This story was written by Vivian Agaba, in the New Vision Newspaper of 28 June 2013
Namubiru, 17, in Primary five always spent holidays in Maya village in Masaka district at her elder sister’s place. It is in this village that she met a 21-year-old man in senior two and the duo became close friends.She stayed home to look after her sister’s baby and this is where her new friend, Mukasa, found her .They were friends for only one month and took their relationship to another step and became boyfriend and girlfriend.
Mukasa would visit her every time her sister left for work and the duo would have lengthy conversations in which he would promise her heaven on earth. After making those promises, Namubiru was convinced that Mukasa loved her and when he asked to have sex, she immediately gave in. On the day the two got intimate with each other, he had promised to pay her fees, after completing school, marry her and start a business for her.
After two months, Namubiru realised she was not getting her periods and she decided to confide in her elder sister to find out what the problem was. She says her sister took her to the nearest clinic to find out what was wrong with her. They were shocked that Namubiru was two months pregnant. When her sister found out, she was so angry and she proposed to Namubiru that if she was to continue staying with her, she had to abort. But out of fear to die while aborting, Namubiru refused to give in to her sister’s demand and that is when her elder sister chased her out of her home. Namubiru thought she would find comfort in the father of her child but when she told him about it, he denied being responsible and to date, he has disappeared and she does not know where he is.
She went looking for shelter at her single mother’s home but unfortunately, her mother chased her before she even told her the full story.
‘Ruined my childhood
A Good Samaritan came her way and took her to Teenage Mothers’ Centre on Masaka-Kampala road and she stayed there till she gave birth to a baby boy who is now one month old.
Namubiru has since then left the Centre and she is staying with a 20-year old friend who she says is also pregnant and her boyfriend has abandoned her after she told him she is pregnant.
Her friend got another man who together with the help of Namubiru’s brother support these child mothers with food once in a while. Namubiru says life is not easy when you are a child and become a mother. She insists that as mother nursing a baby, one needs to eat a balanced diet but this is something she only dreams about because she has no means of getting money to buy the foods.
She says basing on what she is going through as a child mother, she advises teenagers who still have a chance to study to use that opportunity other than listening to young boys who promise heaven on earth but after impregnating you, run away. “If I had known he was lying to me, I would not have fallen for his lies. He has ruined my childhood but I hope to go back to school after weaning my baby,” Concluded Namubiru. Jackline,14, in P.6 has not been able to report back to school since the beginning of this year as she is eight months pregnant and expecting her first child very soon. She was so hesitant to share information about her pregnancy and all she could say was that the man who made her pregnant abandoned her after finding out she was expecting his child.
Jackline says the problem she finds in being a teenage mother is the way society looks at her and immediately judges her. She says wherever she passes, people turn their heads, look at her and start talking and she keeps on wondering why they are talking. She adds that this makes her uncomfortable but she has got nothing to do about her situation and hopes everything will be fine especially during birth.
She has grown up from a broken home where by their father left their mother and her other siblings and married another woman.
Her mother works tirelessly to support them that she rarely finds time to talk to them.
Right now, she is being taken care of by the Wakisa ministries, a temporary Organization taking care of pregnant young girls.
Namubiru and Jackline are not the only ones having this big burden on their shoulders of being young mothers when they, themselves are also still young.
According to the Uganda demographic and health survey 2011(UDHS), 24% of women aged 15-19 are mothers or pregnant with their first child. In the group of women aged 20-49, 15% were married by age 15 while 49% were married by age 18.
39% of women aged 20-49 give birth by age 18 while 63% of women in same category give birth by age 20.
A report by UNESCO-2010, the rate of teenage pregnancy in Uganda is at 30% with new cases being reported every day. And in East Africa; teenage pregnancies are at 67%.
The statistics were revealed during a conference that was held recently at Nob View Hotel in Ntinda (Uganda) organized by Parenting in Africa Network (PAN) chaired by Josephine Gitonga, Program Manager of Parenting in Africa Network (PAN)
PAN is a network of organizations, individuals and institutions keen to promote skillful parenting practice in Africa for the overall wellbeing of children and families.
“As Parenting is most important in ensuring child wellbeing, PAN recognizes that there is a limited source of credible materials, information on parenting education and support in Africa. That is why PAN provides regional platform for integrating parenting support to strengthen families in Africa,” said Josephine Gitonga
She added that PAN is committed to provide forums and platforms for learning and sharing information regarding parenting with skills, education and knowledge, in order to safeguard children.
Lillian Mwebaza, the executive director teenage mother’s Centre in Masaka says the increase in teenage pregnancies is due to sexual exploitation which includes rape, defilement, unruly adolescents, peer influence and broken relationships/families.
“Some girls grow up in broken homes, where parental guidance, care and love are limited. To make matters worse, some girls come from not-well to do families. When they get men who promise them good things in life, they give in easily and getting pregnant at their tender age is one of the outcomes of early relationships,” says Mwebaza
Patience Bahirirwe, administrative Assistant, Wakisa Ministries says child neglect is one of the leading causes of teenage pregnancies in the country.
“These days, parents work from Monday to Monday and barely have time to guide and watch over their children. And at adolescence, this is when young boys and girls want to discover who they are. They get involved in many adventures with sex inclusive and that is how some have become pregnant,” said Bahirirwe.
Ronnie Roy Anika, the post board member on PAN secretariat contributes the increase in child mothers to lack of proper sex education from parents, guardians and schools to the young boys and girls especially during adolescence.
He also adds that the problem is being fuelled by single parent families who spend most of the time trying to put food on the table and forget to monitor their children’s life journeys.
“While parents in single families are absent in their children’s ‘lives at a tender age trying to make ends meet, the girls are also out there testing their sexuality and that is how some have ended up getting pregnant at an early age,” said Anika
Charity Bekunda Rutaremwa, Assistant Commissioner Family Affairs says the best way to overcome this serious problem is by all stake holders going into communities and sensitizing people about the dangers of marrying off girls at a tender age and teenage pregnancies.
“Ministry of gender, labour and social development works with other organizations like NGOs, other departments like National Women’s council, ministry of health to give information and resources to benefit communities in helping to fight against things like teenage pregnancies, early child marriages and fight against spread of HIV/AIDS from mother to child,” said Bekunda.
She called upon all parents(mothers and fathers)to be involved in their children’s’ lives if teenage pregnancies are to reduce citing that it is because parents are not available and accessible in their childrens’ lives to guide them in life’s journey that they, the children make wrong life choices and mistakes.