“At 10 years old her stomach swells with the growth of new life. Children hiding within the fragile frames of children, mothers being made out of infants.”
In July 2013 The Ugandan National Bureau of Statistics alleged that, out of the 1.2million pregnancies recorded in Uganda each year, 25% are from girls under the age of 18. These pregnancies, around 300,000 in total, are almost all unwanted resulting in abortions or unintended births. Early marriage, sexual violence, early initiation into sexual activity and a lack of information are some of the greatest drivers behind this epidemic.
Vivian Kityo is putting a stop to all that.
Born and raised in Kampala, Vivian trained as a nurse before going on to receive a degree in Health Administration. Throughout her many years on Uganda’s maternity wards, Vivian was overwhelmed by the steady stream of young girls who came to her with unwanted pregnancies. Many had been raped or violated, others where child brides , none of them were old enough to be mothers. Frustrated by the lack of support and the seeming increase in the rates of unwanted pregnancies, in 2005 Vivian founded Wakisa Ministries, a crisis pregnancy centre aimed at providing the essential support services girls needed but rarely had access to.
Based in Bakuli, a suburb about 5km west of Kampala’s city-entre, Wakisa Ministries is Uganda’s only teenage and child pregnancy crisis centre. Currently supporting 22 girls the youngest of which is 10, the centre offers essential ante-natal care as well as sex, relationships and health rights education. Most importantly, the centre teaches these girls how to care for their children including breast-feeding and infant care.
Akina Mama Wa Afrika (AMwA) our partners in Uganda, have partnered with the centre to research the prevalence of sexual and gender based violence in relation to unwanted pregnancies. Through their work AMwA discovered that 43% of young mothers had been ‘unwilling’ to have sexual intercourse, confirming the fact that sexual and gender based violence are root causes for unwanted pregnancies in Uganda. As young mothers, many girls are unable to complete their schooling, leaving them with fewer economic opportunities and therefore vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation. This not only robs the country of a stronger economic workforce, but it also slows down much needed social, political and economic development. The stigma of pre-marital sex can, especially where pregnancy is concerned, leave girls isolated from their families and communities. Such a stigma, combined with the responsibilities of caring for another life at a young age, and the experiences of sexual violence many of the girls have endured can leave young mothers with serious psychological and emotional trauma making Wakisa Minstries such a necessary service.
As part of her vision to see these girls not only survive but thrive, Vivian and Wakisa Ministries provide recipients with a range of business skills from candle making, to tailoring, jewellery making to knitting and urban agriculture. By 2020 Vivian hopes to enrol her girls in vocational training schools and to create a comprehensive policy that will end child marriage in Uganda permanently. As the recipient of the New Vision Women Achiever Award and featured as one of Africa’s most influential women in business and government, Vivian Kityo is a woman to be reckoned with and a true Sheroe. We wish her the best as she keeps pursuing the good fight!
Words by Irene Kagoya and @Justina_Kehinde
For more information on Wakisa Ministries click here
For more information on Akina Mama wa Afrika click here