Comprehensive reproductive health information: It’s #WhatWomenWant this World Population Day
Photos and words by Faridah Luyiga, Regional Communication Advisor, White Ribbon Alliance
One-in-four Ugandan girls aged 15–19 years old is a mother or pregnant with her first child, robbing 25% of the country’s adolescent girls of their potential. Teen pregnancy also contributes to thousands of deaths and disabilities to young girls and newborn every year, with consequences for mother, child, family, community and nation.
As part of our multi-sector approach to addressing teen pregnancy, WRA Uganda is utilizing citizen-led advocacy to raise the issue among policymakers. So, when the WRA Global Alliance launched the What Women Want campaign, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to hear directly from women about their needs around reproductive health and family planning.
At 14, Nakabira Joan is five months pregnant. She dropped out of school due to lack of scholastic materials. She got pregnant and her father told her to stay with the man who impregnated her. She is now staying with her ‘husband.’ She believes if she had information about preventing pregnancy, she would not have got pregnant. Her priority ask for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare services: Provide information to adolescents to prevent teenage pregnancy.
Hadijjah had her first baby, pictured in her arms, at 20 years and would like to better space her pregnancies. Her top priority for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare services: family planning services.
Vonitah and Jane are seeing many of their friends get pregnant at an early age and would like information and services to prevent early pregnancy. They are also shy about asking for information on how to prevent pregnancy at the health centers because many health workers think they are still young to be thinking about preventing pregnancy. When we asked them if they would consider condoms, they shied away, clearly showing how uncomfortable it is for them to even speak about some of their reproductive health needs. Their top request for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare services: How to prevent pregnancy.
Martha Nabaweesi (left) dropped out of school. She got pregnant at 14 and her parents told her to go stay with her boyfriend. But her boyfriend also chased her and she went back home. She delivered her baby at home because she couldn’t afford to go to a health center. When she called the boyfriend to tell him she had delivered, he switched off his phone after hearing the news and she has never heard from him again. She now lives with her grandmother. She advises girls her age to stay in school and avoid pregnancy and thinks if she had stayed in school, she would probably not have got pregnant. Martha’s priority request for quality reproductive and maternal healthcare services: Girls should stay in school and avoid pregnancy.
WRA Uganda’s Act Now to End Teenage Pregnancy campaign, is a youth-driven effort that unites advocates at national and local levels around reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health. These young leaders are demanding that decision makers be held accountable for improved adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
In 2016, 120,000 signatures — 70% from adolescents — were collected and presented to the Prime Minister along with the demand that reducing teenage pregnancy must be placed at the top of Uganda’s national health agenda. Read more here.