LAUNCH OF RESEARCH FINDINGS ON THE SITUATION AND IMPACT OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON SCHOOL GOING GIRLS & YOUNG WOMEN IN UGANDA
Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda Chapter in partnership with UN Women, Oxfam Uganda and GIZ on Thursday 20th May, 2021 launched National Research Findings, “On the Situation and Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on School Going Girls and Young Women in Uganda.
The event focused on sharing empirical findings on the situation of, and impact of COVID-19 on school going girls and young women in Uganda, interact with wider policy and decision makers, education and health service providers on ways to facilitate uptake of findings in decision-making and policy formulation. In addition, to engaging stakeholders and responsible Government authorities to urgently take action and address the problems affecting you people through identifying possible interventions and innovations that can support children especially girls to continue with education during and post the pandemic.
The major objective of the study was to generate valid data; and assess the situation of, and impact of COVID-19 on school going girls and young women in Uganda with key interest on establishing the prevalence of early marriages and adolescent pregnancies among school going girls during the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda. It further focused on investigating the drivers of engagement in sexual activity among school going girls and young women, assessing the participation of school going girls in the learning opportunities that emerged during lockdown and girls’ interest in continuing their education and examining involvement of school going girls in economic activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report further reveals several factors fuelling sexual violence against girls and young women including; poverty as many families slid into it; as many parents were unable to meet needs of their children especially girls including requirements for menstrual hygiene management; young people experiencing hunger as parents couldn’t provide meals, parents “absenteeism” and not playing their roles at home, limited access to sexual reproductive health and rights information and services, lack of youth friendly services in health facilities and idleness, drug abuse and alcoholism, and exposure to online sexual exploitation among others.
The study revealed that during the pandemic, over 5.4% of the girls/young women reported experiencing abusive sexual touching compared to 1.8% of boys/males. More females (0.6%) than males (0.2%) experienced pressured sex before and during the pandemic. Unlike males or boys who were sexually exploited by friends (75.0%) and romantic partners (25.0%), for female or girls, they experienced a whole range of abusers including mainly friends (37.8%) followed by romantic partners (29.7%), strangers (8.1%) as well as neighbors (5.4%) and community including religious leaders (5.4%). This suggests that girls’ experiences of sexual exploitation are diverse and come from all kinds of individuals. Results show that girls are more vulnerable to abuse than boys.
Mr. Ismael Mulindwa the Chief Guest and Director of Basic and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education and Sports noted that, “The Uganda Police Force, reported over 21,000 cases of violence against children within a period of 4 months (March to July 2020); 10,280 cases of GBV and 6818 defilements. 4,062 cases of teenage pregnancy were reported in Acholi sub region alone and 6000 in Moroto district, all pointing to a very difficult situation for all of us as a Country.” He emphasized that in an effort to address the same, “The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Civil Society Organizations including FAWE Uganda developed policies and guidelines addressing different challenges facing young people including; National Guidelines on Prevention & Management of Teenage Pregnancy and re-entry of child mothers in school which enabled thousands of the teenage mothers register and seat final year examinations; and the guidelines for Senior Women & Men Teachers – to handle the general being of young people in schools including attending to the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights issues.” He urged, local Government Authorities, law enforcement agencies, local leaders and community members to play their role in reporting and following-up cases to ensure justice prevails.
Ms. Susan Opok Tumusiime, the Executive Director, FAWE Uganda said, “The workshop is aimed at reflecting on study findings and officially unveil them to responsible stakeholders and the public across Uganda including line Government Agencies, Civil Society Organizations, local Government Authorities, media and local leaders since we all have a role to play in ending all forms of sexual violence against girls and young women; as clearly detailed in the report, the vices emanate from in ability of families to provide basic needs for their children hence they are lured by those purporting to give them everything they need.”
She urged parents, care takers of children, local leaders and communities to do whatever it takes to safe guard children especially girls and young women who are prone to abuse. They need to do their best to guide children, talk to them, and provide basic needs to avoid temptations; monitor situations and report cases of sexual abuse in communities for justice to prevail. She called upon Government agencies and enforcement authorities including, the Uganda Police Force to do all it takes to protect children; and the judiciary to pass tough punishment for the offenders so as to deter others from doing the same.
The study put forward a number of recommendations including; sensitization of teachers and school management on existing and expected protection risks, and where to report suspected cases following the established referral pathways when school reopen, continuous awareness creation on the importance of education to ensure that the progress made is not reversed as many young people especially girls have low interest in returning to school, Government should review both the Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education Policy to allow for young girls who had dropped out of school as a result of teenage pregnancy resume studies from where they had stopped, allocate funds to implementation of the “Revised Guidelines on Prevention and Management of Teenage Pregnancy in school settings in Uganda -as they provide for re-integration of adolescent mothers (10-19) into learning institutions post-COVID-19, and strengthen advocacy around Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) information and services among others.
The launch was attended by representatives Government Agencies including, line Ministries of Education and Sports, Gender Labour and Social Development; Ministry of Health, Internal Affairs – Uganda Police Force; Members of Parliament, Civil Society Organizations, Media, District Education Officers, Academia and UN Agencies.
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