Child Marriage a Handicap to Female Labour Market Transition

Although Uganda has a fairly strong and enabling legal and policy framework, young females continue being propelled into early marriages and pregnancies and are often deprived of full education attainment.

This experience according to Gemma Ahaibwe, a Research Fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) is likely to have lasting impacts on female opportunities, particularly, their engagement in productive and decent work.

Drawing from findings of the 2013 and 2015 school to work transition survey conducted across 4 districts from the East, North and Central Uganda, Ahaibwe warns that progression from primary to secondary school remains a challenge for females and this usually climaxes by failure to attain better employment.

In 2015, barely 31 percent girls attained at least some secondary education and only 16 percent completed primary. 53.1 percent either had no education at all or attempted only primary school.

According to the survey, girls drop out of school majorly due to early pregnancies, economic barriers and child marriages, with the latter being largely driven by social norms.

The survey explains that children sent to school with no books and pens feel out of place, going back to school after giving birth is looked at as a waste of money by most parents and many parents marry off their daughters early to acquire cows, which they feel may reproduce faster and create wealth.

 

Gemma Ahaibwe (holding mic) takes part in a panel discussion duirng the 2018 GrOW Policy workshop held in Uganda. Photo by Mouris Opolot

Ahaibwe was presenting- Education, marriage, fertility and labour market experiences of young women in Uganda, during the GrOW Policy workshop held at Lake Victoria Serena in Wakiso on March 11, 2018.

Her presentation originates from the 2016 study titled “An Assessment of Early Labour Market Transitions of Women in Uganda: A Descriptive Approach”, which she co authored with Sarah Ssewanyana, and Ibrahim Kasirye.

The study explored the inter-linkages between the transitions from school to work or motherhood and/or marriage and the ensuing effects on future labour market outcomes and choices.

The report quotes a female participant cry that “those who drop out of school before completion are less likely to access formal employment opportunities.”
“Unpaid family labour is more likely to be the first activity for most young people particularly uneducated women,” another female participant said.

Ahaibwe calls for sensitization programs to break cultural norms and keep girls in school, provision of second chance programs for teenage mothers and strengthening of enforcement and awareness of legal sanctions against child marriages.

Source links: Economic Policy Research Centre

Violence against children: a global problem

Violence against children is one of the biggest problems affecting families and societies. It happens all around the world, in all countries and societies; all too often it happens in the family. Read on to learn more about the problem of violence against children and effective approaches to ending it.

International law clearly establishes every child’s right to protection against violence. That right is underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet violence against children persists. Often, it remains hidden. Many cases are not reported or investigated.

The many faces of violence against children

Violence against children has many faces and forms: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, emotional abuse, and more.

  • Every five minutesa child dies from violence. [The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children 2016]
  • One billion children– over half of all children aged 2 to 17 – are estimated to have experienced emotional, physical and/or sexual violence. [WHO 2016]
  • One in 10 girls– 120 million – under the age of 20 has been subjected to forced sexual acts. [UNICEF 2014]
  • Nearly one in 10 children– 250 million worldwide – lives in a country affected by conflict. [UNICEF 2016]
  • At least one in six children entering an SOS Children’s Villages’ programme has previously experienced violence.

Risk factors for experiencing violence

Our experience and research show that children who are inadequately protected and cared for are at a higher risk of experiencing violence.

Uganda: Violence against women unabated despite laws and policies

She had always dreamed of becoming a powerful politician, and her excitement on finally joining Parliament was overwhelming. On her first day at the august House, she was full of hope. Hope of changing her constituency for the better.

One year later, the youthful MP feels frustrated. “I love my job, but sometimes I wonder if I am in the right place,” she said.

The bubbly MP has been the target of sexual harassment by senior male colleagues. “I once had my breasts squeezed by a male colleague old enough to be my father. Another one hounded me during an MPs’ trip abroad. He kept knocking at my door in the night. I had to lock myself in.”

She says harassment is commonplace in Parliament but often goes unreported “because we fear the consequences.”

Elsewhere, in Mukono, 21 km east of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, Grace Ozitya has battled with her in-laws for years to regain her deceased husband’s property.

“When he died, they forced me out of our home and destroyed our garden,” said Ms. Ozitya.

Police did not help her because Ms. Ozitya could not raise $3 to facilitate the investigation. At the administrator-general’s office, a file was opened, but it later disappeared. She gave up until staff from International Justice Mission, a US-based international NGO focusing on human rights, law and law enforcement, intervened.

Violence against women is on the increase in Uganda despite the presence of laws and policies to protect victims and survivors.

According to the Uganda Police Force’s annual crime report, gender-based violence cases that were reported and investigated increased by 4% (from 38,651 to 40,258 cases) between 2015 and 2016.

The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey revealed that up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 in the country had experienced some form of sexual violence. The report also revealed that annually, 13% of women aged 15 to 49 report experiencing sexual violence. This translates to more than 1 million women exposed to sexual violence every year in Uganda.

Violence against women has recently taken new, more sophisticated forms. An increasing number of women are, for instance, reporting cyber-bullying and abuse through social media and smartphones.

“I recently received a WhatsApp call from a strange number. When I picked up the call, the guy on the other side started groping his genitals. I blocked him,” said Monica Amoding, a politician.

In other cases, jilted lovers expose nude pictures of their ex-girlfriends on social media platforms in what is locally called “revenge porn”.

In 2014 Desire Luzinda, a celebrated Ugandan musician, made a public apology after her ex- boyfriend leaked her nude pictures on social media.

“I want to apologise to my mother, daughter, family, friends, fans and any other people who have been offended by these images.… This was a breach of trust by someone I loved.… This person has not only abused that trust but now seeks to drag me down,” said Ms. Luzinda, who was charged under the 2014 Anti-Pornographic Act.

Since Ms. Luzinda’s incident, over 10 women have had their nude pictures leaked on social media by jilted lovers, resulting in public shaming and ridicule.

“In all the revenge porn cases, women have been singled out for criticism while the offending men are never followed up,” says Eunice Musiime, the executive director of Akina Mama wa Africa, a pan-African women’s organization.

This form of abuse thrives on an absence of proper legislation and a lack of investigative expertise among Ugandan law enforcement officers.

“Unless we put in place effective laws and equip law enforcement organs with modern technology and skills to handle these cases, the situation will only worsen,” says Anna Mutavati, the deputy country representative for UN Women Uganda.

Corrective rape is also rife as a form of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW/G). “We have received many complaints from lesbian women who claim to have been forced into heterosexual sex by their families as a way to correct their sexual orientation,” Ms. Musiime says. Because of the negative attitudes about lesbianism in Ugandan society, victims find it difficult to report.

“‘Concerned’ relatives hand you over to a man to have sex with you to stop you from being a lesbian,” one young woman said. This lady (who requested anonymity) was abused for several years through corrective rape and by her own partner. Today she is working to rehabilitate fellow women who have gone through the same experience.

The government remains largely unprepared to handle some new forms of VAW, especially cyber abuse.

“We are aware of the cyber forms of VAW like revenge porn, but that is an area for the Uganda Communications Commission to handle. We are also waiting to hear from the Pornographic Control Committee to advise on the way forward,” Maggie Kyomukama, the assistant commissioner for gender and women affairs in the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) said.

Challenges abound

Ineffective laws pose a big challenge to the fight against VAW. Laws such as the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2007, the Domestic Violence Act 2010, the Sexual Offences Bill and the Marriage Bill do not address key aspects of VAW. None of these laws criminalise marital rape, for instance.

The Domestic Violence Act does not cover cohabiting partners, while the 2004 amendment to the Land Act of 1998 requires spousal consent to sex, but does not recognise coownership of land between spouses.

The Land Act also fails to require customary land tenure systems to permit women to act as coowners/managers of customary land, and creates weak protections for widows who seek to inherit their husband’s land, says Ms. Musiime. She also points out that the Employment Act, 2006 restricts punitive action in sexual harassment cases at work to an employer or his representative, saying nothing of physical, sexual and verbal abuse by coworkers.

Poor funding for VAW programmes also remains a huge challenge.

“A look at the budgets for the sectors mandated to address VAW/G is worrying. While activities are listed in the budgets, there are no monetary allocations. Most of the work on VAW/G is donor funded and concentrated in project areas,” says Diana Kagere Mugerwa, the media and national advocacy officer at the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP), a local civil society organization.

In 2016 and 2017 the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development budgeted to spend UGX 1.68 billion ($450,000) on VAW programmes, a great deal of which has been coming from donors such as Irish Aid and the United Nations Population Fund. This, according to Ms. Mutavati, is not sustainable.

“Dependency on external financing does not create sustainable ground sectors to mainstream this work. What happens if the donors pull out?” she asks.

Limited capacity on the part of the gender ministry also cripples VAW activities.

According to MGLSD’s Ministerial Policy Statement for Financial Year 2016/2017, during that period the Directorate of Gender and Women Affairs had only 10 staff members, a fraction of the workforce required. The Child and Family Protection Unit of the Uganda Police Force has only 645 police officers to cover 112 districts. This makes it hard for the police to respond to the numerous reported cases.

Police also lack the requisite skills and financial support to investigate VAW cases. Justice is frustrated by an inadequate number of critical facilities, like shelters where VAW victims can be accommodated and receive counseling and other support before returning home, as well as an absence of specialised courts where it is safe for women to report their cases.

“While there are specialized courts on corruption, environment, terrorism and other cases, there are no such courts for VAW cases. That is telling,” says Mutavati.

The country has 13 shelters where VAW victims can be accommodated. Four of these are donor funded.

Successes

Last year the government launched a National Gender Based Violence (GBV) policy, specifying the roles each sector is supposed to play to ensure the prevention of and response to VAW. Assistant Commissioner Kyomukama also says the government’s National Development Plan 1 and 2 have included comprehensive frameworks to address VAW.

In a bid to address poverty, which usually plays a factor in VAW, the government though MGLSD last year launched the Ugandan Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) to improve women’s access to financial services and equip them with entrepreneurial skills.

According to Brenda Kifuko Malinga, UWEP’s national programme coordinator, so far 3,416 projects have been launched and 43,602 women assisted throughout the country.

Ms. Mutavati says that the UN and its partners have made some improvement in sexual violence in the most heavily affected eastern regions of Busoga and Karamoja through the Joint Programme on GBV funded by the Norwegian embassy and through the government programme on GBV supported by Irish Aid, the Irish government programme for overseas development.

Despite some success, a lot more work remains to be done to ensure a violence-free country for Ugandan women.

VAW in Uganda, the figures

Uganda’s 2016 police crime report indicates that defilement cases alone rose by 34 percent, from 13,118 in 2015 to 17,567 in 2016. Defilement is the act of having sex with girls under 18. Rape cases reported, according to the report, also increased, from 1,419 to 1,572.

A report released last month by researchers from Makerere University College of Health Sciences indicated that one out of five female people with hearing impairments has been a victim of rape in the last 12 months.

A 2015 report by the International Justice Mission indicates that 40% of widows experience actual or attempted property grabbing in their lifetime. More than 30% of widows are victims of property grabbing. In many cases the widows spoke of perpetrators (usually relatives of their deceased husbands) threatening and physically assaulting them and sometimes making attempts on their lives and those of their children.

Police crime reports from 2011 through 2017 also indicate that deaths resulting from domestic violence went down by a significant 54%—from 358 to 163—in this time.

According to statistics from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), out of 1,594 new rape and 7,618 defilement cases reported in 2015 and 2016, only 57% brought punishment to the perpetrator. Such a low number gives others a sense of impunity, and in so doing exacerbates VAW.

Between 2012 and 2017, about 5 percent of all sexual violence cases handled in a year by the ODPP have been closed due to lack of evidence, according to a CEDOVIP study.

The police and Ministry of Health—the two leading public institutions in GBV response—spend an estimated UGX 37.7 billion (about $10.4 million) annually dealing with GB.

For more information: source Africa Renewal

 

Civil society wants govt support on gender-based violence

While some stand tall, pick themselves up to a better future and get justice, many victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) have had their dreams shattered, lives ruined and taken ages without getting justice. One such victim is Jane Ariokot (not real names). Two years into their marriage, Jane’s sweet, loving husband turned into “a drunkard wife-beater” immediately after he lost his job.

The 25-year-old from Soroti district is now impaired with a fractured hand in a fight that finally broke their marriage, leaving their two children in the hands of their poor grandmother in nearby Kumi district.

“He came back drunk one day and asked for food yet he had spent three days without buying any. I had given all the remaining food to children that night and when I told him that, he rushed outside, brought a big stick and beat me so much. As I tried to protect myself from the stick, he hit me and broke my arm, it hurts me until now and I can’t do any heavy work to look after my children,” Ariokot says.

Whereas her husband was arrested and is currently on remand, Ariokot says she has never gotten justice since court keeps postponing the rulings.

HARD TO PROVE

During a recent three-day regional conference on strategies for implementation of instruments on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) by the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), it was revealed that about 65 per cent of inmates in Uganda’s prisons have cases related to SGBV.

ICGLR acting director Nathan Byamukama said many of such cases are, instead, referred to things like assault, manslaughter murder or attempted murder, as is the case with Ariokot’s husband.

This, Byabakama said, together with the fact that it is difficult to prove sexual violence in courts, is reason enough to make the vice thrive.

“Most cases are done in private and even if you arrest suspects, it’s very difficult to prove in court because court is looking for evidence and some suspects run away and others settle issues out of court because they want money and fear embarrassment,” he said at the conference held at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyoyo.

The ICGLR is an intergovernmental organization of African countries in the Great Lakes region that aims at ensuring security, stability and development between member states. Some of the member states include Uganda, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

The conference brought together regional stakeholders on sexual and gender-based violence to share experiences and possible solutions to the vice. The forms of violence that have thrived despite several intervations by both government and civil society include rape, forced (arranged) marriages, defilement, sex slavery (human trafficking), and genital mutilation.

The violations, according to specialists, take place in schools, homes, town centers, prisons and conflict zones like refugee camps.

LEGAL HUDDLES

Uganda’s director of public prosecutions, Mike Chibita acknowledged that investigation cases of sexual violence have always given then a knock on the head.

“In cases of sexual assault, DNA should link the perpetrator to the survivor. In Uganda, the facilities are inadequate and expensive,” Chibita said.

While Uganda has domesticated several regional protocols against SGBV into laws, the lack of implementation by government leaves a lot to be desired.

For example, Annet Bada, the legal head at The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (Fida-Uganda) said many victims of human trafficking have gone through depressed circumstances and need protection by the anti-human trafficking law but it is not being implemented.

“The law on trafficking came in 2009 but, to date, there are no regulations to operationalize it. There is need for these laws to resonate with the common person because they are the most vulnerable and they are the victims of human trafficking,” she said.

While many activists believe that Uganda’s weak legislation on SGBV renders both the police and the judiciary helpless in administering justice, deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo disagrees.

“We agree that there is room for improvement. The judiciary can reduce this without legislation. We can use the instruments that the constitution gives to the chief justice to come up with other procedures and practice dimension,” Justice Owiny-Dollo said.

He added that the judiciary has established special courts and sessions to expedite trials of such cases on top of a strategy to reduce case backlog.

EASE OUR WORK

Civil society players who attended the conference said that government should put in place strong legal and policy frameworks to ease their work. It is mainly CSOs that are usually involved in handling SGBV cases and its victims.

Eunice Musiime, the executive director of Akina Mama Africa, said there should also be eradication of armed groups within and without the country, especially those with no political agenda.

“We should also have meaningful dialogue to address democratic deficiencies like impunity which make such vices flourish. We also call for services in terms of policy, medical and judiciary,” she said.

zurah@observer.ug
kamogajonathan50@gmail.com

Effectiveness of “Girls Parliament” in ending child marriage

What is the effectiveness of “Girls Parliament” in ending child marriage?

By engaging girls with community and religious leaders including boys and girls, men and women, policy makers and influencers the power of Girls Parliament as a community awareness intervention in ending child marriage will be realised. SCOEN will identify impact pathways included creating opportunities for reflection and helping people shift both attitudes and practices, face-to-face communication with target groups and generating the ability to address issues of concern directly and to re-frame local thinking.

SCOEN will use communications-focused interventions

  • Community and religious elders be prioritised for child marriage and gender equality messages as they are often the ultimate gatekeepers of social norms.
  • Boys and men be targeted aimed at encouraging new masculinities that support their sisters and daughters to reach adulthood before they become wives.
  • Face-to-face discussion encourages local ownership and combined with top-down or media approaches for best effect.
  • Peer-to-peer education, girls’ clubs bring transformatory change to girls, helping them build confidence and voice while learning about their rights, serving as critical venues for reporting planned marriages.

Whats Girls’ Parliament and how will it be run?

A Girl’s Parliament consists of a sequence of sessions, each leading to the intended outcome. Child Marriage may not be discussed in the initial sessions to avoid community backlash. Related motivational activities will be used to introduce the topic. The initial sessions will be informed by the local context of the community.

The main objective of Girls’ parliament is to create a platform that promotes critical reflection that allows for questioning of beliefs, myths and practices in order to realize a change in social norms to accelerate the abandonment of Child Marriage.

This will: –

  • create a deeper understanding of communities, their situation, current practices, interests, existing opportunities and challenges and helps devise mitigating strategies for sustainable behavior change
  • enhance accountability and stimulates action and a sense of ownership of agreed interventions by the community
  • enable identification of key persons in the community in order to build networks and partnerships to ensure sustainability
  • enhance the capacity of the facilitators to develop effective and adaptable skills in inclusive decision-making for attitude and behavior change

The following steps are essential in organizing and conducting the girl’s parliament:

Training of community facilitators; stakeholders’ mapping and engagement; participant identification; develop leading questions; venue selection; and timing of the dialogue; Participant mobilization – a maximum of 45 participants is advisable for one facilitator.

It’s also important to understand how to conduct such effective sessions to bring about the desired change. Like to: – introduce the purpose of the dialogue; language of the dialogue, rules of engagement; community resolve and action plan; evaluating the dialogue and concluding the dialogue

FACILITATION:

Facilitation plays a significant role as it ensures that the objectives are met. It is thus imperative to have a qualified individual who will understand the qualities, roles and responsibilities of facilitation to effectively moderate theconversation. This person will be sourced to facilitate, conversant with Child Marriage issues and may be able to handle different scenarios. she may be confronted with different scenarios during the dialogue process that may hinder successful engagement and conclusion of the process

 

Where child marriages are the norm

Sophia Nangobi sits quietly under a huge muwafu (African canarium) tree, a few feet away from the labour ward of Mayuge Health Centre III. It seems she is bored because she plucks a piece of grass, puts it in her mouth, and begins to chew on it.

Everything about the bare-footed girl, including her shyness when I approach her, is girlish. But, it remains just that – impressions. Rooting around in the grass, as if searching for something precious, is Nangobi’s eight-month-old daughter, Shuleya Nabirye. At 17, Nangobi has so far spent three years in marriage. She is also unemployed.

“I’m happy in my marriage,” she says quietly, probably wondering why I should ask. Her husband, Sadat Muwanika, 20, is a boda boda rider in Mawumu Parish, which about 11km from Mayuge town. For riding a customer this distance, a boda boda rider earns Shs1,000.

“I’m the last born of eight children brought up by a single mother,” Nangobi says. “When I got to Primary Five, my mother could not afford the Shs20,000 for school fees, so I dropped out of school.”

When Muwanika approached her for a relationship, there was nothing stopping her. With her mother’s blessing, Nangobi became Muwanika’s wife at 14.

It is school or marriage
There is a general agreement that attending school stands as a buffer between rural girls and child marriage. However, Universal Primary Education (UPE) is no longer free in rural areas because parents – who are often living under the poverty line – have to pay for school requirements such as pens, exercise books, uniforms and lunch. Girls like Nangobi fill up the statistics of the number of girls dropping out of school every year. But, unlike others who would jump at the chance to resume their education, Nangobi is comfortable with her lot.

“I do not want to return to school even if someone offered me money,” she says, adding, “I want to give birth to four more children and look after our home.”

As we are talking, a heavily pregnant woman emerges from the labour ward. From a distance, she looks like she could be above 30 years old, but that is probably due to that special way in which a nine-month pregnancy can sap the liveliness out of a woman. The woman is Jennifer, Nangobi’s sister. At 20, this is her third pregnancy.

“The nurses say I’m due to deliver any day now,” she says, as she struggles to sit on the ground. She is married to a farmer and they had their first child two years ago. The girls came to the health centre without an emergency bag of delivery items such as gloves and a Macintosh sheet. Since they are returning home, it is likely that Jennifer may give birth from home before they have time to return to the health centre.

To the rescue
Olivia Kawuma Aliyenka, a retrenched nursing assistant, encounters pregnant teenagers on a daily basis. The 56-year-old is a member of a Village Health Team (VHT) and moves around villages offering basic health education to different families. Of late, her duties include urging first-time mothers – who can be as young as 13 years old– to deliver in a health facility.

At about midday, she rides her bicycle into Mayuge town and parks outside a church where a man is setting up a small table, two chairs and two benches under a mvule tree. The mobile vaccination team is scheduled to spend the entire day in this location. Aliyenka has come to offer a helping hand.

“This is a town and there are a lot of things for young girls to admire,” she says, adding, “Some parents send their daughters to school without anything to eat, yet they are at an age where they crave so many things.

Then, there are the boda boda men who entice them with little money. I can only compare these boda boda men to a plague when it comes to young girls. In my experience, many of these teenage girls suffer obstetric complications during delivery and are usually recommended for C-section deliveries, which at Shs300,000, are expensive.”

Aliyenka, therefore, also sells them vouchers cards under the Uganda Reproductive Health Voucher Project (URHVP). These vouchers, sold at Shs4,000, enable pregnant girls to receive antenatal care, medical help during delivery, postnatal care and free C-sections when referred by the doctor.

“I ride more than 5kms out of town every day and over the years I have witnessed a big attitude change in rural women. They are now more eager to deliver their babies at health facilities instead of their homes or in the homes of traditional birth attendants.

In fact, towards the end of last year, 15 women gave birth at the health centre in a single night. Previously, there would be only two women on any given night.”

Searching for a way out
There are many brick huts in the compound where Sauda Nkoma lives with her husband. The compound belongs to her husband’s clan. It is easy to see that Nkoma is not happy with her situation in life. The 19-year-old got pregnant at 17; her husband was three years older.

Now, they have a one-year-old son, Asumani Musaku. “I regret getting this ‘accident’ at a young age,” she says, adding, “In fact, I do not want to get pregnant again, maybe in the next three years. I’m now using inject plan. My parents were very angry with me. I think they hated me at the time. There is nothing good about getting married when you are young.”

Nkoma got pregnant after she had completed Senior Four at Delta High School. The yearning to return to the classroom is evident in the girl. Teenage mothers in the rural areas in most cases face more obstacles in their ability to pursue educational opportunities than young women who delay childbearing.

Nkoma’s husband does not have a steady job and he takes on whatever job comes his way. “Life was not good for us. We had no hope of getting a way to earn a living until I enrolled for a training opportunity with BRAC.”

In December 2016, BRAC Uganda in Mayuge District, with funding from UNFPA, offered a three-day livelihood training to a number of teenage mothers and girls who had dropped out of school. The trainings, as a grassroots intervention, are offered with the hope that economically empowered girls (and their families) are less likely to become victims of child marriage and teenage pregnancy. From the training, Nkoma received two goats.

“If this female goat keeps on producing, with five healthy goats, I can sell each at Shs60,000 and buy a cow. I would then sell the cow and buy a piece of land. I wish BRAC could give us cows, seeds and land.”

BIG PICTURE
The effects
Children born to young mothers are at increased risk of sickness and death, while teenage mothers are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Also because these girls get pregnant before the right age, child marriages and teenage pregnancies have huge implications on the maternal health of the country.

Besides, most of these girls get married to older men so there is a high likelihood of domestic violence in the marriage.

“These marriages have implications on education of the girl-child and the country as many girls are now dropping out to get married,” adds Peninah Kyoyagala, Programme Analyst, Adolescent Health – UNFPA.
World Bank research on Uganda shows that teenage marriages account for about 36 per cent school dropouts.

The policies
Since government developed the National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy, an inter-ministerial committee was formed to provide guidance on the interventions around child marriage.

Government is also mobilising civil society organisations to invest in the area of ending child marriage. There is also the Youth Livelihood Fund, which was formed to reach out to girls who are at risk of child marriage due to poverty.

On June 16, 2015, on the Day of the African Child, the government launched the National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. The strategy outlines approaches and interventions that will end child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Uganda.

The statistics
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2016;
• 25 per cent of adolescents aged 15-19 have begun childbearing and 19 per cent of women aged 15-19 have given birth. Adolescent childbearing is more common in rural than in urban areas (27 versus 19 per cent, respectively).
• Teso sub-region has the highest proportion of adolescents who have begun childbearing and Kigezi sub-region the lowest (31 and 16 per cent respectively).
• Teenagers in the lowest wealth quartile tend to begin childbearing earlier than those in the highest quartile (34 versus 15 percent, respectively). This is due to poverty which makes it easy for young girls to be lured into sex, parents’ mindsets to child marriages, and low education attainment.

Leap forward to end child marriage in Uganda

SCOEN-Uganda supports new legislation to help eradicate child marriage in Uganda within a generation

7 million child brides

Child marriage affects 70 million girls in the world and Uganda have child brides.

The model law has been developed in response to this high prevalence of child marriage in Africa, which is largely driven by high poverty levels, gender inequality, traditions, religion and limited educational opportunities for girls. It will provide guidance to parliamentarians, ministries of justice, policymakers, and other stakeholders in Southern African countries as they develop national laws.

Working in partnership

The new model law eliminates several loopholes that make current laws ineffective and unenforceable including those around parental and judicial consent, and conflicts between customary and statuary laws.

Advancing girls’ equality for much more than one day

What would the world look like if girls were equal to boys? This year’s International Day of the Girl provides a tantalizing glimpse of the change we want to see, writes Plan International CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen.

Imagine a world where girls and young women are seen and heard, occupying positions of influence within their communities and beyond. Today, on 11 October, you don’t have to imagine: girls will be stepping into the shoes of political, social and economic leaders in a mass takeover that will make the invisible lives of girls – both their plight and their potential – truly visible.

By the end of the day, there will have been over 250 takeovers in more than 50 countries. From the President of Nepal and the Vice-President of Paraguay to the Minister of Finance in Canada, leading figures will be stepping aside; in Uganda, a girl will take over as speaker of the national parliament; in Guinea-Bissau, a young woman will co-host a national TV debate; in China and Thailand, girls will take over their teachers’ roles, and in Indonesia a girl is taking over the role of the Minister of Manpower.

When girls see what is possible, they are more likely to be inspired for themselves and to become active agents of change. But the takeovers also provide an opportunity for those stepping aside to work with young women, to listen and to learn; to find out from them directly how they want to change their lives for the better.

Millions of girls denied their rights

Because lives need to change. In every walk of life, in every corner of the world, girls face discrimination and injustice. Millions are denied their rights to a good education. They are unable to play an active and equal role in society. They are prevented from taking important decisions that affect their own lives, including decisions about sexual and reproductive health. And they are often at risk of violence, simply for being a girl.

Things can change. Last year the UN agreed an ambitious set of Global Goals that include the promise of achieving gender equality by 2030. While the challenges in achieving those goals are vast, they are not insurmountable, if we act and act now. That will require a clear-sighted agenda for change, based on six key elements.

Joint action for girls

First, we need to get the legal framework right. Currently, there are few direct mentions of girls in key international human rights instruments and, until that changes, girls will remain invisible. But we also need to build a movement to bolster those rights, and to drive change more widely.

A strong, grass-roots movement for girls’ rights has emerged in recent years. We need now to strengthen and sustain that movement, building solidarity with the girls and young women already at the front lines demanding their rights. Our global ‘takeover’ is just one way in which we plan to grow that movement.

Data to drive global movement

Third, while the UN’s Global Goals represent an impressive statement of intent, they are just words unless governments act on the commitments they have made. We need to be ready to help countries deliver, but also to challenge them when they do not.

If we are going to hold governments to account, we need better data and we need to use it more effectively: girls are ‘invisible’ to policy-makers because they are not being counted. But better data are also vital to making the right kind of decisions and investments that can transform girls’ lives.

Trans-formative change also requires new ways of working. We need to involve everyone, and the private sector has just as much of a role to play here as NGOs. Only by finding new ways of collaborating will we be able to find new solutions to complex problems.

Finally, we need to get the resourcing right. Just meeting the worldwide need for pregnancy-related care will require $28 billion annually, a 100% increase from current funding. We’ll need to be smarter about using all of the resources that are available, including working with the government.

16 steps to end School-Related Gender-Based Violence

An estimated 246 million girls and boys are harassed and abused in and around school every year.

School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) can take the form of psychological, physical and sexual violence against boys and girls in, around and on the way to and from school.

SRGBV is a grave violation of human rights and impedes a child’s right to education; it affects their psychological, physical and social well-being as well as their ability to learn.

Both boys and girls are vulnerable to different forms of violence in and around schools.

SRGBV stems from deeply rooted gender norms, stereotypes, systemic inequalities and unequal power dynamics based on gender. Situations of protracted conflict, displacement and poverty exacerbate children’s vulnerability to SRGBV.

SRGBV includes explicit threats or acts of physical violence, bullying, verbal or sexual harassment, non-consensual touching, sexual coercion and assault, and rape.

Other implicit acts of SRGBV stem from everyday school practices that reinforce stereotyping and gender inequality, and encourage violent or unsafe environments. In particular, these acts can surface against those who do not conform to mainstream conceptions of masculinity or femininity. Corporal punishment and discipline are also often used in schools in gendered and discriminatory ways. Around the world, male and female educators and students can be victims and perpetrators of violence, although the extent and form can differ and vary across countries and within regions.

Evidence suggests that SRGBV is detrimental to learning and has serious physical and mental health effects. It negatively impacts children’s ability to participate in school activities, can cause lower achievement and performance, and lead to students dropping out of school.

While schools mirror gender inequalities and discrimination that exists in the home and within communities and societies at large, schools can also play a transformative role in shifting harmful gender norms and discriminatory practices. Schools need to become safe and secure environments where children learn to develop mutual respect and an understanding of gender equality in order to raise their voices against discrimination and gender-based violence. When a child is able to access safe, quality education, he or she unlocks his or her own potential and is better able to contribute to the wellbeing of their community.

When schools are free from gender-based violence, there are positive ripple effects beyond the classroom, including a transformation of traditional gender narratives and changes in the way girls and boys see and engage with the world around them.

We call on UN Agencies and Member States to:

  1. Recognize that SRGBV is an important barrier to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, Goals 3, 4, 5 and 16

We call on Governments to:

  1. Adopt comprehensive, gender-responsive and multi-sectoral action plans to eliminate SRGBV, including enactment of laws that explicitly protect children from all forms of violence and the provision of specific budget allocations for the implementation and dissemination of plans
  2. Establish safe and effective child-friendly reporting mechanisms and multi-sectoral response services for SRGBV that are clear, proportionate and consistent with the Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC)

We call on Donors to:

  1. Prioritize and expand financing to support programs addressing SRGV, particularly among under-served, marginalized populations as well as prevention programs that address non-violent conflict resolution, shifting harmful gender norms, power inequalities and dynamics.
  2. Provide funding for formative and action research, program and policy evaluations to build the evidence base and good practice on SRGBV in the global south; particularly its impact on psychological and physical well-being and learning achievement, effective interventions, prevalence, reporting and inclusion in education sector planning

We call on Ministries of Education, school administrators and education unions to:

  1. Adopt a code of professional ethics that explicitly addresses SRGBV and is to be observed by all members; enforce school-based reporting and response protocols for educators, support personnel and managers, including the appointment of ‘focus’ educators as a first point of contact for children who experience violence.
  2. Ensure that education content, including curricula, textbooks, pedagogy and classroom practices are gender-sensitive and promote peace and gender equitable norms and attitudes, including through comprehensive sexuality education.
  3. Strengthen pre- and in-service teacher education programmes to make them gender-sensitive and improve and boost the capacity of educators to promote gender equitable norms in their educational practice
  4. Partner with civil society actors to advocate for the protection of students and staff alike within educational settings, especially in the context of war and armed conflict.

We call on Researchers to:

  1. Conduct wide-ranging research to contribute to a strong evidence base and address the gaps in knowledge on the drivers, risks and cultural contexts of SRGBV, including children marginalised by poverty, ethnicity, language, caste, disability, religion, refugee status, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity

We call on NGOs, civil society and the international development community to:

  1. Drive a global movement, together with men and boys, communities and stakeholders to eliminate SRGBV and promote access to schools as violence-free, safe spaces for learning, for all educators and students
  2. Expand programming to address SRGBV by educating and empowering communities and stakeholders at all levels, establishing multi-sectoral coordination, fostering community participation and the voices of boys and girls; and integrate SRGBV into other initiatives on HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, violence prevention in schools, humanitarian response and peace building, children’s rights, gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment
  3. Develop and disseminate evidence-based program guidance, tools and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms which demonstrate how to address SRGBV effectively
  4. Advocate with governments, donors and education authorities for the fulfilment and protection of children’s rights to access formal and non-formal learning environments that are safe and free from violence; and recognize that SRGBV often increases in conflict-affected countries and during emergencies.

We call on Communities to:

  1. Unite to end harmful social and cultural beliefs that give rise to violence against girls and boys in schools; end harmful practices; and strengthen reporting and response mechanisms within communities and educational institutions

We call on Girls and Boys to:

  1. Stand up and recognized as change-makers. Raise your voices to act against SRGBV and demand safe and secure school environments for all girls and boys around the world

Violence in school affects learning for both girls and boys

While boys and girls can be both victims and perpetrators of SRGBV, girls are often at greater risk of sexual violence, whilst boys are often more exposed to corporal punishment and bullying. Teachers and school staff -important partners addressing SRGBV – can also be perpetrators, in some cases acting with impunity. Poorly enforced legislation, inadequate child protection policies and weak or non-existent reporting mechanisms all increase children’s vulnerability to SRGBV.

SRGBV has serious consequences for children’s physical and mental health and well-being. It has been shown to adversely impact learning, school attendance and completion. New analysis presented in our paper shows that bullying affects boys’ and girls’ ability to master basic numeracy skills.

Sexual violence is a highly destructive form of SRGBV that contributes to girls’ poor performance and dropout. Unintended pregnancy resulting from sexual coercion and rape effectively marks the end of their education in many countries.

While increased advocacy and recognition of SRGBV has been a positive trend in recent years, we still do not know its full scale or impact. Reliable international data are lacking on the various forms of SRGBV and on sexual violence in particular.
Evidence across and within countries is uneven and incomplete. Cross-national surveys and learning assessments that collect data on violence within school settings have generally focused on physical violence and bullying, and have not always applied a gender perspective.

Time to Rethink Universal Primary Education

Most of the enlightened parents were, therefore, left with no choice but to withdraw their children from rural UPE schools.

Of recent, the Ministry of Education and Sports has been in the spotlight. Since the appointment of the First Lady, Janet Museveni, as the Minister of Education and Sports, the ministry has been in the spotlight. The mainstream media have carried headlines on the education sector almost on a weekly basis.

Whereas most stories carried have pointed out the wrongs in the education sector, there has been a great deal of remedies proposed to revamp the sector. One of such stories was about the recent meeting which was held at Golf Course Kampala on the ongoing education sector review. According to the story, key success stories were presented by selected head teachers and parents from model schools like Mbarara Municipal and Arua Hill Primary schools.

The success stories had a familiar best practice of a good relationship between the school authorities and the parents. The parents had agreed to contribute additional funding towards the education of their children in addition to UPE government funds. This best practice needs to be promoted, encouraged and replicated if UPE is to yield success stories across the board.

One of the major causes of poor performance of UPE, especially in rural schools is the neglected role of parents and guardians in the education of their children. In some of the rural schools, the once vibrant Parents and Teachers Associations (PTAs) disintegrated with the introduction of UPE.

The parents negated their role wholly to the government. Some enthusiastic leaders including a few Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) contributed to the magnitude of this trend whenever they threatened, paraded or arrested head teachers who attempted to obtain any additional dues from parents.

In some areas, dialogue between schools authorities and parents on additional shillings to support their children’s education were disallowed by fervent leaders. As a result, a rift between parents and teachers ensued in some areas. Parents accused teachers of wanting to fail government programmes, the teachers were demotivated.

Most of the enlightened parents were, therefore, left with no choice but to withdraw their children from rural UPE schools to either Urban UPE Schools or Private schools.

It should be noted that the good relations between teachers and parents provided the best monitoring and performance management tool for the diverse primary education sector. The rethinking of the UPE programme should, therefore, focus on reintroducing, empowering and enabling parents and teachers associations.

The notion of unguided teachers flocking offices of the Chief Administrative Officers seeking the transfer of teachers needs to be handled. The leaders at all levels need to be proactive in fostering good relations between schools and communities. The roles of District Education Officers (DEOs) and Inspectors of Schools should be stretched to include outreach sensitisation meetings to parents on their roles.

According to the National Planning Authority (NPA) Pre-primary and Primary Education in Uganda: Access, Cost, Quality and Relevance paper of Vision 2040, stabilising food availability in primary school stimulates increased enrolments and school attendance rates and thereby, reducing absenteeism.

Bringing back on board parents and caregivers to take part in the monitoring and management schools at partner level rather than umpire level will go a long way in improving the performance of UPE in rural settings. This has been attested in urban settings where enlightened parents and caregivers are playing a role.

The writer is a social worker

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