News / Africa

UN, Local Groups Urge Ugandan Girls to Stay in School

Grace Debroha, a 13-year-old orphan, writes the names of body parts on a chalkboard at St. Jude's Orphanage, outside Gulu, Uganda, June 2007 file photo.
Grace Debroha, a 13-year-old orphan, writes the names of body parts on a chalkboard at St. Jude's Orphanage, outside Gulu, Uganda, June 2007 file photo.
Andrew Green
Faced with forced early marriages, girls in Uganda drop out of school at a higher rate than boys.

Vicious circle

Stella Kaudha is determined to go to college.  The 17-year-old Kamuli resident wants to be an English teacher.  But first she will have to do something no woman in her family has done before: graduate from secondary school.

"I’m the only one studying in my family.  My elders, all of them got married because of money.  They are now out of school and they did not complete," she said.

Her mother did not go to school.  Her two older sisters, like half of the girls in Uganda’s education system, dropped out to get married.  Kaudha is only able to stay in school because her education is being paid for by the charity Plan International.

It is a common story in this poor eastern Ugandan town and across the country.  More than a quarter of girls in Uganda drop out before they even finish primary school, according to the United Nations.  The number is less than 20 percent for boys.

Mary Musigire, the senior woman teacher at Kamuli Progressive College, says this is because families do not value educating girls.  Instead of paying for an education, families with limited resources are eager to marry a girl off to ensure she is provided for.

"Even the parents, they have bad attitudes toward girls’ education.  So many of the parents don’t pay school fees for their children… They force girls to go for early marriage, while educating a boy child," she said.

Stopping early marriage is the focus of the United Nations’s first-ever International Day of the Girl Child.  Despite being illegal in Uganda, early marriages are common and limit a girl's access to education.  According to the U.N. Children’s Fund, Uganda has the 15th-highest rate of child marriage in the world.

Early pregnancy

Along with family pressure, pregnancy plays a role in forcing young girls out of school.  Evelyn Letiyo, who works in the gender division at the U.N. Population Fund in Uganda, says that once girls become pregnant, their families often force them to get married.

She says, in addition to ending their education, early pregnancy raises critical social and health issues.

"What it means for a girl, is her future is doomed," she said. "In terms of health, this is I think where there is huge concern, you find that girls, their bodies are not ready to have babies.  When they have babies, they are not mentally and emotionally ready to have these babies."

She says schools need to provide girls with a better understanding of the impact early pregnancy can have both on their health and their livelihoods.

That is what Raphael Kaiso is doing at Kamuli Girls School.  He runs the school’s Children’s Parliament.  The parliament is a unique setup where each grade elects representatives who meet regularly with staff members and the community to talk about their concerns.  The meetings cover a range of issues, from the right to education to reproductive health.

Kaiso says the parliament has been critical in changing community attitudes about keeping girls in school.

"Previously, girl children, they used to work in gardens, to stay at home to prepare for boys and not minding about the education," he said.  "Today things have changed… Now they came, all the stakeholders, on board and that’s why they are in position to articulate their rights the way they are doing it."

He says encouraging girls to defend themselves is the only way to keep them out of early marriages.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid