Analysis of the Situation
Busoga sub region and the surrounding areas of Buikwe, Bunyole, Bugwere, and Bugisu in Eastern Uganda continue to lag behind in observance of children’s rights, school retention and performance, nutrition and welfare, peace and security, investment and wealth creation. Such are the challenges that continue to destroy the core of humanity in the younger generation and could drastically disorient the entire country in a few years if no deliberate action is taken to address the situation. Hence, a comprehensive, unobtrusive, dialogic, humane, and highly integrative mode of intervention like Forum Theater which is participatory in nature, easy to administer, fast in effect, and massive in impact is desirable. The young people, faced with similar challenges will be empowered to mobilize themselves positively to take responsibility for their future.
The Equal Opportunities Commission report 2015/16 indicates persistently poor performance in primary and secondary schools examinations across the region2 with Luuka and Namayingo districts scoring the worst over the last three years (2013-2015)3. The social and physical infrastructural services such as schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, and water in the region are inadequate and of poor quality4. This is coupled with limited private investment in such sectors.
In Busoga, there are limited economic engagements to preoccupy both the young and old population thus the tendency to have social events starting very early in the day. There is also no significant difference in the socioeconomic status of the youth that remain in school and their counterparts that engage in early marriages5. Children and youth tend to engage in subversive group acts that more often lead to criminal activities unattended by parents and the custodians of the law. The boys and girls engage in sex and marriage at an early age leading to alarmingly high school dropout rates.
In addition, the region suffers from ignorance and negative attitude as many still attach causes of suffering, sickness and failure to gods. Much time and money is wasted on paying attention to pleasing the gods. Moreover, the lucrative businesses of rice and sugarcane, where many full families are engaged as out-growers, have tended to worsen the situation. Parents keep children out of school to tend to the gardens. Girls take goods to the market to sell merchandise for their parents to earn a living or pay their school fees
while the boys engage in bodaboda business and others migrate to fish landing sites or urban centers for petty trade. After such distressful activities, any loss is taken rather painfully and in most cases irrationally.
The general perception is that any increase in earnings or incomes realized triggers initiation of marriage relationships that result into creation of own families. Such windfall earnings result into unwanted families couples engage in sexual networks that propagate the vicious cycle of poverty, domestic violence, crime, and disease. and unmanageable numbers of wives and children that the victims tend to use as indicators for power, authority and influence in the communities.
Marital relationships have created new types of marriages where the prevalence of child motherhood, single motherhood, and young widowhood or widower hood is evident in many homes. As a result of rampant forced early marriages, fear of family shame in case of sex or pregnancy before marriage, religious duty, need to reduce the dependence burden, secure bride price and social acceptance in community, the rights of children and older persons have been grossly abused in Eastern Uganda.
The African Human Social Development Report (2013)11 indicates that 40% of the Ugandan minors, that is, about two million children engage in early marriages before their 18th birthday and that 66% of all child sexual abuse cases are in Busoga sub-region. Many are forced or lured into early marriages by parents and teachers making Uganda one of the 15 worst African countries with the highest number of child brides before their 18th birthday.
The National Study on Assessing Child Protection Safety and Security Issues for Children in Uganda (2015)12 also found out that 77% of the primary and 82% of secondary students had experienced sexual violence while 5.9% were subjected to defilement. This makes early marriages and resultant pregnancies the biggest cause of deaths among 12 to 19 year old girls, accounting for 20% of maternal deaths in Uganda. The report also shows that 24% of the teenage pregnancies, early marriages and defilement were by teachers.
While boys were also affected by these practices, more than 90% of the underage marriage spouses were girls. The major cause of early marriages were said to be poverty, child neglect, domestic violence, low value attached to education especially for the girl child, religious and traditional beliefs and limited knowledge about children’s rights13. Most of these girls were from the Busoga region alone hence Busoga has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, multiple births and early marriages.
In addition, Busoga has a high number of albinos, with at least 300 registered in the sub-region.14 75 % of these are children aged between 2-16 years, and 90% of the all albino girls are victims of child sexual abuse and are living in fear. ANPPCAN (2014) reported that in Uganda, albinos were greatly endangered as many people in the region believed that the body parts or sexual intercourse with an albino was a source of good
fortune and medicine for all kinds of illnesses including HIV/AIDS. According to Peter Ogik, the chairperson of Source of the Nile Union of People with Albinism (SNUPA), “many albinos are waylaid and defiled.” In total, 66% of all sexual abuse cases among children are in Busoga sub-region meaning that a girl’s future is daily at risk.
The unregulated celebrations and gambling in town and village centers (ebizaanhiro) are the breeding spots for the negative thoughts that make young girls and boys more vulnerable. With Uganda’s population today being constituted of 32% of young people between the ages of 16 and 30, who will in the next 5 to 10 years, be completely in charge of national affairs, there is no better opportunity to prepare, initiate, challenge, and mentor them than now16. For purposes of collective responsibility, parents, leaders, and elders in the respective communities will be invited to participate in the forum as performers in
the play and discussants in the session on the way forward.
We will therefore produce the play, “Omugole”, and tour the production over six months throughout Busoga and the neighbouring areas of Buikwe, Bunyole,Bugwere, and Bugisu. This will be done to arrest the situation to save a whole generation of young people numbering more than four million people. Such a workforce lacking in knowledge and information is a threat to democracy and national economy. The volatile state in Busoga region and the neighborhoods does not ensure meaningful stability and progress for the rest of Uganda unless the situation is holistically addressed.