By Damalie N. Hirwa
KAMPALA, Uganda – On August 4th, a group of journalists from different media houses, including NBS Television, NTV and Spark Televisions, the New Vision, and the Daily Monitor convened at the Pearl Boutique Hotel in Ministers Village, Ntinda to discuss their recent reports on defilement, teenage pregnancy and forced marriages, with the UGANET advocacy team.
The purpose of the meeting was for both parties to share information to forge a way forward in the fight against the lockdown-induced, teenage pregnancy and forced marriage twin pandemic. As a result, the media has been awash with cases of domestic violence and unspeakable human rights violations in the country.
According to a recent survey by the Daily Monitor, over 2,300 girls have been impregnated. That includes over 128 of those married off, all within the lockdown. The author of the article, Bill Oketch, who was present at the meeting, suggested that the numbers are more than what was counted as several districts were excluded.
“When we look at this figure, what we reported is actually not representative of figures in the entire country. Yesterday I received a call from CDO of Apac district who told me that we had excluded them from the survey yet their district has more cases than other districts have. The CDO told me that their district had registered 120 cases of girls that had been impregnated,” he said.
Additionally, Job Nantakiika, a journalist with the New Vision, whose report detailed that 160 girls in Wakiso district got pregnant in only two months during this season shared their plight in regards to fending off men.
“The girls said they are finding trouble resisting men who are a big temptation. When they manage to resist one, several others end up luring them into acceptance. The lack of basic needs during this lockdown period has made the matter worse,” he offered.
The critical meeting also featured broadcast journalists Teddy Nakaliga from NTV and Spark Televisions, and Allan Mwesigwa from NBS Television. Teddy and Allan were part of a team of journalists that visited Kyegegwa and Kiryandongo districts where they also discovered overwhelming cases of defilement, teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
According to them, the reported numbers are just a fraction of the reports of these cases. On average, there is at least one big story of defilement and teenage pregnancy every day.
In regards to their sources, the journalists shared that a significant number of their information was received from the police, probation offices, the Ministry of Gender and local leaders.
It is for this reason that UGANET and its partners are working in concert with other CSOs to demand accountability from the government of Uganda and responsible persons.
In the strongest terms possible, UGANET condemns the ‘laissez-faire’ attitude that leaders are exhibiting even as the rights of girls are being violated under their noses.
“This is a matter of concern; we cannot look on and do nothing about it. We must task those in positions of power to account,” said Immaculate Owomugisha the Head of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation at UGANET.
UGANET is committed to doing everything in her power to impact the situation positively. The UGANET Call Centre and Rising Woman Shelter Home and Wellness Center have worked tirelessly to reach the girls affected and offer refuge and counselling. Currently, the Rising Woman Shelter Home is hosting a 15-year-old girl who conceived through defilement.
According to the Executive Director of UGANET, Dorah Kiconco Musinguzi, “what is happening is unacceptable and must be investigated for further action.”
A follow-up meeting with the team of CSO members was also held virtually on Wednesday the same week. The group agreed to push this matter further and ensure that no stone is left unturned, beginning from the highest authorities. The UGANET team intends to petition parliament, call a press conference, engage line ministries on the matter, and among others.