Why should my fun have to end?
I thought that this was just the beginning.
I see my friends go out to have fun.
And all I can do is watch as they drive by.
As they set forth to discover their youth,
I'm well on my way towards ending my own.
— A Teenage Pregnancy, Agustin Antonio
By Ronaish Arshad from Abu Dhabi
In 2019, before COVID became the center of all our lives, a whopping 25 percent of Ugandan teenagers became pregnant by the age of 19. As COVID-19 crept into our lives, taking away any sense of normalcy, it eventually led to the closure of schools and educational institutions all over the country. And so, between 2020 and 2021, the government of Uganda recorded nearly 650,000 pregnancies.\
“The children aren’t going to school. When they were going to school they were not getting pregnant like they are doing nowadays. They are redundant, and that’s the reason why they are easily enticed into sexual activities,” Roger Kawulu said, a primary school headteacher in Kampala (Uganda’s capital).
Lack of sex education and a teenager’s vulnerability into being enticed aren’t the only root causes of teenage pregnancies. On numerous, even uncountable occasions, parents have encouraged, endorsed and supported teen pregnancy through child marriage! Through various social services and educational campaigns, fallacies that lead to such atrocities can be eradicated.
Teenage pregnancies can not be categorized or mistaken for pregnancies that will have no unprecedented health risks; it’s a child’s body, which is undeveloped and not nearly mature or strong enough to sustain a full-term pregnancy. As investigated and found out by WHO, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15–19-year-old girls globally. Moreover, the risk doesn’t lie with just the mother, risks present themselves to the baby as well. Babies of adolescent mothers face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions, furthermore, adolescent mothers (ages 10–19 years) face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, and systemic infections than women aged 20 to 24 years.
Among all women in Uganda aged 15-49, 43% have an unmet need or no method of contraception. It’s important to raise awareness regarding reproductive health and Uganda was on the right track, making progress, until COVID hit. “In normal times, many adolescent girls in Global Programme countries have some (albeit limited) access to quality sexual and reproductive health, education, protection and social support services that prevent child marriage. The pandemic has disrupted and suspended many of these vital services.
For example, when Uganda’s Child Helpline was temporarily suspended, girls were left without a child marriage reporting mechanism or social services. With little or no access to resources to prevent unplanned pregnancy, teenage pregnancies increase, making child marriage more likely,” Uganda’s Child Marriage Profile, 2021.
The fastest and most efficient way of tackling any societal issue, especially cultural norms and stigma surrounding child marriage, teenage pregnancy, etc. is education and the availability of contraception. According to the Guttmacher Institute, if all needs were met for contraceptive, maternal and newborn, and abortion care in Uganda the following sexual and reproductive health outcomes for women aged 15–49 and their newborns would decrease dramatically. Unintended pregnancies would drop by 83%, maternal deaths would drop by 71% and unsafe abortions would drop by 83%!
In order to better the quality of life of young women in Uganda, we need to support fundraisers and charities that fund contraceptive care in Uganda. Moreover, we need to raise awareness and call for international help and attention towards these rising issues. With these efforts, we’ll be taking a small, yet significant step towards an alleviated, happier and safer life for all.
Donate to PLANE’s Teenage Mothers Empowerment Programme:
UNFPA-UNICEF GLOBAL PROGRAMME TO END CHILD MARRIAGE, Uganda Country
Guttmacher Institute, Uganda country profile, 2022,