ARUA CITY. Religious and cultural leaders have been urged to intensify the fight against the rampant early marriages in the communities across the West Nile region.

The leaders have also been asked to shun any child marriage negotiations if the vice is to be adequately controlled.

Civil society organizations have recently raised a red flag over the astronomical surge in teenage pregnancies and early marriages catalyzed by the COVID-19 lockdown challenges.

“We would like to work with you to stop the alarming child marriages in our community because we know that you have the power to influence many people”, said Ms Mercy Munduru, the program officer Mentoring, and Empowerment Program for young Women (MEMPROW) Uganda.

Ms Munduru 08 09 20Ms Munduru speaks to the participants during the training. PHOTO BY RIMILIAH AMANDU

She added “we want to learn from you what happens in the community but we also want to give you tips so that we can combine efforts to stop child marriages”

She made the call while training religious, cultural and opinion leaders from the sub-counties of Odupi, Uriama, Aiivu as well as Arua city at Hotel Jershem in Arua city on Monday.

MEMPROW, a feminist organization is dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls so as to fight the cultural injustices and stereotypes towards them.

Mr Hamza Afeku, the secretary for Terego Muslim Union said poor attitudes backed by wrong cultures were the main factors encouraging the mistreatment of women and girls in the community.

“Since my first day of marriage, I have been helping my wife with some of the chores that people think are for women, and because of that even women are despising me saying I have been bewitched by my wife”, he said.

“Therefore, I think the biggest issue is our attitude because doing all the works has never changed me into a woman”, he further said about his experience.

Afeku said Islam as a religion is opposed to domestic violence and personally wondered how a man can raise his hand to slap a woman despite the numerous roles played by women in a home.

Mr Akulino Mbati, an elder from Uriama Sub County said the issue of drug abuse like opium and the local mairungi have made the situation worse in the villages.

“I don’t know why the issue of opium smoking is being relaxed by the government and yet once these youth become addicted, they never listen to anybody, what should we do now as the elders?” he asked.

Ms Dina Candiru, a 75-year-old widow from Ozua cell, Arua central division said the issue of child marriages needs a tough stance and cooperation from key stakeholders if perpetrators are to be served with justice.

All participants made signed commitments to use their influence to stop child marriages in their community.

Participants 08 09 20Participants pose for a group photo after the training.