Uganda Parliament has approved a motion demanding the government to urgently address the different challenges experienced by the girl child in the country. The Members of Parliament (MPs) cited trafficking, teenage pregnancies and early marriages as some of the burning issues that need immediate consideration.
The motion was moved by Tororo Woman MP, Hon. Sarah Opendi.
The legislator observed that the country is struggling to contain the rampant teenage pregnancies especially during the COVID-19 lockdown and closure of schools.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing challenges facing the girl child,” Opendi said, “The exacerbating the exposure of girls to trafficking both internally and international, teenage pregnancies, child marriages and the poor menstrual hygiene on top of other forms of gender-based violence.”
A report of the African Peer Review Mechanism, which attributed 10% of maternal mortality to teenage pregnancies and a United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) report on teenage pregnancy in Uganda that revealed that one in four of the 19-year-old girls have had a baby, putting their lives at risk and forcing them to drop out of school, Opendi said.
“The Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE) post-COVID-19 lockdown report on school-going girls shows that there was a 366.5% increase in teenage pregnancies amongst girls aged 10 to 14, and 22% of girls forced into transactional sex due to poverty,” Opendi said. “I ask parliament of Uganda to task the government to provide the necessary resources and provide programs to skill the girl child whose education has been affected by early marriages or teenage pregnancies.”
The motion was seconded by Mbarara Woman MP Rita Atukwasa, who said that due to high levels of early marriages and teenage pregnancies many of the young girls have acquired HIV/ AIDS.
The Rakai Woman MP Juliet Kinyamatama said Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is contributing to moral decay among children by failing to regulate the programs aired on different television stations.
“Before the schools reopen in January next year 2022, the government should provide a special package for teenage mothers and scholarships which will help them to fight social stigma,” Kinyamatama said. “Many young girls have dropped out of school after getting pregnant because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Our girls need a recovery program.”
Wakiso Woman MP Ethel Naluyima, Mawokota South MP Hillary Kiyaga and Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Ssegona, among others, observed that while it is good to advocate for the girl child, it is equally important to keep the boy child in mind.
“These girls are sexually abused and impregnated by the boys and if we leave out the boys in our advocacy, we shall be doing nothing. We urge parliament to push the government to make the internet cheaper and extend electricity in all parts of the country for the children to benefit from the digital era,” they said.
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Mathias Mpuuga said, “The debate on the plight of the girl child should manifest into related legislation. Legislation and policy need to migrate to address the inescapable challenges that we are battling. The laws that we have are archaic and cannot address some of these issues that we have at moment.”
Deputy Speaker Anita Among said that parents have moved away from their parenting roles: “I’m disappointed with our parents who are not talking to these children. We need to talk to both the boys and girls.
“We need to revive sex education in schools and we talk to the children. Can’t we limit these pornographic movies on TV? Can Uganda Communications Commission do something to limit these?”
Government Chief Whip Thomas Tayebwa nearly broke down as he narrated to parliament a story of a young girl who was defiled by her uncle and observed a need to protect girls and children in general.