Inter-religious perspectives and beliefs have exacerbated the myths and misconceptions gap, impeded efforts to address sexual reproductive health and rights issues among adolescent girls and young women in Uganda’s rural and urban communities.
Uganda is a religiously diverse country with various religious affiliations organized into groups. There is 39 % Roman Catholics, 32 %Anglicans, and 11%Pentecostal Christians and Muslims account for 14% of the population, according to official government estimates.
Other religious groups, which account for less than 5% of the population, include Seventh-day Adventists, indigenous believers, Baptists, Orthodox Christians, Hindus, Jews, and those who have no religious affiliation. As a result, religious and faith leaders are among the most powerful influencers of social, economic, political, and moral debates that shape society’s perceptions of young people and communities. But despite increasing case of teenage pregnancy, HIV, unsafe abortion and sexual violence, the clergy have done little to adolescents and young people’s sexual reproductive health risk.
According to the Ministry of Health, 25 per cent of Ugandan teenagers become pregnant by the age of 19. Close to half are married before their 18th birthday and continue having babies into their mid-40s.
Uganda is committed to scale up the use of modern family planning methods to ensure that every Ugandan woman can choose when and how many children to have. In 2017 it revised its original commitment of 2012 to reduce the unmet need among adolescents from 30.4% in 2016 to 25% in 2021.
Sadly, some religious and cultural beliefs limit youth’s access to health services. As we set for the World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) conceived to promote a culture peace and nonviolence scheduled from 1st to 7th Feb, with the main aim of spreading the message of harmony and tolerance among the followers of all the world’s religions, faiths and beliefs let the clergy also prioritize promoting dignified sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youth, which can boost universal SRHR services. Let them stop criticizing the young people but support them to make informed decisions.
By Kasiita Mark Muganga, SRHR Advocate firstname.lastname@example.org