Girls in Uganda continue to bear the brunt of injustices; from statutory rape, child marriages, early pregnancies among others. Some of these injustices are embedded in a culture that feeds the patriarchal society. Girls’ voices are trained to be silent from childhood. There is a certain way that girls ought to speak, sit and even walk. Asking too many questions in not true girl-manners. Because of this programming, girls become become an easy target for predators – to even people that they trust most; teachers and male relatives because they are not supposed to ask certain questions. Consequently, confidence, an important ingredient in empowerment of the girl is eroded as she grows up.
Think about a girl that is married off at 14, has eight babies by her 29th birthday what better life could she possibly offer to her children? She was a child when she got married, she will do her best with her motherly instincts but she can only go so far. She will know poverty, disease and misery.
A recent survey by the World Bank indicates that Uganda has the highest number of teenage pregnancies in East Africa at 24%.
In Africa, we believe that it takes a community to raise a child. In this regard, the communities that are the parents, teachers, government and development partners have rolled up their sleeves to help the girl child. Even as the world is riding towards the agenda 2030, the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health in partnership with development partners such as Reach a Hand Uganda, UNFPA, KOICA have come together to ensure that the girls get better education, sexual and reproductive health services. The Better Life for Girls programme that was launched on 28 June 2016 in Kampala couldn’t have been timelier.
“We need to end teenage pregnancy, child marriage and all forms of injustice to the girl child” – Tabifor Miranda, the Deputy Country Representative of the UNFPA said.
‘The suffering of the girls who end up pregnant early pregnancy drives me to join this campaign. ‘ Hon Sarah Opendi Uganda’s state Minister of Health said.
Yet to deter such happenings, there is an almost magic bullet to settle this problem – give the girl an education. So there is no way she will have a child at 14, she will be in school, she will know about family planning, she will give her children an education, she will take care of her parents, she will influence her community, she will raise a generation that will make the world a better place.
My point in screaming a better life for girls is not just a selfish chant because I am a woman. The truth is, females raise both men and women. In Uganda, women carry the economy on their backs, here is how- Uganda’s revenue largely depends on agriculture and 90% of those in agriculture are women, so if the girls were given a chance to pursue their dreams without any inhibitions – the country would change for the better.
But when they get empowered and wealthy they become unmanageable I have heard some Ugandan men say. Who says that women are supposed to be tamed? The men must rise up to the occasion and embrace the fact that women and men complement each other. It is not who is better than the other but rather about equal opportunities and equal access to social and economic gains to make the world a better place.
The importance of empowering girls cannot be over emphasised no matter how long it is said.