The rate of teenage pregnancy is higher among uneducated girls.
By Clare Muhindo and Haliima Nankinga
KAMPALA - Youth from various non-governmental organizations are concerned about the high rate of teenage pregnancies in the country.
As such, they want government to develop a comprehensive multi-sectoral plan to fight against teenage pregnancies.
Such a plan will see the ministries of education, health and gender work hand-in-hand to monitor and implement laws and government programmes on teenage pregnancies.
The rate of teenage pregnancy in Uganda is 24%, according to the Uganda demographic and health survey of 2011.
It is higher among uneducated girls. For instance 45% of uneducated girls have a child before their 18th birthday, compared to 16% of girls with secondary education.
Speaking at a stakeholder's meeting at Grand Global Hotel in Kampala, Samuel Senfuka, a youth leader at White Ribbon Alliance, blamed the high rates of teenage pregnancy on inadequate sex education of young people.
"Several myths and misconceptions exist among teenagers, and because they have not been taught what is right or wrong, they end up falling victim. For example, many youth in the villages believe that one cannot get pregnant when they have sex for the first time," he said.
He added that the three ministries ought to come together to help spread the right messages.
"Adolescent pregnancy robs girls of their potential and causes deaths and disability. Many end up with diseases like fistula because their bodies are not ripe enough," he said.
Assumpta Nangonzi, a programme officer at Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS, applauded the education ministry for its move in integrating sex education in the lower secondary school curriculum.
"This curriculum ought to be taken to primary schools, since some children start their menstruation as early as primary three. When a child understands the changes in their body at an early age, they will be able to avoid certain situations such as moving at wee hours of the night," she said.
May Maliko, a youth advocate at Restless Development, called on government to strengthen the enforcement of laws against defilement, rape and other forms of child abuse.
"The rate at which children's rights are being abused is worrying. Innocent children are taken advantage of because they do not know their rights," she said.
The youth have started collecting signatures for a petition to the prime minister, calling for the development of a multi-sectoral plan. They intend to collect a million signatures.