Posted on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 15:22

Uganda: Queen advocates for better education for girls

By Crystal Oderson in Mubende, Uganda

Queen of the Baganda kingdom, Sylvia Nagginda. Photo©Screen Shot/ Youtube/ TEDxUganda's Queen of the Baganda kingdom, Sylvia Nagginda has urged young girls from the East African nation to stay in school and delay having sex, as their education was key to the country's development.

The Queen – traditionally known as the Nabagereka – was addressing hundreds her subjects during one of her advocacy rallies on reproductive and material rights in the south western district of Mubende, 200 kilometres southwest of the capital, Kampala.

The Queen is a very powerful person and her subjects will listen to what she has to say

The rallies are organised by the Nabagereka Foundation, which she founded.

The Queen emphasised the importance of preventing teenage pregnancy, as it prevents girls from achieving their full potential.

According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2011, one in four (24%) girls is either pregnant or has had a child by the age of 19.

The Buganda Kingdom is one the strongest cultural institutions in the country and holds a powerful and influential position in society.

Cultural leaders like the Nabagereka are now being used as champions to advocate for issues like reproductive health, particularly among young people, as it is believed that when cultural leaders speak, they are listened to.

The rally was attended by hundreds of pupils, community leaders and health experts.

Many believe the involvement of the Queen in reproductive rights and maternal health issues, has shown that she can influence community members and shift attitudes in the kingdom, especially among men.

The annual rallies are used as an advocacy platform to urge young people to abstain from sex and also to raise awareness on reproductive rights.

Teenage pregnancy is also one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.

The 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey indicating that up to 7,200 women dying every year due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

More than half of those are below the age of 19.

"I encourage young people to put into action what they hear today, if young girls get pregnant they cannot support themselves or their children," the Queen told the rally.

With a population of close to 700,000, the district has a teenage pregnancy rate of 38% and its population growth is higher than the national average.

Dr Wilson Mubira, the district health officer, says cultural myths and misconceptions and low male involvement in reproductive health matters are some of the factors contributing to these high figures.

United Nations Population Fund's Esperance Fundira said education was key in reducing unwanted pregnancies.

"Girls who drop out of school are more likely to be married early and child marriage has been shown to virtually end a girl's education," she said.

Fundira said ending teenage pregnancies was complex, but called for cross-sectional approach to the problem.

"The Queen is a very powerful person and her subjects will listen to what she has to say," she told The Africa Report on the side lines of the rally.

Young people attending the rally said they will heed the Queen's message.

"We learn from the Queen and I am determined to stay in school and have an education," 17-year old Hope Karungi told The Africa Report.

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