Too Young to be a mother: End Child Marriages

On
19th Sept 2012, one of the local Televisions in Uganda (NTV) broadcast
a story of a 12 year child mother who gave birth in Gweri sub-county Soroti  a district Eastern Uganda.  The young girl whose names have been withheld was
quoted to have said “I didn’t expect to get pregnant but I love my baby”.  This case is one of the few of hundreds cases
of defilement which take place in Uganda. Circumstances surrounding her pregnancy
are still unclear but Police officer Florence Adong who is responsible for
Children and Family protections said she was going to move like a lunatic in
Soroti to make sure Justice Previals. On 11th Oct 2012, the world
will focus on the International day of the GirlChild whose theme is “Too Young to wed: End Child Marriages and
Teenage pregnancies”

 
According to the UDHS 2006, one of every four
pregnancies occurs in a teenager. By 15 years of age, 24% of girls and 10% of
boys are sexually active (debut 16.6 for girls and 18.1 for boys). Yet only 11%
of sexually active young people are using contraception. Uganda also continues
to have one of the highest birth rates in Africa and one of the fastest growing
populations in the world.  This no doubt poses new challenges – more so in
areas such as education and health care delivery given the youthful population
of  – 70% under the age of 24, 56% under 15 years. The  2011 Uganda Demographic Health survey report
also states that 1.6% of girls have given birth with
a first Child by the age 15 while 24% of the girls aged between 15 and 19 are
already mothers or pregnant with the first child. And the
Ugandan Annual Crime and Road Safety report 2011 assets that a total of 7,690
cases of defilement were reported in 2011. Of the 7,690 caese reported to
police, only 3836 suspects were arrested and taken to court. This implies that over
45% of defilement cases are dropped and do not make it to court.

In Uganda 6,000 women die every year from
pregnancy related complications. Many more women suffer long-lasting illnesses
or disabilities caused by complications during pregnancy or childbirth, such as
obstetric fistula, infertility and depression. 
Reviews of the progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
indicate that the development goal lagging the most behind is the one on
maternal health – MDG 5. This is the goal that aims to reduce maternal deaths
and ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
The
leading causes of death of maternal deaths are over-bleeding while giving
childbirth, infections, high blood pressure, and prolonged labour. Some women
die because of unsafe abortions while they are trying to get rid of unwanted
pregnancies. 

Photo by Echwalu Edward
While
attending the first ever African Youth Forum that took place from 17th
to 19th July 2010 in Uganda ahead of African Union summit whose
focus was on reducing maternal, infant and Child deaths, the youth called for
action on a number of issues one of which was child marriages.  Some of the qustions asked were; 

·        
Why
are young girls getting pregnant?
·        
Why
do young Mothers die more than old mothers?
·          Why are the young boys/men getting them
pregnant and not taking responsibility?
·        
Why
do so many lose their lives when pregnant or giving birth?
·        
Why
is the issue a young person’s issue?
·        
 Why do/don’t young girls abort?
·        
Why
don’t teachers teach about maternal health but continue to harass them?
·        
Why
does the community make them vulnerable?
       If you cannot
understand WHY, you cannot take the right decision
.
      We all have a
role to play in Ending Child Marriages
      Now is the time
to act. With the current heated discussion on allocating more funds to the
health sectore we hope for  increase in
political will, financial commitment and action from everyone, the number of younf
girls getting pregnant will drastically reduce. UNFPA Uganda believes that, no
woman should risk her life while giving birth as as part of this year’s
international day of the Girlchild, UNFPA is organizing a couple of events to
create awareness about ending child marriages and giving each and every girl an
opportunity to take charge of their reproductive health because everyone
counts. UNFPA believes in delivering a
world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every
young person’s potential is fulfilled.
Each one of us has a big role to play
in ending child marriages within our families and communities. 
   
   Read Similar stories about Child marriages in Uganda 
  1.  EchwaluPhotography: Child Marriages through the lense