the adolescents.They are your sisters and are dependent on you," she said.
The first lady Janet Kataha Museveni has warned men against taking advantage of adolescent girls and denying them the chance to form their own dreams and pursue them through education.
Janet Museveni in Masulita, Wakiso on Saturday. Photos by Roderick Ahimbazwe
"This goes to all the men here, do not take advantage of the adolescents, though not related to you by blood, they are your sisters and are dependent on you for support and guidance," she said.
"All of you must be protective of these young girls. They need your support, understanding, compassion and kindness. Treat them as though they were your true sisters. Tomorrow they will be thankful to you," she added.
Kataha was speaking at the launch of the advocacy platform of the parliamentary champions on the adolescent girl agenda at Masuliita Children's home in Wakiso.
She asked the girls to also learn to fight for themselves especially when they feel that their right to education is being snatched away from them.
"If parents want you on the streets, explain to them that they are supposed to support you in school. If they remain adamant, run to school and report it to your teacher or any authority. It's your life and you ought to do what it takes to stay in school," she said.
kataha expressed disappointment with adults who have abandoned their children and left them to grow on their own without any parental guidance and love.
She asked child rights activist groups that attended the function to take it upon themselves and mentor these disadvantaged children.
The children who attended the launch were mainly young Karimojong girls who were picked from the streets and are now under the care of Uganda Women's Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO). The children are taught vocational skills such as tailoring while others are enrolled in schools.
Last year, the children's village registered a total of 500 children. Out of those, 25% were youing mothers aged between 15 and 18.
Mable Kiggundu, the UWESO chairperson said that most of these children deserted their homes to escape forced marriage, others dropped out of school due to pregnancy while others were orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
Murthy Jaya, a communications specialist with UNICEF said that the adolescent girls are faced with unique consequences such as sexual violence in schools, of which 68% is committed by male teachers.
He said the girls lack gender sensitive information and information of menstrual hygiene, adding that they spend 48 days out of school due to lack of sanitary pads and fear of embarrassment.
In her speech, Kataha said that no amount of help can be enough to solve the young girls problems unless society and stakeholders teach them how to fight for themselves.
"We feel the unfairness but no matter how much we want to help, we cannot change anything until we teach them how to fight for themselves," she said.
She asked the activists to, instead of talking amongst themselves about how the community is cruel to these girls, talk to the society, engage the parents and tell them what is supposed to be done because in most cases they act out of ignorance.
The parliamentary platform, according to Micheal Bukenya, a member of parliament, will help influence legislative decisions on adolescent girls, legislate policies that provide for their needs and help in the appropriation of funds to tackle their problems.