ADOLESCENT PREGNANCIES IN EASTERN UGANDA.
In Uganda teenage pregnancy is considered as a problem for moral and social, as well as health, reasons. This undesirable trauma is at high rate in Eastern part of Uganda. Many young people become sexually active before they know how to avoid teenage pregnancies and peer pressure and pressure to conform to stereotypes increase the likelihood of early and unprotected sexual activity. This issue is rooted deeply in the rural areas where children are bearing children as result of several reasons which include;
Poor sensitization by parents, parents have reluctantly failed to sensitive their children over the dangers of early marriages. For example parents of Kerekerene Village in iki-iki Sub-county Budaka District, have abandoned their roles of parenting their girl child which leaves big gap to combat this folly because the best teacher to a child up bringing is his or her parents. Some of these parents are also not informed at all, so they have nothing to teach to their children rather than watching them as they bear children or some parents even force them into early marriages.
There is also lack of information to some of these young people in villages. Most of the electronic and print media messages that are run on TV, Radios, Billboards, magazines and newspapers only favor people residing in urban areas while leaving out those in rural areas. This has left a big gap of information for example messages of abstinence from sex before marriage, condom usage, among other health reproductive messages.
This has reduces girl child education in Eastern part of Uganda. Only boys are attaining education while girls are being forced into marriages as a result of early pregnancies, peer pressure and economic hardships. There are issues like gender based violence and high spread of STDs like contraction of HIV/AIDS, among teenagers as a result of early unprotected sex. This has negatively affected the lives of young people in Budaka district.
Families and communities must not hide their heads in the sand; they must acknowledge that some young people are sexually active and need help to deal with this situation. Families and communities must therefore be engaged and involved in discussing meaningful ways of addressing teenage pregnancy early marriage and related issues.
The use of media, in particular radio, also presents great opportunity to reach the young people both in rural and urban areas. Radio is one of the most powerful tools through which young people will be reached with health information on a wide range of issues.
We need to empower these presenters with reproductive health information, such that as they talk, present music and other forms of entertainment to young people they can slot in messages on how to prevent teenage pregnancy and other issues.
Worldwide, young people are more connected than any other generation. Use of Facebook and other social media platforms is so widespread. We need to tap into this and use the social media platforms to send catchy messages that will resonate with young people. And as programmers we must come down to their level; use their language, terms and slang to reach out and connect with young people in Villages.
We also need to have sexuality education programmes in schools and at health facilities to help young people develop life skills to deal with their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
This information should be provided to young people in a friendly way and while ensuring their privacy. We cannot afford to have young people die, drop out of school and have a bleak future when we have the means at our disposal to do something about it.
By Lydia Natalejja