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Africa News of Friday, 19 February 2021


Ugandan parents force teen girls to use contraceptives

A section of parents in Uganda's Bugisu Sub-region are forcing their teenage daughters to access family planning services in a bid to prevent them from getting unwanted pregnancies, Daily Monitor has learnt.

Some parents whom Daily Monitor interviewed say this is the only safe way of preventing unplanned pregnancies, which could rob their daughters of their youth and education.

Ms Edith Nambale, a resident of Namabasa Cell in Mbale City, said last month she took her 16-year-old daughter to a health facility to get a three-month contraception injection.

“I did not want to get bad news because if that happens, it will mean I have failed as a mother. I have to ensure that she is safe from unplanned pregnancies so she can continue with her studies,” Nambale said.

Ms Nambale also revealed that she has continued to sensitise and educate her daughter on the dangers of early sex and importance of education.

Ms Merida Temula, a resident of Nakaloke Town Council and a vendor in Mbale Central Market, said she enrolled her 17-year old daughter, who is a Senior Three student on a six- month injection after her colleagues became pregnant last year.

“I sat down with her and I explained the advantage of taking the six-month injection. At first, she refused but later consented,” she said.

According to Global G.L.O.W. partners from Art of a Child in Uganda, more than 2,372 teenage pregnancies have been recorded in the country since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in March last year.

Ms Scolar Namuwenge, a resident of Nabewo B in Mbale City, asked the government to scale up access to family planning services, especially in the rural areas.

“Teenage pregnancies are mostly occurring in the rural areas because parents and girls have no access to information on family planning,” she said.

According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2016, four in every 100 teenage girls are either pregnant or have had their first child.

Mr Jackson Chekweko, the Mbale regional coordinator of Reproductive Health Uganda, on Monday, acknowledged an increasing number of girls being enrolled on family planning by their parents since the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

“We have registered quite a large number of parents bringing their children for family planning services at different family centres lately,” Mr Chekweko said.

Daily Monitor has established that many girls are enrolled on three family planning methods that include contraceptive injection, pills and intrauterine device (IUD).

“As a reproductive health organisation, we have made sure we offer services such as counselling, right health information and sex education because this pandemic has exposed young girls to unwanted pregnancies,” Mr Chekweko said.

He also asked the government to ensure sex education is included in the school syllabus to enable children learn about their health.

“Young girls could get the information from school but lack of access to such has led to teenage pregnancies, therefore the government should plan for this,” he said.

In 2018, government launched the National Sexuality Education framework to provide a formal, national direction for sex education within Uganda’s schools.

Mr Robert Walyaula, the health inspector of Mbale City Council, said the demand for family planning services has increased from 8,000 to 12,000 in the past one year.

“It’s true, in our daily report returns, the number of people going for family planning has increased as of now,” he said.

He said although policy was not allowing anyone under 18 years to attend family planning services before, things have changed with the government permitting the distribution of birth control methods such as condoms.

Dr Godwin Kitongo of Mbale Peoples Hospital said most family planning methods have side effects such as bleeding, weight loss, headache and irregular menstruation periods.

“We have got two categories of family planning methods; hormonal and non-hormonal. All of them have side effects such as bleeding, weight loss and gain, headache, irregular periods, heavy and painful menstruation periods,” he said.

Dr Kitongo said enrolling teenage girls on family planning can also affect their fertility and academics in the long run.

Mr Kenneth Khatuli, the assistant town clerk of Mbale City, said although they are facing a challenge of teenage pregnancies, young girls should be advised to abstain.

“Opting for family planning is not the solution they should abstain from sex,” he said.

However, the Rev Aristo Peter Maingi of the African Brotherhood Church in Mbale, said allowing the underage girls access to contraceptives is evil.

“Why do parents enroll their children on family planning yet it is supposed to be married people. This is against God’s teachings and the church totally disagrees with it,” he said.

He said parents should instead teach their children to fear God and also know that our bodies are the temples of God.

According to Global G.L.O.W. partners from Art of a Child in Uganda, more than 2,372 teenage pregnancies have been recorded in the country since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in March last year.