The Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) has said it will this year focus on how to empower young girls to end teenage pregnancies during this year’s She Decides festival to be held in Mbale later this year.
She Decides is a global movement that envisions a world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, her life and with her future and in Uganda, the movement was officially launched in June 2018 by the Minister for Health, Jane Ruth Acheng .
Addressing journalists at their offices in Kampala, UYAHF Program Manager, Winnie Apio said during this year’s annual celebrations, they will be looking at putting the girls at the forefront of the fight to end teenage pregnancies, especially in Mbale.
“Mbale is among the districts that are grappling with child marriages and pregnancies which have significantly contributed to high school dropout rates. We will focus on empowering girls and other young people to end the teenage pregnancies,”Apio said.
A recent survey indicated that there is increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancies in Mbale.
The survey indicated that teenage pregnancies in Mbale had increased from 10 percent in 2018 to 20 percent among girls between 12 and 16 years whereas the HIV/ AIDS prevalence had risen to 7 percent from 5 percent in 2018.
Data from UNICEF indicates that 40% of girls in Uganda are married before their 18th birthday and one in 10 is married before the age of 15.
However, according to Apio, during this year’s She Decides festival, they will purpose to spotlight the need to give urgency and put the adolescent girls at the forefront to challenge stigma and address barriers that expose them to teenage pregnancies.
“The festival will, therefore, be a safe space for young people that will be used to mobilise and amplify their voices, empower them with correct information and provide access to reproductive health and HIV services without stigma and discrimination,” she noted.
According to Apio, at the festival, gender equality organisations, policy makers, community leaders, cultural leaders and religious leaders will help in tackling the problems faced by young girls.
The Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum also announced that singer, Emmanuel Mungi Matovu, also known as MUN G and Valentino Kabenge have been signed as their cultural icons who will use their music to help appeal to the public to help promote gender equality.
This year’s She Decides festival will be celebrated on February 29 at the Mbale Secondary School grounds.