‘Teen Voices’ Series: How A Lack Of Sex Education And Teen Pregnancy Affects Girls In Uganda

This is the fourth post in our ‘Teen Voices’ series on GTHQ. We partnered with a non-profit organization called Women In Leadership, based out of Uganda, to help promote one of their initiatives. In the Teen Voices Program, they encourage high school girls in the rural town of Busembatia to write article about their lives, and the challenges they face as females in a largely patriarchal society. These stories are then published online, reaching an international audience.

WIL also shows the girls how to use social media to share news and advocate for change. Through teaching the girls about gender equality, and helping them write articles to raise awareness, they gain the knowledge and the confidence of how they can improve gender equality through their own leadership. We will be publishing a series of short articles written by girls in the program, touching on topics such as education, reproductive rights, health, and gender-related stigma they are actively trying to break down.

You can read the third entry in the series here, and read the latest below shared by high school students Kisakye, Kasobya, and Namugonya.


In Uganda, one quarter of young girls have their first child before the age of 18. Teenage pregnancy is common in Uganda and is a leading cause of school dropout amongst young girls, resulting in high numbers of girls not finishing secondary school. The reasons are multiple and complex, including: lack of access to contraceptives and stigma against their use by teenagers, cultural acceptance of early marriage, poverty and provision of basic needs by older men in exchange for sex.

A major contributing factor is the lack of sexual education in schools, meaning young people are in the dark on how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and how to delay pregnancy. At WIL Uganda, we runs Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights programs in secondary schools to provide teenagers with this vital information.

The matrons in the schools WIL Uganda works in cite teenage pregnancy as a major challenge facing their female students, but they feel powerless to prevent or educate about it. Essay competitions are one way to engage young people in issues that affect them and WIL Uganda’s recent essay competition held in three partnered schools allowed all students to participate in writing essays on “Teenage Pregnancy: Problems and Prevention”.

Students were able to use personal stories and examples in their essays and expressed the problems of teenage pregnancy specific to their community and how these can be prevented. In Busembatia, as in the rest of Uganda, the dominant religious groups are Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims and make up close to 90% of the population. The essays are written in English as it is the national language of Uganda and schools must teach in English. However, this is the students second language after the tribal tongue Lusoga.

[Context on the issue of teen pregnancy provided by a WIL representative]


By Kasobya Hope Rachael, Senior 4, Standard Secondary School:

Teenage pregnancy may be prevented by teaching teenagers how to use condoms and telling them the importance of them. It is important to advise them to study and tell them the rewards of studying. This will make them safe because no student is allowed to study while she is pregnant.

Teenagers should be taught about the sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and teach them that AIDS has no cure. Many of them fear dying and suffering. The reason why I have brought up AIDS is because you can get AIDS and get pregnant in the same way – via sexual intercourse – and not enough students know this.

It is important to organize seminars for the teenagers and tell them the outcomes of pregnancy, such as death. If a girl’s bones are not wide enough, for instance, she may not be able to endure a pregnancy and could die during childbirth.

Teenage pregnancy has led to many social problems in Uganda. It can lead to school dropout. It a teen girl gets pregnant she may be expelled from school which may spoil her future. A girl can be denied school fees when she gets pregnant and some are hated by their parents and shamed by them. This had led to emotional and physical suffering among many teenagers in Uganda today.

Teenage pregnancy has led to death in some cases. There are stories about girls realizing they are pregnant but when they they find out it will affect their studies, they resort to seeking out unsafe abortion procedures. Teenage pregnancy has led to family breakages because if a girl conceives she is most likely to be defended by her mother while the father may be in opposition. In doing so, the father can decide to send away both the mother and her daughter.

Teenage pregnancy has led to early marriage because if a girl is impregnated, she is rejected by her parents and she is forced to marry the the father while at an early age. This has led to suffering on the side of the teenagers. It has also led to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, candida, and syphilis which affects the reproductive system.

Teenage pregnancy has led to a rise in street children because if a girl gets pregnant, many boys fail to render care for their babies, in so doing, teenagers decide to keep those children away from them because of failure to get basic needs.


By Kisakye Moureen of Townside Secondary School:

It was on the 16th of August 2014 when Tracy, a 15-year-old girl, got married. Tracy, who used to study at Topcare Primary School, was my friend. She was beautiful, chocolate skinned, was kind, humble and obedient.

Tracy used to stay with her stepmother and had many problems. Every day, she was sent out to collect water and firewood, wash plates, cook food and mop the house after school and at 6:30am. Tracy was so worn out by this routine that she saw marriage as a way out of being overworked by her parents.

Tracy was no longer loved by her stepmother, who mistreated her. At times, she would come back from school and find there was nothing to eat, and was then expected to do all her chores on an empty stomach. Tracy used to cry when she was doing the work. I knew that she was not eating properly, so I started bringing for her food from our place. She would eat the food so hurriedly so that her stepmother could not catch her.

Tracy’s mother had died when she was six years old but her father had some money. Tracy’s father was a carpenter but her stepmother did not have a job, so she used to stay at home. The stepmother would visit the local witch doctor to make sure her husband hated Tracy and loved only her. During one visit, she went to the witch doctor and put the local medicine given to her in the food for her husband. Tracy’s father, Peter, who loved his daughter, started to hate her from then on.

When she would arrive home in the evenings, Tracy’s stepmother used to report her to the father. The man started caning Tracy mercilessly to the extent that Tracy fainted. Because Tracy’s father hated her, her stepmother felt happy. One day, when Tracy had recovered, her stepmother’s daughter named Precious called Tracy to come and watch television. Unfortunately, when she joined her, Precious’s mother also arrived and caned Tracy rapidly while stepping on her head. It was then that Tracy decided to run away from home.

She was on the move for three days, when she found a man of 30 years and decided to go with him because of the harsh conditions she was facing at home. The man’s name was Samuel and he stayed with Tracy for one year. She ended up falling pregnant to him. Unfortunately, once Samuel learned she had conceived, he ran away and left Tracy to deal with the pregnancy on her own.


Namugonya Sharifa, Senior 2, Busembatia Secondary School:

School dropout: this is where a teenage girl is being impregnated by a teenage boy and she fails to complete her level of education hence being illiterate and being unemployed and living in poverty.

Early marriages: here we find that the girl is pregnant and living at her parents’ home and she needs a lot of care for her health, hence being told or forced to marry the man who impregnated her.

Death: teen girls who become pregnant and reach the time of delivery can fails to deliver for various medical reasons. They are sometimes sent to undergo unsafe operations to make the process easier, but in fact they can lead to death.

Family neglect: this is where we find a pregnant teenager who lives at her parent’s and fail to provide her food and neglect and deny her medical care. This is because of the great social stigma associated with having a teenage daughter who is pregnant.

Abortion: it is not uncommon to find teenage boys who advise or force pregnant teenage girls to abort the pregnancy.

STDs: Girls who have sex with an infected person, not knowing they are infected with an STD, may end up being infected by sexually transmitted diseases themselves.

Social stigma: If you are pregnant when you are a teenager, you cannot fit in the society because they do not treat you with dignity. It is taboo. Some pregnant girls have been known to drink poison simply to avoid this stigma.


To learn more about Women In Leadership Uganda and the Teen Voices program, visit their website.


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