October 11, 2022, marks the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Girl Child with this year’s theme being “Our time is now – our rights, our future.” Girls around the world continue to face unprecedented challenges to their education and to their physical and mental wellbeing. According to the United Nations, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15-19 globally are not in education, employment or training, compared to 1 in 10 boys. Bantwana recognizes the importance of supporting girls to amplify their voices, today and year-round, to ensure a better future.
In Uganda, 79% of new HIV infections in young people occur among adolescent girls and young women, and 1 in every 4 teenage girls has a child or is pregnant. This makes Uganda a country with one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the extended school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have only exacerbated this situation.
The need to invest in education and economic opportunities for adolescent girls is clear. Education is linked to delayed marriage and childbearing among girls as well as lower rates of HIV/AIDS, thus enhancing development and economic security. For girls who have dropped out of school, prioritizing increased access to vocational skills and to capital or savings can have similar positive effects.
The USAID Integrated Child and Youth Development (ICYD) Activity is supporting group prevention programs to help youth to reach their full potential by addressing key barriers at every stage of their development. Young women participating in ICYD programs share their experiences below. Names have been changed for confidentiality.