Joining a youth club saved me - Oweki
Oweki Rukia aged 17 from Arubaine village, Busia district in the eastern part of Uganda is poised for greater things after surviving drug addiction and teenage pregnancy.
Girls in Oweki’s neighborhood and among other communities across Uganda navigate a complex web of socio-cultural barriers that limit their access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) information and services. Myths and misperceptions around contraception remain widespread and public health facilities often lack youth friendly services.
The consequences run deep. The resulting lack of knowledge and access to services as well as stigmatisation of young people’s SRH in societies impede the majority of them to live a healthy SRH life. This has contributed to high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other STIs, teenage pregnancies and its associated complications, including unsafe abortions, high mortality rates and fistula.
The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2016 indicates that females aged 10-14 have already started child bearing. One in four girls aged 19 years and below has already started child bearing, 12% of young women aged 15-24 have had sex before age 15 while 17% of young men aged 15-24 have had sex before age 15 or younger and teenage pregnancy rate stands at 25.
A 2017 district report indicates that teenage pregnancy in the district stands at 28% above the national average which is 25%.
Luckily for Oweki, she survived addiction and teenage pregnancy all thanks to the Action 4 Health Uganda (A4HU) and Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW) supported Social Economic Empowerment Project (SEEP) that coordinates peer to peer cascading of SRH information to over 2000 young people in 40 youth clubs in Wakiso, Tororo, Busia, Kampala, and Mukono districts.
“Joining Provident Initiatives Uganda Youth Club enabled me to change my life and behavior,” Oweki says. “I come from a family education is expensive because my parents are poor and because of that, my mum and brother tried to forcefully marry me off in my Senior One when I was only 14 years of age.”
Oweki narrates that she became disgusted with life and started taking opium, marijuana and other drugs including alcohol. She notes that her parents went ahead to torture her for refusing to get married until she threatened to sue them.
This forced her to join some dancing group in town where she met three other girls young than her. In this group, Oweki says they would go to disco clubs, abuse drugs and alcohol so as to gain confidence to perform on stage.
Oweki saw her life going to waste until she met members of Provident Initiatives Uganda Youth Club Edutainment team performing at an outreach.
“Since I have always had the love for music and dance, I got lured to join the team through an A4HU peer educator name Shalaba Denis who introduced me to the youth club leader. I later joined the club and for the first time I tested for HIV/AIDS and started attending peer learning sessions, training in drama about SRH which enabled me realize the value of my life,” she said.
Adding, “I also stopped going to disco clubs and quit drugs. That’s how I survived drugs and teenage pregnancy. Oweki notes that sadly, her colleagues who remained in the former dancing group are now victims of teenage pregnancy.
With support from Denis (a member of Provident), Oweki was able to start working in a salon where she currently earns a living. The group also moves to functions for instance graduation and weddings ceremonies to entertain guest to generate money for survival. The group also does peer learning sessions in communities.
“Peer learning sessions enabled me to get to know how to make informed decisions about my life. It also made me realize that it’s my responsibility to take care of myself and not my parents,” says Oweki.