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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid