Education and Sports minister Janet Museveni has called for a concerted effort that mainly uses the family to mitigate increasing cases of teenage pregnancy and child abuse across the country.
The First Lady made the remarks while presiding over the national celebrations for the International Day of the Girl Child at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala yesterday. She said members of the public have left the responsibility of managing children to the government.
“There is a problem in our society where families have honestly abdicated their role completely,” Ms Museveni said, adding: “Nothing has made my heart bleed in this season of the pandemic than hearing that our children can only be safe at school; that our children are not safe at home.”
Her message come amid disturbing reports that child abuse cases have spiked after the pandemic restrictions saw schools shut last March and in June.
The Gender, Labour, and Social Development minister, Ms Betty Amongi, said statistics from the Uganda Police Force Annual Crime Report 2020 indicate that 14,230 children were defiled. Girls (14,080) mainly bore the brunt. The statistics also revealed that 1,280 defilement victims were children aged under eight. A further 2,980 minors aged between nine and 14 were also abused. The report further indicates that 120 children were defiled by their parents.
The First Lady urged the public not to politicise challenges faced by the girl-child in Uganda. “I don’t know of any example of God penalising the government or the church because of failing to take care of children because this is a responsibility [God] gave primarily to parents. Other stakeholders are to complement the parental role,” Ms Museveni said.
This year’s celebrations were marked under the theme “Digital Generation. Our Generation.”
Ms Museveni also launched a multimedia campaign targeting parents geared at promoting inclusive participation in securing a safe digital space for children.
Ms Sarah Mateke, the junior Youth and Children Affairs minister, said the proliferation of digital technology and digital services have made digital skills “no longer optional, but rather essential…for full participation in society”.
“Children are sexually abused using the Internet and the parents are not aware of what is taking place during online classes. There are a lot of predators who target the girls,” Ms Yvonne Laruni, the technical manager of Raising Voices, said.
“The environment in which the girls are going to be accessing online classes needs to be safeguarded,” she added.