BY VAN DEGURAS
KABALE: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 02, 2021
Human rights activists have called on government to ensure that school going teenagers who got pregnant during the Covid-19 lock-down are protected from stigma and discrimination.
The call was made during a half-day dialogue that brought together Local Government leaders, Health officials, Security officers and Civil society organisations operating in Kigezi sub region, to discuss the social accountability and governance in health during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The dialogue was organized by Non-Governmental Organizations Local Sustainable Communities (LOSCO) and Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) at White Horse Inn hotel Kabale.
During the dialogue, the Kabale Women in Development (KWID) Director, Florence Tumuheirwe and Dorothy Kesiime from the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) raised concern that the teenage girls who got pregnant during the Covid-19 lock-down were already facing stigma from the community.
They said the teenage mothers also risk being discriminated against when they return to school in January next year.
Statistics indicate that more than 7,000 underage girls were impregnated in the six districts of the Kigezi region during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The duo said that the government should emphasize sensitizing the parents and teachers about the right to education, arguing that whether pregnant or not, the girl child has a right to decide on her future by getting access to education.
The LOSCO Executive Director, Albert Taremwa, said it was high time the government engaged school administrators both in public and private institutions to ensure that there are no existing regulations that could be used to deny access to education for teenage mothers and girls that will still be pregnant by January 2022 when schools are re-opened.
Dr Gilbert Mateeka, the Medical Superintendent of Rugarama Hospital in Kabale Municipality said everyone should accept that Covid-19 came with irreversible effects which include untimely pregnancies.
He revealed that at the Church founded Rugarama School of Nursing and Midwifery, they had for the first time, let the pregnant students report to school in November, and support was being accorded to those that gave birth during examination time.
Meanwhile, the Kigezi region police spokesperson, Elly Maate, dismissed accusations that police had not done enough to protect the school girls from early pregnancies during the Covid-19 lock-down.
Maate said Police had done its role to arrest and charge the rape, incest, sexual assault and defilement suspects, adding that some of them had been convicted and sentenced to prison.
Maate noted that it was everyone’s obligation to protect the girl child from harm by reporting any suspicions to relevant authorities, and asked the public to stop leaving the responsibility to the government or police alone.