"Don't suffer silently; go talk to somebody, reach out to the people. It’s okay to have such issues,"
YOUTH WOMEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DIASPORA SEXUAL VIOLENCE
TORONTO - Although youth and women in developed countries are presented with better opportunities than those in developing countries, they face closely related challenges.
This was highlighted at the recent dialogue dubbed, Breaking the silence youth and women convention 2019, where Ugandans in Canada and those from home gathered to find solutions to various challenges that affect youth and women in North America and Uganda.
The issues raised during the event that took place at Momentum Montessori Banquet Hall in Toronto on September 07, include sexual violence, domestic violence, career challenges, relationships, mental health, racism, teenage pregnancy, and human trafficking, among others.
It was emphasized that those challenges are biting hard on youth and women in both developing and developed countries.
Jacqueline Kiwanuka, one of the moderators, surprised the participants when she revealed that she could not find a job in her field of study for eight years after receiving her Master's Degree with Magnum Cum Laude distinction of honour, which is the highest distinction demonstrating academic excellence.
She resorted to working in various entry-level roles and positions to build her professional experience and establish a thriving professional network.
"Eight years later, to God be the Glory, I am now just starting to establish my career path", she said.
Kiwanuka, now a senior policy advisor Government of Ontario, advised the youth never to give up when faced with challenges. "Had I given up, I wouldn't be where I'm today. Have a passion and a plan but be very persistent," she said.
Barbara Itungo Kyagulanyi, director of Caring Heart—a non-government organization
and the event's keynote speaker— advised the youth to always visualize what they want to be and work towards it.
"In your career, you'll have different paths; it may be a straight path or may have many routes, but the main thing is to focus and make sure you reach your destination without having a second thought about what you want to be," she said.
Besides career challenges, sexual abuse was also brought to the fore.
Monday Atigo, former UNAA President, said sexual abuse is real and cited some of the activities that put the youth at risk, particularly sleepovers.
He advised the youth to choose the right friends. "Peer pressure is real; don't be coerced into doing something you're not comfortable with," Atigo advised.
George Kavuma, an interaction designer, also advised his fellow youth to share their challenges with someone for advice.
"Don't suffer silently; go talk to somebody, reach out to the people. It's okay to have such issues," he said.
Rev. Eddie Jjumba, the senior pastor Dominion Church International Toronto, re-echoed that the widening communication gap between parents and children should be eliminated.
"Parents listen to your children as though they would say something that you didn't know about," Jjumba cautioned. He also called upon the children to listen to their parents.
On sex abuse, Jjumba advised the youth and women not to blame themselves.
Some of the participants
Speaking about the issue of race, Judith Nassuna, a youth panelist, said the youth are faced with disturbing queries with racial undertones. Questions such as: ‘Why you are so dark? Why do you have acne?' which makes the youth uncomfortable in their skin.
"Kids would commit suicide because they were different or treated differently," she noted.
The youth panelists and mentors pose for a picture
Nassuna, however, encouraged youth to be of good courage. "The best thing to do is to be your best cheerleader," she said.
Other youth speakers at the event included: Stuart Collins Katende, and Emily Hope Muwanguzi, who was also Miss Teen Toronto East 2018.
The event, organized by Pelletier Teenage Mother's Foundation (PTMOF) reached a climax with a dinner hosted by Bukedde's Fifidaqueen aka Fiona Nsubuga.
On the occasion, a discussion on sexual violence against women and the trafficking of girls in the Middle East took centre stage.
Mrs. Kyagulanyi noted that women are assaulted in their homes by people they love so much.
"We must break the silence by dealing with what causes violence like poverty, unemployment, and trafficking of girls to the Middle East," she said.
Fahad Nsubuga, a youth activist, said fighting violence against women needs everyone's participation.
"It starts with you and me, so if we join our hands together, things like these will stop. We tell the children to speak up, they will but what will we do when they do speak up? How much pressure are we willing to put on the perpetrators?" he asked.
Nsubuga questioned the regulations in place to deal with the culprits and called on everyone to do something.
Fred Mukasa Mbidde, the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) MP, advised the government to enter into an agreement with Middle East countries to iron out issues of torture and human rights violation of Ugandan youths who work in their countries.
Solome Nanvule, director PTMOF, in her closing remarks advised society to stop judging and blaming the youth when they are sexually abused.
"When girls get pregnant, they are blamed and no one cares to find out whether they were forced or they consented, which leaves them shuttered," she said.
Nanvule said PTMOF has changed the lives of over 500 teenage mothers and that the proceeds from the event will be geared towards rehabilitating the lives of teenage mothers in Uganda.
The event was also graced by other notables including Mariam Luyombo- proprietor of Taibah International Schools in Uganda, and Denis Majwala Lukanga, the Mayor of Katwe Butego Central Division Masaka District.
Sexual and domestic violence through Uganda's lens
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of Uganda Population report 2018, one in four teenage girls in Uganda age15-19 have had a child or are pregnant and that 42% of all the pregnancies among adolescents in Uganda are unintended.
The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 (UDHS) conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics between June 12 and December 18, 2016, revealed a 1% increase in teenage pregnancy from 24% in 2011 to 25% in 2016.
On early marriage, the UNFPA report states that 10% of women age 20-24 married by age 15 and 40% of women age 20-24 married by age 18.
The UNFPA report also revealed that 60% of adolescents 10-19 years have experienced physical violence, 42% emotional violence and 10% sexual violence and1% of girls 15-19 years are circumcised (Female Genital Mutilation).
The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey also stated that up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 in the country had experienced some form of sexual violence.
The report also revealed that annually, 13% of women aged 15 to 49 report experiencing sexual violence.