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.
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.