CP Component: RH Family planning
Implementing Partner: Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU)
Reporting period: November 2016
HEJNU: Undertake behavioural change communication /Teenage pregnancies
ACTIVITY: Science café to facilitate dissemination of information concerning the challenges of Teenage pregnancies to the public through various media houses.
The activity was a science café held as part of the process of developing an ongoing dialogue between journalist and advocates, policymakers, researchers and implementers in reproductive health and dissemination of the information to the public through various media houses. Representatives attended the science café from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Straight Talk Foundation, Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre and members of the press.
OBJECTIVE OF THE ACTIVITY
To equip journalists with all the relevant information concerning teenage pregnancy, so they can effectively and authoritatively dissemination it to the public.
Moderator: Esther Nakkazi
The moderator introduced the Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) to the audience and thanked UNFPA, Reach a Hand, Straight Talk Foundation and Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre for not only supporting this science café but for also sending presenters for the day.
She noted that to date, teenage pregnancies are still prevalent in Uganda despite efforts from numerous stakeholders to reduce their prevalence. Bringing together experts who deal with teenage pregnancy issues and journalists will ensure that proper information concerning teenage pregnancies is given to the journalists who will, in turn, reach out to the public with the right information. It will help create repugnance towards teenage pregnancies and hopefully influence some behavioral change in many communities within Uganda.
Theme: Teenage Pregnancies
Presenter 1: M/s. Peninah Kyoyagala Tomusange, National Program Officer (Adolescent and youth sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) – UNFPA
M/s Kyoyagala Peninah was thankful for the opportunity to speak about teenage pregnancy and noted that according to the Uganda demographic survey 2011, one out of four girls in Uganda today is either pregnant or has had a pregnancy before. She further stated that according to the ministry of Education, the prominent factors affecting the girl child education are poverty and early pregnancy.
Pregnancy usually leaves stigma around the girl yet many times the fault is not theirs. Many are defiled and according to the Police crime report 2011, defilement was the most prevalent crime. Many girls opportunities and potential are ended abruptly by teenage pregnancy, therefore, it is important that all actors look at how the issue can be addressed.
She further noted that teenage pregnancy is common in communities where there is child marriage however, it is not healthy for the girls since their bodies are not ready for childbirth so they tend to get many complications when giving birth. This contributes heavily to maternal death. Therefore, in order to address maternal mortality, teenage pregnancy has to be addressed.
She informed the gathering that many teenagers who get pregnant usually contemplate abortion and since it is illegal in Uganda, many resort to using unsafe methods that can lead to death.
She to advised that in order to address the issue of teenage pregnancy, we need to make it a shameful subject not just for the involved individual but, for the whole community. The issues contributing to teenage pregnancy that need to be addressed include poverty, increasing the knowledge among boys and girls concerning their sexuality so they can make responsible and informed decisions, issues of injustice and violence against the girls plus engagement from all stakeholders including the media.
She summarized by noting that teenage pregnancy has a lot of consequences that are health-related, education and socio-economic related. It not only shatters the life of the pregnant girl but also that of her family and it is also associated with the wide spread of HIV.
Presenter 2: Mr. Walakira Godfrey
Training and Development Manager, Straight Talk Foundation
Mr. Walakira Godfrey stressed the need to give more attention to the issue of teenage pregnancy. He noted that the national average prevalence of teenage pregnancy currently stands at 24%. However regionally, central is at 30.6%, eastern is at 30.3%, Karamoja is at 29.7%, West Nile is at 26.4%, Nothern Uganda is at 25.6%, Western Uganda is at 22.6 while South western is at 15%.
He also noted that many sexually transmitted infections are closely interlinked with teenage pregnancy. The situation is not good at all and the media and all other stakeholders need to carry out a lot of education and sensitization concerning this issue.
He stressed the need to handle a number of issues that lead to teenage pregnancies and these include early sexual debut, child marriages whose prevalence stands at 59% for Northern Uganda, 58% for Western region, 52% for Eastern region, 50% west Nile, 41.9% for central region, 37% for southwestern and 21%for Kampala, as per the Uganda demographic health survey. He pleaded for an increase in teenagers’ access to age-appropriate sexual reproductive health information, which, can effectively be done through the provision of appropriate information to the schools or directly through the communities.
He summarized by stating that not enough has been done yet as far as sensitization and education concerning teenage pregnancy is concerned plus formulating and implementing policies. “It is an issue and everyone’s responsibility to do whatever is within their means to create some publicity for the avoidance of teenage pregnancies” he ended.
Presenter 3: Mr. Bukenya Lewis Denis, Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre
Mr. Bukenya Lewis noted the need to appreciate the state of most pregnant women lately who are looking dejected. He added that when a teenage girl becomes pregnant, most of her aspirations end and this is the beginning of a generation of less empowered people.
He said the issue of teenage pregnancies is historical in Uganda, it has been fought and it is reducing, however, what has been done so far does not match Uganda’s potential. He urged the media and public at large to shame teenage pregnancy and task the communities with high levels of teenage pregnancies to take affirmative action against both the man/boy and girl, involved.
He complained about the lack of adequate sensitization and implored the media, parents, and communities to regularly sensitize and empower the teenagers to make better-informed decisions. The youth need to have ready access to youth friendly sexuality education services so they can get their needs and questions attended to.
He particularly stressed the need for educating the boys since they are not only active participants in creating the pregnancy but are also custodians of the decision making process yet they hardly receive this form of education and tend to rely more on experience.
He summarized encouraging regular education of the girl child to empower them to fight the dominance within society that makes them unable to stand out and make decisions. This should create significant change provided the correct information concerning sexuality education is popularized throughout the country.
Question and answer session
- Recently parliament passed a motion stopping sex education. Do you think that will affect the progress made so far with reducing teenage pregnancy?
- How can we handle situations where both participants in teenage pregnancy are teenagers? A situation that is happening in Isingiro.
- Is there any way the content being published concerning sexuality education can be regulated?
- Are the security personnel being actively involved in the fight against teenage pregnancy?
- Is there a way we can create access to family planning commodities like condoms to teenagers?
- What possibilities are there for reviving the original “Sengas” that used to advise teenage girls?
- Is there any engagement with traditional and religious leaders concerning engaging their communities?
- Do schools have the right teachers for sexuality education and what is being done to address the issue of parents talking to their teenage children?
- How can we address issues of levels of income plus the slum housing areas experience?
M/s. Peninah Kyoyagala
Parliament Motion: Initially this sounded like a negative motion however it has turned out well because the country, through the ministry of Education, has started working on a framework to create a curriculum that will guide sexuality education in the future. After completion, hopefully, by end of 2016, sexuality education will be actively taught in schools. The information given will be accurate and age appropriate.
Teenager to teenager incidences: This is a demonstration that there is an urgent need to increase information among the teenagers. A sixteen-year-old would not want to be a father but, sometimes this happens. Parents would prefer their children to abstain but in reality, they are sexually active and need to be informed on how they can avoid pregnancy and infections.
Engaging security and content regulation: Enforcement is not the sole responsibility of the police but all of us as a community and the media can play a major role in this. If we can create some repugnance towards teenage pregnancy then enforcement will be automatic.
Engaging traditional and religious leaders: This is currently an on going process and UNFPA is engaging with them through the Ministry of gender. They have huge voluntary followings so we cannot ignore them however we have to put into consideration the positive aspects of the traditional and religious practices and values that will facilitate attainment of our goals. Hopefully, we can develop a mass of opinion leaders that will denounce teenage pregnancy.
Accessing family planning tools: It is very important to create closer linkage between schools and health facilities that can support teenagers and also provide some of these accessories.
Mr. Walakira Godfrey
Teenager to teenager incidences: This is true, however, the trends and data currently indicate that there is also an increased incidence of trans-generational sexual activity.
Parliament Motion: This is a good way forward and it will depend on the content that the package carries both in quality and quantity.
Engaging security and content regulation: It will be good to engage all stakeholders, partners, and civil society to see how best this challenge can be addressed. Institutions like Uganda Communications Commission can help limit access to certain content however, it is better to give quality sexuality education and life skill education dealing with issues of the mind that are of value, that way you create capacity for people to do their own controls and restrictions.
Accessing family planning tools: It is very important to educate teenagers about the usefulness of using protection and leave them with a choice to make use of what is available. In addition, the educational messages have to be age and location appropriate for example a message given to teenagers in Kabong may not be appropriate for teenagers in Kampala.
Low-income challenges: It is also very important to address the issue of income for the girls. Many teenage girls are vulnerable to small cash handouts or simple gifts in form of eats that can coerce them to give in to men’s sexual advances.
Mr. Bukenya Lewis Denis
Sensitization strategies: Media and community engagement is key however we need to avail accurate information in order to facilitate the teenagers make informed decisions whenever they are faced with a challenge. The media really needs to report accurately emphasizing the facts and separating them from individual opinions because teenagers believe the media reports.
There is also serious need to engage the boys in particular because they do not get sex education and on top of that, girls lean on the men/ boys to provide solutions to anything including issue the men/ boys may be ignorant about.
Who should sensitize and parents’ role: Information about sexuality is a much bigger package that includes how the person grows up and is empowered to make decisions related to their sexuality and education for their lives’ benefit. Someone who is passionate about the issue and has taken time to accumulate knowledge about it and believes in it can best disseminate this information. It can be a parent, sibling or a teacher who is empowered.
Reviving Sengas: Their original role used to deal with the initiation of girls into sexual activity however we are dealing with sexuality issues that entail decision making and power struggle. Therefore, they also need to be empowered with relevant information if they are to be effective and we cannot wait for the sengas. So, everybody needs to be empowered through open systems that have accurate information for dissemination.
THE ACTIVITY RESULTS:
The participants from the various media houses received relevant information concerning teenage pregnancies and the plight for sexuality education however they were cautioned and advised to seek clarification from experts for factual information before reporting health-related issues since their listeners and readers believe what they publish.
The science café achieved its initial target, which involved equipping the journalists with information concerning teenage pregnancies and the plight for sexuality education. The participants agreed to publish articles aimed at sensitizing communities about teenage pregnancies and suggested that additional statistical information is provided to enable them to report from an informed perspective.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND IMMEDIATE FOLLOW UP ACTIONS
- Journalists were advised to take time off and visit some victims of teenage pregnancies and get their opinions, views, and experiences.
- Health journalists should also visit upcountry locations and see how teenagers there deal with their sexuality issues.
- Frequent publication of teenage pregnancies related issues through the various media houses that were represented at the café and advocate for comprehensive sexuality education.