By Kaviri Ali
Uganda’s population growth rate is at 3.2 % with a fertility rate of 6.7 (UDHS 2006) children for every woman in reproductive age. Current figures estimate the population at 33m and projected to rise to 104 million people by 2050. Thus, in 40 years, the health system will have to cater for an additional 70m people.
The youth in Uganda account for 78% of the total population and 37% are female youth according to the world population report 2010. It’s predictable that 20% of young women aged 20-24 in Uganda begin to engage in sex as early as 12 years. 10% of young men have had sexual intercourse at least by age of 15 and by 18, 64% of young women and 50% young men become sexually experienced.
Engaging in sexual activities at this stage is very risky as it exposes adolescents to early pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual violence. Many young girls thus resort to clued methods to get rid of unwanted pregnancies and as such the high prevalence of illegal abortions end up in deaths an act also considered immoral in society.
Gifts and money are often cited out as being intrinsic and pervasive part of adolescent’s sexual relationship. The act is that three out of unmarried sexually experienced women aged 15-19 report having received gifts or money in exchange for sex according to media reports. This suggests that the practice may be a normal dating behavior as opposed to transactional sex, forced sex, although less common than exchanging gifts or money for sex between 15-19 year old females. Young men who are in school are less likely than their counter parts to have had sex, reinforcing has protective roles.
It is worth mentioning that most young people cannot protect themselves because they lack information on where to go for adolescent sexual reproductive health care, and the majority are not empowered enough to negotiate for safe sex with their partners. In addition, Sexual and reproductive health programs tend to ignore the social, cultural and economic factors that prevent young people from making healthy decisions and that contribute to their vulnerability to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, exposure to HIV, sexual violence and undesired or unsafe pregnancy.
In light of the above statistical background, we need to invest heavily in Teens sexual reproductive health. Taking a look at the Uganda national budget, adolescent reproductive health is majorly funded by donors. In addition, Teens reproductive health should be fully integrated into the government sectors of education, and justice because it is a cross cutting issue.
Further still, It is vital to involve the young people in providing information to break the silence about sexual coercion and violence, stepping up the fight against female genital mutilation and preventing early pregnancy. There is also need for further research with regard to young people specific health needs.
Without a shadow of doubt, Teens should be fully consulted in all efforts geared towards Collecting and documenting baseline information with regard to Uganda’s position in providing health services with a particular focus on Teens friendly Health services.
It is only when the Reproductive health of young girls is prioritized that we will begin to see transformation in the lives of the young women in this country.
Ali is the current President at Forum for Women in DEmocracy (FOWODE) young leaders Alumni Association (FYLAA), a Field coordinator and facilitator at Digital opportunity Trust (DOT) in Uganda and a Founding member Young Leaders Think Tank for Policy Alternatives- Konrad Adenuor Stiftung (KAS) in Uganda
He is community worker, Blogger, youth activist, a facilitator and trainer on social media, Business, entrepreneurship and ICT for sustained economic livelihoods, mentor and a coach