World Population Day: Youths commit ‘working toe and head’ to prevent school dropouts, teenage pregnancies
ALEBTONG – Youth leaders have committed to working tirelessly to ensure that no more school dropouts happen but also prevent teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
They dedicated these in Alebtong during the Pre-World Population Day Youth Dialogue on Sunday ahead of World Population Day.
This year’s event will be commemorated under the theme: “Prioritize free education, prevent school dropout and improve household incomes.”
Dr. Jotham Musinguzi – Director General, National Population Council underscored the role of Youths leaders in preventing teenage pregnancies, child marriages and school dropouts ultimately leading to improved household incomes.”
He asked the youths raise awareness about the consequences of teenage pregnancies, child marriages and school dropouts. He said that they can advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health services and legal reforms that protect young people by engaging the communities, schools and policymakers – through which they can create a supportive environment for prevention.
Represented by Mr. Omwa Samuel Samson – Director Monitoring and Evaluation at National Population Council, Dr. Jotham tasked the youths leaders to support peer-to-peer programs that provide accurate information on reproductive health and empower young people with knowledge about contraceptives and the importance of staying in schools.
“Youths leaders can promote skill development programs that equip young people with vocational and entrepreneurial skills by providing opportunities by economic empowerment they reduce the risk of early marriages and increases the likelihood of staying in schools.”
Mr. Abenaitwe Robert – CAO Alebtong district urged the youths to utilize their young age when they still don’t have a lot of responsibilities.
“You are 28 but what have you achieved at your younger age? You must finalize your education because no one will give you a responsible job when you dropped out of school.
He also encouraged them to associate themselves with responsible people and achievers – through which they will learn a lot.
Mr. Robert urged girls to focus on their education and “fear free money. You think you have taken someone’s money but you will have to offer something at the end of the day.”
He instead encouraged them to engage in income-generating activities, “even if it gives you shs5000, it’s better than zero.”
In her part, Ms Anne Sizomu – Programme Specialist- Adolescent and Youth SRH at United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said it is very important to highlight the need to focus on education as a key to unlocking opportunities for girls and boys “especially when we choose to support them to complete education, early pregnancies and be equipped with skills.”
“Education is such a powerful thing in changing our society and helping us reach our potential no matter what you end up doing,” she said, adding that, “It becomes costly when you tend not to complete education because every time you will be hiring someone to do the work for you.”
Sizomu noted that Uganda is one of the counties with the youngest populations in the world and so it should devise means of harnessing it.
“How do we enhance the potential of the young population; we need to claim our space as young people.”
During the dialogue, as youth leaders, we committed to:
Working with school structures, DEOs’ offices and UNSA to fulfill these commitments as well as sensitizing young people on teenage pregnancy and child marriages.
Advocating for school re-entry for adolescent girls that drop out of school. working with different stakeholders and parents.
Working with role models, and persons of influence within the communities to advocate for the girl and boy child. For example by utilizing the Miss Lango competitions as a platform to promote positive behaviour among the young people in the region.
Promoting male engagement on issues of teenage pregnancy, child marriage and education in order for men and boys to be champions of ending teenage pregnancy and child marriage.
Utilizing data to inform our advocacy and awareness creation efforts. We will work with district planners, and community development officers to access accurate data about young people-related issues.
Promoting skilling and vocational education among fellow young people by linking our peers to government opportunities and community projects.
“To realize our commitments; as youth leaders, we ask for your support in not only building our capacities but also in providing the necessary resources, opportunities and technical support to realize these commitments. We, as youth understand that for change to happen we must be at the forefront. We, therefore, ask that we are meaningfully engaged and trusted in changing the poor indicators in education and sexual and reproductive health. Invest in our growth. Meaningfully partner with us. And together, let us build Uganda,” they said.