Through a thorough needs assessment, we attempted to further understand the struggles of teenage moms in Uganda. To analyze this problem, we reviewed its existing literature, held personal interviews with teenage moms and the initiatives trying to address their needs.
Annually, out of the registered 1.2 million pregnancies in Uganda, 25% are teenage pregnancies. Being a teenage mother in Uganda has profound heartbreaking consequences. It robs girls of their childhood, disrupts their flow of going to school and makes them out cast in their own homes.
In Uganda today, not only do some cultures deliberately marry off teenage girls to fetch financial support from the bride price due to poverty, but also, do schools immediately terminate their education in case of pregnancy. Pregnant teenage girls are regarded as a curse and a mark of disgrace.
Most teenage moms in Uganda are survivors of sexual abuse. In many cases they are accused of “bringing it upon themselves" by “dressing inappropriately" or being alone in lonely places. In most cases once a girl gets pregnant; her priorities drastically shift and succumb to the numerous struggles of everyday life. UNICEF notes that vulnerable girls become moms before they’ve even had a chance to fully experience their teenage years. Often times they suffer from violence, exploitation and sexual abuse.
Additionally, according to Uganda’s annual crime and traffic safety report for 2011, 7,690 cases of rape were recorded in just one year. This has increased child pregnancies, early marriages, HIV/AIDS infections and high school dropout rates among teenage girls in Uganda.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reveals that Uganda has the highest female school dropout rate in East Africa; with only one out of ten being able to go back to school to complete their education after pregnancy. This leaves a huge number of young girls around our neighborhoods stuck in abusive early marriages and hopeless lives.
The high rates of teenage pregnancies are attributed to poverty, demeaning cultural practices such as child marriages and low likeliness of advancement in education.
Among the girls that we’ve worked with in low income communities over the last few years, about three out of ten got pregnant, dropped out of school and became homeless or married men about three times their age, as they would provide for them better than their fellow teenagers. For example, our dear friend Maria that got pregnant at 13 was sent away from home for being an embarrassment. Since she had nowhere else to go, she got married. There are many more girls like Suzie Nassuna, as narrated by World Vision also pregnant at 13, dropped out of school, now lives in a slum in a small rented house, no skills, only vending charcoal and washing people’s clothes to survive. Honestly, they have no fair chance at redefining their destiny.