80% of firstborns in Uganda and 78% of those in Tooro region are “born by accident” and amidst numerous challenges according to highlights from the bi-annual inter-generational dialogue on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) held in Fort Portal on Friday July 22, 2022.
Organised by Reproductive Health Uganda under the Right Here, Right Now partnership, the dialogue was aimed at engaging key leadership and stakeholders to understand the SRH challenges of young people in the region and advocate for a supportive environment for the young people to access age appropriate SRHR information and services within the respective communities right from the grassroot level.
Speaking during the dialogue, ASP Tumwesige, the IGP Kabarole District, stated that many sexual reproductive health challenges begin right from when helpless mothers conceive and give birth to babies in unbefitting situations and environments, including improper housing.
Tumwesigye said that according to police reports, 80% of people in the local communities, families share bedrooms irrespective of age differences and genders. This, he said, has birthed cases of incest and rape orchestrated by older members of the family against the young individuals.
“This creates a deeper understanding of how many of them (children) are born amidst challenges. The environment they grow in also contributes to their risk of being involved in or committing crimes associated to sex and abuse, because they have grown up witnessing the actions,” he said.
The Police officer also revealed that defilement cases are rampant in Kabarole region and that for every case reported, 99 others are resolved with in the community between the offender and the victim, without involving the police or other line authorities.
“Out of 10 babies born, 3 were not fathered by the purported biological father. Married women are raped and defiled but they keep this under wraps so they and never give the child to the rightful father,” he added.
Addressing attendees during the dialogue, Mr. Hamilton Kalyegira, the BEC Chairperson, commended the organising team under Right Here Right Now, the project officer and the young people for putting up an engagement to addressing issues that affect the lives of young people in Fort Portal City and the district at large.
He called on young people to subscribe as volunteers and embrace information sharing and service uptake to curb the raging numbers of SRH issues affecting them.
He reiterated that the Right Here Right Now-2 (RHRN-2) project is an advocacy focused engagement to allow young people in all their diversity to enjoy their sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in a gender just society.
In her presentation, Madam Norah, the Inspector of Schools for Kabarole District revealed that young people are facing similar SRH challenges both at home and school as regards puberty and the subsequent body changes.
She shared the experience of a young girl who was stigmatized at school over being overweight, and eventually discontinued her studies.
“This girl was teased that she was having sex and that’s why she gained weight. Another experience is of a girl who was picked following her failure to study but it was later established that she was being abused by men and was traumatized,” Madam Norah added.
She also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic situation exacerbated the occurrence of teenage pregnancies, drop outs leading to increased cases of stigma, discrimination, unsafe abortions and absenteeism from school which has affected the performance of the girl child.
She added that the other challenge is the inappropriate housing among households where adults have no privacy for adult sexual relations.
The Karangura Cultural leader voiced concerns over girls getting pregnant while in school, emphasizing the need for more awareness on the repercussions of engaging in sexual activities and the utmost importance of staying in school.
He also pointed out that masses should be sensitized on the availability of emergency contraception and PrEP to curb the increasing number of unwanted pregnancies and new cases of HIV/AIDS.
The dialogue made recommendations for interventions to be adopted towards addressing numerous SRHR challenges including;
- Ensuring proper parenting
- Empowering young people to keep in school
- Availing guidance and sex education by parents for their children.
- Provision of essential needs to prevent young people from being lured into sexual activities by potential providers.
- Broadening access to information about SRH rights and services.
- Reporting cases of defilement and rape to line duty bearers cases for proper handling.
- Advocating for equal rights for both male and female individuals.
- Establishing safe spaces for the youths at lower level health facilities.
- Creating awareness on SRHR.
- Involving senior men and women teachers in SRHS activities.
A senior educationist who participated in the dialogue called out parents who pack condoms for their school-going children, saying this could accelerate the other dangers of engaging in early sexual activity apart from unwanted pregnancies and HIV/AIDS.
A muslim cleric, Hajj Bashir, emphasized that the youths should be advised on abstinence “because it has not failed completely.”
He emphasized that it is possible to raise children with the abstinence mindset under religious teachings other than running to contraception. scriptures are clear on abstinence.
“There is rampant pornography everywhere. We need to send the message to the top leadership. We need to bring it to the attention of the key leadership to address this vice that is eating up our community and young people. Access to pornographic content should be censored,” Hajj Bashir said.
Other recommendations from the dialogue include;
- Engaging the youths in mindset programs focused on education.
- Sensitizing the masses through partnerships and collaborations on SRHR.
- Working with police and duty bearers to provide quality life for the young people.
- Encouraging leaders to report rape, abuse and defilement cases to police rather than handling at village level.
- Sensitizing the LCs and others leader at lower levels on proper handling of SGBV cases.
- Partnering with local leaders and CSOs to reach the hard-to-reach communities and vulnerable groups.
- Engaging senior men and women teachers and administrators on empowering the learners in the schools.
- Tasking schools to avail age-appropriate SRHR information to students.
- Holding dialogues, meetings at the community level to prevent the teenage pregnancies before they actually happen.
- Empowering VHTs with more information to support young people.
- Review, adopt and pass the stalled policies to address the rampant gaps in addressing sexual violations and misuse of media.
- Integrating life skills component into the SRH packages so that young people are kept engaged.
- Rejuvenating the morals in homesteads to raise responsible adults.
- Making children friends with parents to bridge the communication gap as regards sex education and SRHR.
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