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Pader girls seek protection after 800 conceive

By Arnest Tumwesigye

Added 1st September 2020 10:55 AM

The children asked the Police and clan leaders to handle child abuse cases with due diligence so that perpetrators can be punished.

Pader girls seek protection after 800 conceive

Pupils of Lukwor Primary School in Kitgum district addressing stakeholders

The children asked the Police and clan leaders to handle child abuse cases with due diligence so that perpetrators can be punished.

CRIME|CHILD PROTECTION|CHILD RIGHTS|TEENAGE PREGNANCY

"As girls, we have a lot of demands. When you ask parents for cosmetics or pads, the likely answer you get is, ‘you are now mature, why don't you get them yourself or get married'," Sarah Agenorwot said.

The 15-year-old, a resident of Jamica village and a pupil of Lakwor Central Primary School in Lagoro sub-county, Kitgum district, said girls resort to boys as a source of provision. "That is how many girls have conceived during the COVID-19 lockdown," she said.

Brian Okot, 15, from the same village, blamed parents for using language that presupposes that girls are mature enough to survive on their own. Okot narrated how his classmate eloped with a man in Labe village last month.

PADER

The pupils raised the red flag during a recent community engagement held at Lakwor Primary School and organised by Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). Drunkenness by parents, domestic violence and lack of enough care were among the issues that children said affected them.

Addressing the Police, the sub-county authorities and parents, the children asked the Police and clan leaders to handle child abuse cases with due diligence so that perpetrators can be punished.

SITUATION IN PADER

The situation in Kitgum is not any different from that in Pader, where over 800 girls, aged between 12 and 19 years, have been reported pregnant from March to June this year.

Anna Apio, the Pader Assistant District Health Officer, said the cases were reported from the health centres where the teenage girls went to seek antenatal care. "The worst scenario we have is that mothers in Acholi want to conceal the daughters' pregnancies for fear of what the community will say about them," she said.

Apio called for community dialogues to discuss the dangers of early pregnancy and family planning services. "Initially, people would say that girls aged 18 years and below should not access family planning services because they are not married. But it is now clear that they are at risk of becoming pregnant at a tender age," she added.

Apio said in rural areas, it is mainly traditional birth attendants and teachers that run drug shops. These turn away the girls seeking medical attention, leaving them with abortion as the only option.

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