By Watchdog reporter

GOMBA: Ms Juliet Namatta, an 18-year-old mother of one got married last year at 17 years of age.

“I dropped out of school in 2010 when I was in Primary Six at 12 years of age, my father had no money to pay for my education, so he took me to Kyazanga to work but things didn’t work out well so I came back home and I found a man who impregnated me and last year he married me,” she narrates.

Ms Joelia Namugerwa, Gomba district probation officer explained that poverty and conservative culture play a major role
in influencing girls to resort to early sex in the area.

“On a weekly basis, we receive three cases of defilement. During holidays, the number goes up to five,” Namugerwa says.

In an effort to curb growing cases of defilement and spread of HIV/AIDS in one of the youngest Ugandan districts, officials have teamed up with NGOs to carry out sensitization of the dangers of early sex and marriage.
Mr. Geoffrey Kiviiri, the Gomba LC 5 Chairman during the district celebrations of the World Population Day and the Day of the African Child held at Kanoni play grounds on Tuesday, stated that the NGO projects are mainly targeting teenage girls who are increasingly turning into young mothers.
“Young girls in Gomba just like all other parts of this country are still facing challenges like dropping out of school, early marriages and pregnancies all of which negatively affect their full potential”, he said.
Kiviiri further stated many of the defilement cases that are reported are between teachers and pupils.

“I want to rally all teachers in the districts to act responsibly and professionally when parents entrust them with the care of our children,” he said.
Mr. Robert Kadando, the manager of TASO foundation in Entebbe in his address stated, “Prevalence of teenage pregnancies and also HIV/AIDS infection here is very high compared to other parts of the
country. Here in Gomba, you find a 15 year old girl has a child but has already divorced from her first marriage because parents prefer to marry off their children than educating them,” he said.
Kadando further stated that the NGO’s are set to skill school dropouts so as they become responsible adults.
While addressing the press, Mr. Martin Kizito, the district population officer said, “Over the years, our population has increased from 133,264 people in 2010 to 160,075 in 2014 (UBOS 2014) of which 56 per cent are children below the age of 18 years.”

He said, “In Gomba, 24 percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 years are already mothers or pregnant.”
Kizito stated that last year a total of 30 girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy related problems.