Janet K Museveni commends HTP, Dependable Foundation at Launch of Teenage Pregnancy Campaign

Uganda’s First Lady Mama Janet K Museveni on Saturday addressed the world on zoom right from her Oval Office in State House Nakasero. Dressed in a magnificent white and black office suit, Janet who appeared calm endured for 3 hours attending this event.

This story is being updated

Updated at 0919 GMT on Sunday 19th 2021

KAMPALA

At exactly 11am, Mrs Museveni was ready and started listening several panelists and speakers who shared extensively right from Serena Hotel , Kampala where they convened and others on zoom.

Included;

Mrs Alice Emasu – ED, TERREWODE, Mr. Jackson, Chekweko – ED Reproductive Health Uganda, Acting UN Resident Coordinator Representative to Uganda/ UN Women Boda Mr. Maxime Houinatofrom, Ministry of Health, H.E Massimiliano Mazzanti – Italian Ambassador to Uganda, H.E Elin Østebø Johansen Ambassador of Norway to Uganda, H.E Rudi Veestraeten Ambassador of Belgium to Uganda, UNICEF Representative, H.E Ashraf Swelam Egyptian Ambassador to Uganda, Turkish Deputy Ambassador to Uganda HE Atasha and others.

Speech of First Lady Janet Museveni

Members of the Diplomatic Corp present at this function (Belgian Ambassador, Italian Ambassador, Norwegian Ambassador, Egyptian Ambassador, the outgoing UN Resident Representative and Keynote Speaker, Ms Rosa Malango, UNICEF Representative),

The Founding Director, Dependable Foundation, Ms Hope Mukundane and your team,

The CEO, Heal the Planet,

Government Officials,

Our Online audience.

Good afternoon!

I thank Dependable Foundation for organizing this event and for this initiative to reach out to teenage girls and their families within the communities of the Kampala Metropolitan area.

While it is true that the whole world is struggling with the fallout of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, we have to acknowledge that it has had more serious consequences on some of the most vulnerable sections of our population. Our young children, both boys and girls are among the most adversely affected.

And I want to inform my audience that the Uganda Mothers Union recently informed me of their concern that while it is true that girls or adolescent girls are known to suffer all evils in vulnerable families, there has been a continuous neglect of adolescent boys in our communities, therefore girls are made pregnant by those boys who are mostly ignored and are suffering as a result of drug abuse, alcoholism and going without food for long periods of time. 

Therefore, now that Schools have been closed for many months, and without the support of the school system of teachers and other mentors, our girls have been left vulnerable to teenage pregnancy, early marriages and gender-based violence. Inevitably, the pandemic has caused a lot of suffering and yes a rise in poverty levels, and this in turn has given rise to a higher incidence of early-childhood marriages as some families are forced to marry off their daughters to help alleviate financial burdens. Many girls and boys have also had to enter the workforce at a very young age to help provide for their families. Sadly, when the pandemic finally eases off and schools re-open, many children may have fallen by the wayside and may not be returning to school.

I have learnt that even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Uganda already had a high rate of teenage pregnancies anyway. A trend we should do everything to fight and change.➢ For we know that a young girl is twice as likely to die during pregnancy or child birth as a mature woman in her twenties.➢ Babies born to adolescent mothers face a substantial 50 per cent higher risk of being still-born or dying in the first few weeks than those born to mothers aged 20 to 24 years old.➢ More than 300,000 teenagers who get pregnant in Uganda account for the bulk of unwanted pregnancies which end up in unintended births or abortion.➢ 24 per cent of girls aged between 15 and 24 have had an abortion.➢ About 34 per cent of teenage girls drop out of school due to pregnancy.➢ Nearly all teenage pregnancies are unplanned or unwanted.

As a result of all these, Uganda is also recorded to have a very high maternal mortality rate, with 18 mothers dying every day in pregnancy, during or after after childbirth. (UNICEF)

The Government of Uganda and all stakeholders, through various legislations and specific policies, have taken steps that will ensure that we reach a point when all families and communities will value, care and protect girls. 

The Uganda national adolescent reproductive health policy (2004) pledged government’s commitment to advocate for the review of existing legal, medical and social barriers to adolescents’ access to information and health services. 

Measures are largely in place now for the protection of rights of adolescents’ health, provision of legal and social protection against all forms of abuse and harmful traditional practices, promotion of gender equality and provision of quality care for adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues. 

As a result of these policies and laws, and their implementation by government, the situation has been steadily improving. The Uganda Demographic Health Survey report 2001 and 2011 statistics indicate that there was a decline in teenage pregnancies from 43% in 1995 to 31% in 2001, to 24% in 2011.

The Makerere University 70th Graduation (January 2020) record showed that Makerere University, presented more female than male Graduands – that is 50.5% compared to 49.5%, respectively.  

It is gratifying to know that, Government’s deliberate efforts in promoting girls’ education are starting to pay off which is good but we don’t want the skewed one side or the other.

Unfortunately, it is possible that these trends are very likely to have been reversed due to the impact of the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. What is important in all this is to ensure that we are not forever giving affirmative action to one gender or the other. We want equality of all.

Therefore, there is need to step up our advocacy in many of our communities. Our people need to learn that their children areprecious in God’s eyes and must be precious to us as people. They need to be empowered in order to survive to adulthood and become responsible citizens and useful family and community assets.

There is need to empower our children to grow up with the freedom to be who God created them to be and to fulfil God’s purpose for their lives that they may fulfil their destiny. 

What are the determinants of teenage pregnancies in our context? Some of them are:1. Lack of life and social survival skills;2. Lack of knowledge of how to avoid pregnancy;3. Neglect by parents and care givers;4. Pressure on young girls to contribute to family welfare through early marriage or sexual transactions,5. Lack of community responsibility;6. Negative media influence;7. Peer pressure;8. Cultural beliefs that promote early marriages and child bearing;9. Lack of role models;10. Drug abuse;11. Poverty at the household level.

Let me therefore, express my gratitude as a parent, as a government representative, and an elder to this initiative by Dependable Foundation to make contact with the communities of Kampala with interventions that will sensitize them to the plight of specifically the girl child in their midst.  This period of lockdown is also the time when girls have plenty of time on their hands – time to watch, to listen and be inspired and empowered. Raising the aspirations of all girls will not only help them overcome existing challenges and risks but will also close the gender gap and raise economic opportunities for them. Thank you, therefore, for this encouraging community outreach whichwill certainly make a great difference.

While my concern for our children now cannot be limited to girls alone, I cannot forget that Dependable Foundation’s focus is the girl child. I applaud you for choosing to do something for our children and girls in particular because they tend to become victims of all circumstances. For that reason I salute you with all my heart.

As policy makers, we commit to continue to prioritize empowerment interventions for the girl child. We have great optimism that we can improve the status of the girl child, and we support and encourage every opportunity for increased awareness of gender equality for all.

Ladies and gentlemen, the times we are living in are unusual and very difficult, but if we all work together, we can help our young girls stay alive, finish school and achieve their full potential. We can encourage them to stand up for themselves and pursue their dreams. 

We absolutely recognize that all the plans and commitments we have made – SDGs, Africa’s Agenda 2063, Africa’s Agenda for Children 2040, Uganda’s vision 2040 – cannot be achieved without paying attention to the specific needs and concerns of the girl child. By investing in girls and young women, Uganda stands to gain a potential demographic dividend by 2030 and beyond. And, as I mentioned earlier, Government has put in place a multi-sectoral plan, policies and interventions, aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies and empowering all our children.

In closing, I want to reiterate that, if we work together and close ranks around the girl child in Uganda, a day will come – and sooner rather than later – when girls and boys have equal enjoyment of all their rights, living fully and equally free from physical assault, demeaning labour, early marriage, harmful practices, abuse and exploitation, retaining undamaged their capability to enjoy the rewards of life, and embracing its full responsibilities. 

Such equality does not only guarantee basic rights, it also plays a vital role in promoting the robust, shared growth needed for our nation to have a sustainable future.

Allow me now to use this opportunity before I launch the Dependable Foundation Initiative, to appeal to everyone listening to me to keep safe. As the country grapples with the second wave of the Pandemic, please know that our primary line of safety is prevention. So let us observe the SOPs that we are all conversant with by now and this should start at the family level. 

I implore mothers to create safe nets at the family level in these difficult times. Ensure proper hygiene, let us make use of our fruits and vegetables to boost our immunity, keep hydrated. To each one of us do not ignore that headache, cough, flu or any other body weakness. 

If you test positive, please seek medical attention and do not give in to fear and panic. God is fighting this battle for us like He has always done, I am praying for the situation to improve and I know many people are praying. We shall overcome this. 

I now have the pleasure of launching the Kampala Metropolitan outreach by Dependable Foundation. I wish you success and Godspeed! 

I thank you!

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