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Empower adolescent girls for sustainable development

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Added 11th July 2017 09:19 AM

Adolescent girls in Sebei region face almost the same challenges as their Karimojong counterparts.

Empower adolescent girls for sustainable development

Adolescent girls in Sebei region face almost the same challenges as their Karimojong counterparts.

By Umar Weswala

This is a call not only to the government of Uganda but to all stakeholders in the country. Adolescent girls of this country, both in and out of school are highly disadvantaged and vulnerable.  According to government statistics, 51% of the total adolescent population is girls - approximately 4.3 million in number.

Some of the vulnerabilities experienced by these girls depend on the regions where they come from while others are cross cutting.

The most difficult region to be an adolescent girl in Uganda is Karamoja where half of the adolescent girls between 10 and 19 - 54% are vulnerable at all the three levels; individual, household and community. The challenges they face include the harmful and degrading Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) especially among the Pokot and Tepeth communities, high levels of illiteracy and child marriages among others.

Adolescent girls in Sebei region face almost the same challenges as their Karimojong counterparts.

In Busia, where the national event to mark this year's World Population Day is being held, the rate of adolescent girls school dropout due to child marriage or teenage pregnancy is unacceptably high.

At the national level, about 900,000 (15%) women in the country today were married by age 15; while about 700,000 (1 in every 4) adolescent girls have either had a child or pregnant.

134,000 Ugandan girls and young women today have been subjected to FGM/C.

68% of adolescent girls between the ages of 15-19 today have never attended any secondary school.

66% of all new HIV infections are contracted by adolescent girls. All the above statistics are found in various government/ public reports, some of which are jointly published with partners.  This is therefore a clear sign that all the concerned institutions and members of society are aware of these serious challenges faced by adolescent girls.

The key question is; are they or are we doing enough to avert the situation? There is clear and convincing evidence that investing in adolescent girls in the areas of education, health services, reproductive health and financial literacy; improves socio economic outcomes not only for girls and young women, but  also for their communities and the nation at large.

According to a 2011 World Bank study, if all female primary school drop-outs in Uganda complete primary schools alone, their additional contribution to Uganda's economy over their lifetime would equal to 13% of annual GDP. If they complete secondary school, their contribution would be 34% of annual GDP.

I must thank the government of Uganda for developing and implementing holistic and integrated programs for adolescent girls' well being and development.

The partnership between the UN agencies and the government has particularly made a difference in many communities around the country when it comes to empowering adolescent girls.

For the girls in school, UNFPA is partnering with Straight Talk Foundation Uganda and the ministry of Education to improve their access to quality education, focusing on their transition from primary to post primary education and training as well as improving their health and promoting their participation in decisions that affect them.

For the girls out of school, BRAC Uganda with support from UNFPA Uganda is strengthening the resilience of the adolescent girls (mostly child mothers) and promoting skills development and economic opportunities for them.

But the fact that some health facilities and communities lack youth corners and with comprehensive sexuality education hanging in balance, access to youth friendly and age appropriate reproductive health information and services for adolescent girls remains a big challenge that will require concerted efforts from all stake holders.

Let us count adolescents girls and make them count on this World Population Day.

The writer is the founder


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