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Since early this year, we are raising funds to provide (school going) teenage girls in our work area with sanitary pads. Initially we started this initiative to make it possible for the girls to also go to school during the days that they are menstruating. In Uganda the school participation of girls is known to be low (80% do not finish primary school!) with the structural lack of access to sanitary pads as a result of poverty playing a significant role in this.
In order to still get sanitary pads, the distraught and vulnerable girls often offer themselves for sex in exchange for sanitary pads. Many sex-hungry men gratefully take advantage of this, with the sad result that not only do many girls become unwanted pregnant, but many also often become infected with HIV, with of course all the sad consequences that entails. Also, the girls are often not allowed to go to school when they are pregnant. They are often expelled from school when they become pregnant, often at primary school age, and do not return anymore.
A few numbers:
– In Uganda, 2,000,000 girls become mothers every year before their 15th birthday, making the country having the highest number of teenage pregnancies of all sub-Saharan countries;
– 1 in 4 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is already a mother or pregnant with her first child;
– The number of HIV infections among girls is 9 times higher than among boys of the same age;
– Uganda has the highest maternal death rates in the world, an estimated 25% of which are the result of unsafe abortions.
There are signs that the above figures have even doubled since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic! A very important reason for this can be found in the fact that the schools have been closed for a long time (this is still the case at the time of this writing and there is no prospect of reopening; ever since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 only the highest classes have been open for a few months). At school the girls are much safer from sexual abuse than in their home villages, where they are now forced to spend every day.
Unfortunately, over the last months, several times in our work area, the bodies of babies who were literally dumped immediately after birth have been found; of course that is the result of enormous panic. After all, how can a teenage girl from a poor family who has become pregnant unintentionally be required to take care of a baby? Great shame and lack of knowledge and awareness naturally also play a major role in this.
By providing (preferably washable/reusable) sanitary pads to teenage girls in our working area, and at the same time educating them, we want to ensure that in the future they will no longer be so easily prey to men who gratefully take advantage of their vulnerability.
Last weekend we therefore handed out sanitary pads to 95 girls for the first time at our location. The gratitude is enormous, not only from the girls, but also from their concerned mothers who, of course, feel completely hopeless as a result of their poor situation in which they have to stand up!
Our thanks go to Mrs. Turinawe Prime, female Councilor at Kitooma Parish, and two male members of Village Health Teams (VHT), Turyagenda Godhead and Ronald Mburashaso. They, along with Noah, invited girls to receive the pads at our location and also provided them with necessary information.
To ensure the safety of girls, no pictures of them will be posted on this subject.
Update 7. September
Earlier this week we have for the second time handed out re-usable sanitary pads to teenage girls from our location. From received funds we were able to provide another 45 girls.
We again thank Mrs.Turinawe Prime, female Councilor at Kitooma Parish, for her presence at our location to provide the girls with necessary explanation together with our team member Obedience Akandinda.
Every contribution, no matter how small, will be highly appreciated!
We can help a girl for as little as €5.
HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation
‘We Fight Poverty by Bringing Development.’
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