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World Population Day event highlights inequalities in sexual and reproductive health, leaders’ determination to end them

As the world commemorated World Population Day, UNFPA Uganda joined the National Population Council and other partners to commemorate the event in Omoro district, northern Uganda.

Held under the theme Leave No One Behind:  Strengthen Service Delivery and Accountability for sustainable development the national commemoration provided a platform for UNFPA and stakeholders to engage in dialogue around the various forms of inequality and how these impact on development. These include inequalities in access to key reproductive health services such as family planning and adolescent health services as well as inequalities in education and employment.

Beyond the challenges, however, the commemoration provided an opportunity for leaders at national and local level to reflect on their role and the initiatives they could undertake to address inequalities in their various spheres of influence.

Leading the way were district leaders from Omoro and 15 other districts that make up the northern region. The leaders signed a declaration committing to, among other things, prioritise local initiatives to keep girls in school and strengthen provision of sexual and reproductive health services as a way to prevent unplanned pregnancies. The district leaders’ declaration was presented to the Vice President Edward Sekandi, who represented His Excellency President Museveni, by the Omoro district chairperson Mr. Peter Douglas Okello.

UNFPA Representative Mr. Alain Sibenaler expressed his appreciation for the commitment shown by the leaders.  “I am humbled and proud to have witnessed the extraordinary leadership of the Chairperson of the Omoro District Local Government and the commitment of the Chairs of the surrounding 15 districts to address some significant inequalities faced by the Acholi and Lango sub-regions,” he said.

He highlighted the need for more deliberate focus on addressing inequalities that affect adolescent girls and women. “The socio-economic development future of Uganda depends on its women and its girls. We are asking every person who is in a position to lead and to influence, in national and local government, traditional or cultural leaders and especially every man and every boy: Let girls be girls! Make sure they are free from violence and harassment at home in school and at work,” he said. 

UNFPA staff at the World Population Day event in Omoro

Mr. Sibenaler also appreciated the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni on population issues and pledged, on behalf of UNFPA, to continue supporting implementation of effective service delivery interventions in health and education.

In a speech delivered by Vice President H.E Edward Sekandi, President Yoweri Museveni, repeated a concern made during the 2017 World Population Day commemoration on the issue of teenage pregnancy rates. He noted that with high teenage pregnancy rates witnessed in Omoro district and country wide, Uganda’s girls were continuously being left behind. He urged local leaders to implement community mobilization drives involving parents, religious and cultural leaders to create awareness about the problem and to take more action to keep girls in school.

The Ambassador of the Netherlands His Excellency Henk Jan Bakker also weighed in on the issue, noting that inadequate investment in educating girls and ending child marriages constitute an enormous lost opportunity for Ugandan society. He also pledged continued support to the government in its efforts to address inequalities at all levels.