Hard Lessons From Buikwe Child Couple [editorial]

On Friday, we published a remarkable (if not entirely unusual) story about a 16-year-old boy and his 13-year-old wife who had been arrested in Buikwe district (See How poverty got teenage couple into ‘marriage’, jail, The Observer).

Isaac Sande and Noor Kagoya, from Mawangala A village in Nyenga sub-county, find themselves in the unenviable situation of epitomizing much of what is going wrong with our society. The rate of teenage pregnancy in this country is among the highest in the world.

By 1995, 43.3 per cent of 17-year-old Ugandan girls were pregnant or had given birth. According to 2011 figures, one in four Ugandan young women are either pregnant or have given birth. It is, therefore, not surprising that an estimated 430 Ugandan mothers die for every 100,000 live births.

But perhaps the most striking aspect of that Buikwe story – which is the story of much of Uganda – is the role of poverty in reproductive health challenges. First, the girl’s mother is reported to have given her to a16-year-old boy because she was struggling to find food to feed children.

She, therefore, thought that the teenage boy was better-placed to look after her daughter. Meanwhile, Sande’s father had given her son to his brother because he was also struggling to feed his two wives and 11 children.

Of course the poverty is compounded by population pressure. For more than two decades, President Museveni and many of his adoring cadres shot down calls for government to spearhead efforts to contain the galloping population growth. Sande and Kagoya remind us that leaders, especially in the more deprived areas, need to mobilise their people to aim at manageable family sizes – not least as one way of fighting poverty in households.

Another issue that comes into play is the fate of widowed women. Kagoya’s mother says when her husband died, his relatives chased her away – and presumably appropriated what was a family estate.

Despite progress on the front of women’s rights, such things still happen routinely, especially among rural, poor women. So, we end up with young, poor parents, raising what will most likely be poor spectators to Uganda’s acclaimed economic miracle.

Source : The Observer

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