Dash for Girls to end Teenage Pregnancy
Seven Makerere University students have come together in a social venture intended to help girls in Karamoja region reduce teenage pregnancy and provide them with an opportunity to get an education.
Frances Aanyu, Lisa Anenocan, Clare Muga Akinyi, Hilda Adur, Pius Ekwangu, Agatha Akello, and Ivan Okot, have the ambitious goal of reducing local secondary school dropout rates from 29.7 percent to 20 percent.
Their Dash for Girls initiative aims to tackle the circumstances that lead to teenage pregnancy and child marriages in northwest Uganda.
One out of every 10 girls in Karamoja misses school for up to five days per month due to a lack of access to safe sanitary wear during their monthly periods. What is more, menstruation is seen by the community as a sign that a girl is ready for marriage which minimises the chances of continuing their education.
Reducing the statistics
According to Unicef, 23 per cent of girls between the ages of 12 and 25 drop out of school ending up marrying and starting families of their own.
Dash for Girls were one of the winners of The Resolution Social Venture Challenge at the Mastercard Foundation Baobab Summit in Johannesburg in 2017.
This is a competition that rewards young people who show leadership and develop promising social ventures.
The students earned a fellowship that includes seed-funding, mentorship, and access to a network of young global change-makers to pursue impactful projects in their communities.
The impact of teenage pregnancy on girls’ education rates is one that each member of Dash for Girls team has dealt with.
From Katakwi District, which borders Karamoja region, 22-year-old Frances Aanyu has witnessed her own classmates drop out before completing primary school.
“We were about 137 girls, but by the time we were sitting Primary Seven, we were only 10. Right now, only two of these 137 girls are studying at university,” Aanyu says. She recently completed a Bachelor’s degree in Development Economics from Makerere University.
Curious about the fate of other girls who grew up with her in Katakwi, Aanyu followed up and found that most of them had fallen victim to teenage pregnancy, and could not reurn to school.
Aanyu adds, “Dash for Girls works to create a safe, sustainable environment that can fully harness the potential of every girl child in Karamoja. This is our core mission. To achieve that environment, we are focusing on issues such as teenage pregnancy, child marriage, and menstrual hygiene.”
The team wants to engage community leaders and parents in honest and open dialogue, pushing communities to confront the factors that lead to teenage pregnancy and early marriage, including culture and tradition, helping to remove barriers to girls’ education.
Already the programme is running Dash for Girls Uganda, an online campaign that is mobilising successful young women from Karamoja region to share stories of the challenges and opportunities that shaped their journey.
Skills for the common good
Dash for Girls will set up clubs in every primary and secondary school in Karamoja region, as well as in the region’s youth hubs. Young women who seek Dash for Girls’ support will have access to accurate information about safe sex, pregnancy, and early marriage.
With her leadership skills, Aanyu now sees herself as a young leader who is part of a network of engaged, visionary young Africans with different ideas about how to improve the lives of others.
Pius Sawa is a freelance journalist based in Kenya. His stories have appeared in Reuters, Farm Radio International, and Inter Press Service. This article originally appeared in The Daily Monitor, Uganda.