Butambala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | There is an escalation of cases of girl child abuse in Butambala district, which local officials fear is likely to worsen the school dropout rate.
According to records from the district, 629 girls aged between 14 and 19 years were impregnated between July 2020 to June 2021, during the first nationwide lockdown to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farouk Lubega, the Butambala District Probation Officer says that both the probation office and police receive between 6 and 8 cases of defilement every month, while at health centers, 18.2 percent of the mothers turning up for antenatal care are teenagers.
In terms of education, Lubega says that only 21 percent of the learners complete primary seven each year in the district. He attributes the poor completion rates to early pregnancies and marriages.
“The number of weddings we have stopped and imprisoned people for early marriages are quite are many,” said Lubega. Adding that, “It is unfortunate that local council leaders are sometimes present at such weddings and allow them to proceed in violation of the laws.”
Despite the challenges, Lubega revealed that they are not sitting back as leaders and disclosed that they have initiated various channels to sensitise people to increase reporting and monitoring of cases.
He said the district has since put in place a mobile telephone application to report cases of child abuse to duty bearers.
World Vision’s Associate Director in charge of advocacy, Iryn Kagoya, says that there is need to address the barriers that hold back the girl child from accessing ICT and realizing their potential.
She says that to better protect the girl child from abuse, exploitation and deprivation, it is important that focus is put on the social norms and customs as well as harness the potential of culture as a driver of wealth creation.
Kagoya said that although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire country, girls carry the biggest burden. “Girls have potential and if this potential can be built up, it will help us as a country to realize the demographic dividend that we need so badly.
It is important that girls are supported to use phones, computers and also to get the internet,” she said. On October 11, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child.