ARUA CITY. A section of local leaders from Terego district have condemned the manner in which poor parents are forcing their underage girls into marriage.

The local leaders said the motive of the parents is to get wealth (dowry) that they think can sustain their livelihood.

“We have a negative culture that does not value women, and that is why when a girl grows up, she is seen as an asset that must bring wealth in the family”, said Mr Michael Bayo Wena, the district councillor for Aiivu Sub County.

He also said ignorance and a general lack of exposure as well as negligence has worsened the situation of child marriages in the communities.

This was during a consultative meeting of local leaders from Aiivu, Uriama and Odupi sub counties in Arua town on Tuesday. The meeting was a follow-up on one with cultural, religious and opinion leaders of the same sub counties geared towards reducing the alarming rate of child marriages especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr WenaMr Wena stresses a point during the meeting on Tuesday. PHOTO BY RIMILIAH AMANDU.

Mr Augustine Vuni, the councillor representing Odupi Sub County said some men in the villages strangely look at polygamy as a solution but have caused untold suffering to their children and women.

He said despite the restrictions due to COVID-19, many children in the villages continue to be exposed to risky behaviours under improper guidance.

Arua district enacted a five-year action plan on prevention of teenage pregnancy, as well as an education ordinance that among others seeks to reduce teenage pregnancy and promote girl child education.

However, the ordinances have largely remained ineffective due to funding shortages for implementation.

Mr James Afadriayo, the chairman LC III chairman Aiivu sub county challenged the cultural and religious leaders to step up to the challenge if the vice of teenage pregnancy is to be prevented.

“Let the cultural leaders carry their flag because they are the ones who sit to discuss bride price, right now there are no discos, videos as it used to be before COVID-19 and yet teenage pregnancies are on the rise, where is the problem?” He asked.

Ms Kalsum Abdu, the deputy mayor of Arua city said authorities like Police should stop conniving with the rich perpetrators to condone defilement cases in the community.

Mentoring and empowerment program for young women (MEMPROW), a feminist organization has been on a campaign dubbed accelerating progress to end child marriages in the West Nile region.

Ms Mercy Munduru, the program officer said helping girls to delay marriage doesn’t change culture but is intended to get them mature before marriage.

The organization operates in the districts of Nebbi, Kyegegwa, Kiryadongo, Kampala, Terego and Arua city among others.