Teenage pregnancy and child marriages continue to torment young girls in the South-western district of Isingiro in Uganda. This is prevalent in the four sub counties of Nyakitunda, Rugaaga, Kabingo and Isingiro Town council according to Raising Teenagers Uganda (RTU), an organization that works to empower young people and ensure that they fulfill their dreams.
In May 2020, RTU launched a new project in Isingiro district aimed at accelerating the efforts to end child marriages in the refugee hosting district, seeking to implement and finance important strategies, policies and services for young women and girls.
Since the closure of schools due to COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda in March 2020, as a measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease, many young girls have been married off by parents, who after learning that they risk being arrested change dates on birth certificates in the name of “killing evidence.”
Such cases have been registered in Nyakitunda sub county, where parents especially mothers say, it is normal marrying their daughters off at an early age because “it’s part of their culture” according to findings by RTU.
The RTU team leader, Ms Hope Nankunda, says mothers find it okay marrying off their young daughters because that’s what they went through. They have been found changing dates on their daughters’ birth certificates.
“Some mothers, who got married early have no problem sending their own daughters into marriage. Even when the police tries to intervene, parents change the dates of birth on their children’s birth certificates to tamper with the evidence that could pin them.” Says Ms. Nankunda
She calls upon sub county leaders to join the campaign to end child marriages and support young girls’ stay in school, and realize their dreams in life, adding that an educated girl can transform her life, family and nation.
Cases of mothers tampering with birth certificates have been recorded by police in Nyakitunda sub county, and local authorities are now pairing with partners to investigate the reports and have perpetrators apprehended and charged by the law according to Mr Christopher Ahairwe, the Nyakitunda sub county Community Development Officer.
Findings indicate that domestic violence is mainly responsible for teenage pregnancies because a good number of young girls are made to run away from their homes, fleeing harassment and fighting parents.
Girls opt to run away from homes in order to avoid seeing their parents fighting daily, and some of these girls end up going into marriage in order to have a place to stay.”
Champions have been chosen from the four most affected sub counties. These will carry forward the advocacy agenda and continue mobilizing communities to ensure that girls are not married off before the age of eighteen.
Some of the champions include religious leaders, who have agreed to speak to people about the need to protect girls from early marriages as well as include the message in their weekly programs.
“The campaign to end child marriage should be embraced by everyone and ensure that girls in different communities don’t fall victims of this practice.” Ms. Nankunda emphasizes.
She adds that the leadership and community members in the affected areas have expressed the willingness to fight against promotion of child marriages in Isingiro district. Religious leaders have also joined the cause, promising to preach against the habit, especially when worship centers resume operations.