Dispatch

Investing in Teenage Girls: Dancing to the Beat of Girl Empowerment

3 August 2016

It’s as early as eight o’clock on a Monday morning, staged at a busy roundabout north of the capital Kampala. In the midst of the rush-hour traffic, a huddle of young people, all dressed in black and white T-shirts took to the streets, with placards with screaming messages on girl empowerment.

“Child marriage robs a girl of her childhood,” read one placard; “First things first; books before babies” read another.

A Flash Mob, it was that morning, displaying a fusion of music and modern creative dance with a strong message that investing in teenage girls to enable them achieve their full potentials is the smartest thing to do.  A spectacular collection of acrobats, skaters and dancers in action, suddenly sealed off a section of the busy road, attracting motorists and passersby and bringing the heavy morning traffic to a standstill. The entertainers exhibited extraordinarily amazing performances of feats of balance, agility and coordination. “Let girls, be girls!, Let girls, be girls!” they chanted with placards.

It was the commemoration of the 2016 World Population Day with the theme Harnessing Uganda’s Demographic Dividend: Invest in teenage girls. UNFPA partnered with Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU) to ensure that young people were put at the fore front of the commemoration. RAHU is a youth-led organization promoting sexual and reproductive health among young people.

Filled with activity, the Flash Mob interacted with the emerging young crowds, making stop-overs from one round about to another where they entertained and information through messages on the placards and T-shirts. Attracting huge crowds, the acrobats, skaters and dancers broke out into action-packed dance moves, while peer educators also took time off to spark off conversations on teenage pregnancy and child marriage.

During the event, 1,500 young people including teenage girls were provided with information on teenage pregnancy prevention, received free HIV/AIDS testing and counseling and distribution of fee reusable sanitary pads. About 243 young people between the ages of 10 – 24 received HIV counselling and testing services.

Through comedy, music and dance, messages were also delivered calling for an end to teenage pregnancy and child marriage. The event was also streamed live on NBS TV, a local television station and free goodies like reusable sanitary pads and branded T-shirts were given to those that correctly answered questions on the theme of the day.

Ending teenage pregnancy

In Uganda, one in four girls is either pregnant or has had a child by the age of 19. Ending teenage pregnancy and child marriage is therefore at the top of the agenda of UNFPA and partners working with young people like RAHU.   Getting young people to mobilize themselves to talk about issues that affect them is one way of supporting them attain their full potential said UNFPA Deputy Representative Miranda Tabifor in her World Population Day message: “We must give girls the platform to express themselves, share their experiences, challenges, and needs and involve them in decision -making. When we listen to the voices of girls, we become a more powerful collective force that can encourage social transformation,” she said.