Moroto Women Leaders Fight Early Marriages Amidst COVID-19

By GodFred Eyoku

Clementina Lochoro the councillor Rupa sub county in Moroto district. FILE PHOTO

Women leaders of Moroto district have attributed the increasing cases of child marriages to what they call carelessness of men and local leaders.

The leaders who spoke to Aica said that child marriages are planned and concealed by men who claim to be heads of the families as women voices are suppressed in the community.

Joyce Mary Pulkol, the Cuncilor for Nadunget parish in Nadunget sub county, Moroto district wants parents to respect the rights of girls by allowing them to study once the schools resume and encourage those who benefit from school bursaries to concentrate in studies.

Pulkol expressed her worries that some parents are more likely to use the chance of this lockdown to ensure that they conduct their secret marriage of the young girls.

Stephan Adupa, the district councilor representing Tapac sub county, says most of the children affected by forced marriages are from the rural areas, whose parents are living in poverty and have resorted to turn their children into business.

According to the district councilor, the situation is getting out of hands and many girls will be forced to marriage during this COVID-19 apendemic as many families are starving without food due to lockdown.

Adupa adds that before the pandemic, some parents used to sell out their children to some individuals who later export them to the outside countries for labour.

A Karamojong teenage mother carrying her baby. COURTESY PHOTO

Meanwhile Charles Topoth, a parent and resident of Natumkasikou in Rupa Sub County attributes the low completion rates of primary circle to attitude the poor attitude exercised by some parents and guardians.

Adupa explains that while other factors like poverty stand, there is a negative attitude by both parents and children to education.

“When parents discover that their daughter has started menstruation or has started developing breasts, they force her to find a suitor and get married,” he explains.

He adds that “most times, they [parents] find the suitor for girls regardless of how old they may be, and if they have the cows, the age does not matter.”

Thomas Odelok, the project coordinator at Karamoja Women’s Umbrella Organization (KAWUO), says the civil societies have done much in creating awareness; however, the vice is still on the rise according to the report he obtained from police.

He adds that there is need to engage the cultural, religious and other civil societies to join the fight against child marriage

The 2019 report by Moroto District Education Office revealed that only 12% of children who join primary are able to complete primary seven.

In 2017, only 9.7% of the girls completed primary seven.
The statistics also show that while enrollment has been increasing from 8,767 children in 2016 to 10,178 in 2018, the completion rates are almost static.

Mr. Paul Oputa, the Moroto District Education Officer says the low completion rate is caused by high poverty levels, which expose girls to early pregnancies and child marriages.

Pupils of Kasimeri primary school in Moroto district. COURTESY PHOTO


Earlier this year the Matheniko County MP, John Baptist Lokii, had asked the government to investigate the continued sale of Karamojong girls to individuals and terrorist groups.

Lokii said earlier that the government needs to thoroughly investigate reports of the inhuman and degrading treatment that the girls are subjected to, in the process of trafficking them to markets in Teso, Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu.

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Aica Media [pronounced as Aicha- an Ateso word which means Light] is a for profit youth driven media initiative in Uganda, with an aim to advocate for acceleration of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through media. Started in 2019, Aica seeks to inspire media practitioners to leverage their knowledge and resources to advance the SDGs by disseminating facts, human stories and solutions. Aica is authorized to do online data communication and publication by the Uganda Communications Commission and we are a member organization in the Uganda Youth Coalition for SDGs.

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