Teenage pregnancies: A growing vice in Uganda

Betty Namyalo breastfeeds her son at the UYDEL training centre in Makindye division.

 

Uganda has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa with over 25% pregnancies among teenagers registered every year. The 2014 Uganda population census faults this on the immense sexual reproductive health problems. 

The biological onset of adolescence brings not only changes to teenage girls’ bodies but also new vulnerabilities particularly in the areas of sexuality, marriage, and childbearing.  Child pregnancies increased to 25% as reflected in the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey report. The report states that 24% of female teenagers are either pregnant or have given birth. 

The question remains: who is responsible for this negative trend among teenagers? Are they defiled/abused, is it due to parental neglect or erosion of social values? Well, let’s get the answers from teenage mothers. 

 

A teenage mother practices hair dressing at the UYDEL training centre in Makindye division.

 

Testimonies from teenage mothers 

Betty Namyalo’s story is relatable to her peers, she narrates that at 15 years, she was getting endless advances from men. This made her feel like the only beauty queen in Katwe slum, hence giving in to sexual advances from a 22-year-old man who disappeared after impregnating her.  

Afraid of the repercussions from her mother, Namyalo fled home and joined a group of girls who later introduced her to a better “survival method”-transactional sex! The pregnant teenager engaged in sex trade for five months until she was physically assaulted and thrown out by her hostesses for ‘stealing their clients.’

“I became homeless and depressed. I stayed and ate from the streets until I was badly beaten by a rapist.” Namyalo explains that this is when she decided to return home from where she eventually had her baby boy.

Amina (not her real name), was raped and impregnated by a stranger while fleeing South Sudan to Uganda. Amina is now in the care of the Lutheran World Federation at Palorinya refugee camp, northern Uganda. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner

 

Unlike Namyalo, Regina Akankwasa was raped at 16 years by an older man who frequently visited her aunt’s retail shop where she attended to clients. “He claimed my aunt owed him a lot of money and had delayed to pay back, he said he was paying himself by raping me.”  

When Akankwasa realized she was pregnant, she sought help from the man who raped her, but only ripped threats of being killed. Her peers advised her to abort the baby which she tried and failed. Akankwasa was nursed by her aunt and in 2017 she birthed two beautiful babies although one passed away after 9 months due to lack of support and medical care.

Like Namyalo and Akankwasa, there are thousands of teenage girls who get pregnant, drop out of school and lead a hard life in Uganda. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in partnership with Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL) is working towards preventing teenage pregnancies and averting its outcomes among young people.

Some of the Fashion and Design graduates with tailoring machines (business start-up kit) they received from LWF through UYDEL with funds from ICA.

 

LWF and UYDEL are addressing the teenage pregnancy vice in Kampala’s slums

To address the vice of teenage pregnancies, LWF and UYDEL are rolling out a project titled Urban Youth Empowerment Project to prevent and mitigate the effects of teenage pregnancies among the urban youth in Kampala district’s seven divisions including; Makindye, Nateete, Banda, Kamwokya, Nakulabye, Bwaise and Masooli.

Through the project, sensitization campaigns on sexual and reproductive health are implemented to inform people especially teenagers about the dangers of early sex, early unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and cross-generational sex.  The sensitizations are also aimed at empowering young people to say no to early and unsafe sex.

To achieve financial independence among teenage mothers and mitigate their troubles, with funds from the Icelandic Church Aid, LWF through UYDEL offers teenage mothers training opportunities in vocational skills like; tailoring, electronics repair, catering, hairdressing, jewelry making. Beneficiaries are also equipped with life skills for self-reliance and recovery from depression as well as talent development in sports, music, Dance, and Drama. At the end of their 9 months’ courses, young mothers are offered business startup kits to start executing their skills for income.

 

Some of the graduates celebrate while raising their caps to the sky during a graduation event in 2017 at the UYDEL Youth Centre in Makindye division, Kampala.

 

“When I graduated, I received a hairdressing startup kit with which I established my small business.” “I now earn at least UGX 100, 000 a month which I use to cater for my family’s financial needs.” Says Ritah. A mother of  2.

 “In 2017, 650 young people enrolled and acquired vocational training in various skills from UYDEL centres. 70% of these have acquired jobs while 30% have established small businesses for income.” Says Annet Namaja, Social Worker with UYDEL. She adds that 800 urban youth enrolled for the same training early this year and will graduate soon.

With funds from the Icelandic Church Aid (ICA), LWF in partnership with UYDEL implements humanitarian activities to prevent and mitigate effects of teenage pregnancies in Kampala district.