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

Understanding key forms of violence against children

Violence against children takes different forms. It is crucial to understand each of them and come up with measures to handle them.

It is also common that a child may be victim to more than one category at the same time, and therefore require more than one measure of intervention.

Uganda’s National Strategic Plan on Violence Against Children in Schools (2015-2010) defines forms of violence inflicted on children of school-going age – three to 18 years – in four broad categories.

The five-year strategy relies on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) definition of violence as ‘all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse’.

Physical violence is any form of punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort. Physical violence can be fatal and non-fatal. This involves hitting children with the hand or with any object, kicking, shaking, scratching, pinching, biting, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions and burning, among others.

Corporal punishment refers to any disciplinary measure in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort. Psychological or emotional violence is any act or behaviour that conveys to a child that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or of value only in meeting another’s needs.

It includes blaming, degrading, intimidating, terrorizing, isolating, restraining, confining, corrupting, exploiting, spurning, withholding affection, and belittling the child’s capabilities, qualities and desires, or otherwise behaving in a manner that is harmful, potentially harmful, or insensitive to the child’s developmental needs or can potentially damage the child psychologically or emotionally.

Sexual violence is any sexual act (or attempt to obtain a sexual act), unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic a person’s sexuality, using coercion, threats of harm or physical force, by any person regardless of relationship to the child.

This encompasses a range of offences, including completed non-consensual sex acts (i.e. rape), attempted non-consensual sex acts, abusive sexual contact (i.e. unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment).

Sexual violence also includes the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful or psychologically harmful sexual activity; the exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; and the exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials, and the provision of gifts especially from men to girls or from women to boys in return for sexual pleasure.

Neglect and negligent treatment is the failure to meet the children’s physical (such as food, shelter, clothing) and psychological needs; protect them from danger; to access vital services required by the child such as education, medical care, registration and or abandonment when those responsible for children’s care have the means, knowledge and access to services to do so.

Some of the common forms of negligent treatment in schools include failure by schools to provide midday meals, absenteeism among teachers and deliberately providing substandard education.

The strategy observes that there are also new emerging forms of violence such as school fires that have resulted into loss of lives of children and property.

Children still face sexual violence

In Summary

Incidents: Findings show that one in four young adults has experienced sexual violence in their childhood and had their first abuse at the age of 13 or at a much younger age.

Back in 2012, Daily Monitor published a traumatising story of Joan (not real name) narrating how her own father had repeatedly raped her on a number of occasions.
As a result, the young girl sustained injuries to her private parts which oozed blood and pus.
To date, the girl continues to suffer psychological distress from the ordeal.
Joan is among many girls whose stories have been highlighted in the different media platforms as a way of raising awareness about the vice.
Sexual violence encompasses sexual abuse and exploitation of children including forced sex, erotic touches such as grabbing or fondling of the child. Sexual violence also includes harassment, threats and tricks directed towards a child in exchange for sex.

The statistics
Uganda Violence Against Children survey report findings released on August 2018 show that one in three young women have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood.
Also, one in four young adults who experienced sexual abuse in their childhood had their first abuse experience at 13 or at a much younger age.
Further, the report highlights that most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence against girls during their childhoods were neighbours and strangers. These girls, aged 13 to 17 years, most frequently experienced sexual violence on the road, their own respective homes and school.
Meanwhile, boys aged 13 to 24 years reported friends, classmates, and neighbours as the most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence. They were abused in the evening, and most commonly at school, in their homes, and on the road.

Consequences of sexual violence
Children who suffer sexual abuse get affected in different ways.
They may get mental disorder as a result of recurrent sexual episodes playing in their minds, says Ian Musoke, a child welfare social worker.
“For example, if a girl was raped, there is a likelihood that she will keep thinking of what happened to her, and, in the long run, this may cause her mental agony,” Musoke says.
Rape also comes with the high risk of exposure to HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases including gonorrhea and syphilis. Some girls also get pregnant in the process.
“Sadly, because some of these girls conceive at a time they are still very young, they end up losing their life as well as that of the baby,” Musoke says.
Then, some of these victims may either resort to run away from home or committing suicide out of shame.
Musoke says sometimes these victims can end up detesting men or relationships.
A case in point, Namayanja, now aged 25 years, says she starting hating men after being raped by her uncle at the age of 10 years.
“I don’t like the idea of any man touching me as it always reminds me of my painful past,” Namayanja says.
Although a number of suitors continue to propose marriage, Namayanja continuously says she is not yet ready to settle down. Uganda is a signatory to a number of international instruments including the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), article 19, which requires that children are protected from all forms of violence (including sexual abuse).
However, a Ministry of education and sports report issued in 2014 titled Response, Tracking, Referral, and Response (RTRR), guidelines on violence against children in schools, noted there were existing challenges towards reporting cases of abuse.
These included limited understanding of children’s rights and responsibilities, mismanagement of reported cases of violence among children as well as gaps in the existing laws on violence against children. The RTRR report highlighted that although Uganda has various laws that prohibit abuse, they lack specific provisions on mandatory reporting of cases of abuse against youngsters.

What can be done to avert sexual violence?
Mr Timothy Opodo, the child protection manager at Child Fund International says there is need to empower children especially the girl-child to be able to detect and report cases of sexual abuse.
“They should be able to identify incidents such as inappropriate erotic language directed towards them as well as bad touches and report the culprits to the law enforcement officers,” Opodo says.
In addition, Opodo says there is need for both parents and teachers to empower children with life skills so as that they can grow up to be confident and not shy to speak out any issue.
Since there are still communities with unfair norms targeting the girl-child including early child marriages, Opodo says there is also need to address these issues at hand.

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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