Now is the Time to Secure the Girl Child’s Future

Ten years later, the condition of the girl child across the world is still a matter of shame and concern. Uganda is a country where social disadvantage outweighs the natural biological advantage of being a girl. Girls are disadvantaged and are not enjoying their fundamental human rights. These rights include non-discrimination, the right to survival, protection from harmful influences, exploitation and full participation in family and social life, amongst others.

By Mary Constance Nyaketcho

This year’s global theme for the International Day of the Girl Child is “Our time is now-our rights, our future”, offering us an inspirational entry point to advocate for, promote and celebrate the girl child’s rights, translating into actions that will build a better world for them. The first celebration of International Day of the Girl Child was on 11th October 2012, making this year the 10th commemoration.

Ten years later, the condition of the girl child across the world is still a matter of shame and concern. Uganda is a country where social disadvantage outweighs the natural biological advantage of being a girl. Girls are disadvantaged and are not enjoying their fundamental human rights. These rights include non-discrimination, the right to survival, protection from harmful influences, exploitation and full participation in family and social life, amongst others.

In some communities, it is still challenging for the girl child to pride in her gender because she has continuously been undervalued and violated. This has greatly influenced the health and well-being of the girl child, her personal development, participation in society and ability to achieve her fullest potential. At the early age of 13 even before they hit menstruation, girls are forced into marriage. Imagine how miserable that girl child will be for most of her ‘married’ life. Several of them have also been sexually abused by relatives, guardians and community members but nothing has been done to stop this. The abusers are never castigated while the girls are dealing with the consequences like unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases while continuing to be victimised.

Violation of the rights of the girl child begins with denying her the right to education. Education is an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. It is evident that girls are more likely to be kept out of school than boys. They have missed out on education simply because the girl child is obliged to stay home and do house chores with their mothers as the boys went to school. It is not okay that a boy’s education is valued over a girl’s. While these cases are majorly seen happening in the rural areas, even in the urban areas, the prospects of the girl child are not too bright as well. Although women are acquiring status and positions in places of influence, they still do not get the respect their male counterparts get in the offices. Besides no matter what status a woman achieves outside the home, inside the home setting, by and large, she remains an object of care for work and domestic responsibilities. It thus appears that even education and financial independence have not helped them in enhancing their status and rights.

“Our time is now-our rights, our future” is a theme that aims at empowering, advocating and protecting the virtue of the girl child is a social development policy that works and a long-term investment that yields exceptionally high. A glance at the current slow and patchy progress towards equality, reveals that we were overly ambitious to expect the eradication of a regime of gender inequality and outright oppression that has lasted for over a thousand years in only a few years. We have also been held back by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in a number of other human rights violations. The effects of the pandemic on the girl child are dire and need immediate action and if not addressed, may last a lifetime.  

It is time, therefore, that we begin to do the right thing. It is crucial for generations to come together to reimagine the type of world we want to create for the girl child. We ought to take note that is every individual’s constitutional right to acquire education, and the future of the nation rests on the education of all its youth. This does not exclude pregnant and young mothers, whom we should mentor and encourage to report back to school and finish their education. But education doesn’t stop with the girl child alone. School leaders, teachers, parents and community leaders also need to be sensitised and made aware of tirelessly emphasising the need for educating the girl child. By doing so the girl child acquires enough knowledge and viable skills to advocate for themselves, accomplish their goals and live a healthy and comfortable life.

We need to empower and support the girl child to engage in decision-making more than ever, and in that regard, every girl can decide what to do with her body, her life and her future. Girls must be encouraged to speak up, and to have a meaningful voice, ensuring they can engage in the planning and implementation of their rights. And this can only be achieved if the girl child is taught about their rights, for they need to have a clear idea of the issues affecting them, address what they would like to voice, that their voices are meaningfully recognised and that they can do so in a safe and child-friendly format. The boy child should also be taught how to exist with empowered girls as equals rather than competitors.

We need to make necessary investments and hold ourselves accountable for results. But investment in the girl child goes beyond monetary endowments. It is about making long-term efforts at demystifying harmful misconceptions that affect the girl child. It is therefore an appeal to the Government and other responsible organs to ensure the passing and implementation of policies such as the National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy in the country by 2026, and the National School Health Policy among others. It is also important to mainstream the gender perspective into all policy programmes in order to generate awareness and elevate the girl child.

Uganda has well-developed policies on young people, gender equality and girls’ education, which are often backed up by laws. However, there are certain gaps in advocacy, focus and coordination, while significant problems remain in implementation and enforcement capacity. It is important to enhance the effectiveness of legal redress mechanisms and child protection systems and to enact district-level ordinances to back up and pave way for the implementation of national laws.

It is nevertheless noteworthy that a number of girls have “made it in life”. They have graduated from school, taken on professions and risen to positions of political leadership, successfully balancing their role with family commitments. So, as we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, let us celebrate the success stories of the girl child and also join hands and analyse why gender equality gaps still persist and how we can deal with it immediately. Let us all act now and provide a friendly environment for the girl child.

The writer is an intern in the Community Empowerment Programme at CEHURD.

Reflecting on CEHURD’s Achievements and Stories of Success in Uganda’s Health Care System

CEHURD launched a national campaign to raise awareness of and advocate for safety in health-care facilities, recognizing that safety is a prerequisite for a strong health-care system.

Israel iya jeep

Post-World Patient Safety Day 2022 by Israel Iya Jeep                                    

The world patient safety day is observed annually on 17th September with the objective of increasing public awareness and engagement, enhance global understanding, and work towards global solidarity and action by member states to promote patient safety.[1] Across the world, unsafe medication practices and medication errors are a leading cause of avoidable harm in health care [l1]  and this year’s theme for the World Patient Safety Day embraces this fact. The theme builds on the ongoing efforts by the World Health Organization to ensure medication without harm. The theme provides the necessary motivation to take urgent action towards reducing medication-related harm through strengthening systems and practices of medication use.[2]  The world patient safety day is thus a global campaign calling on stakeholders to prioritize and take early action in key areas associated with significant patient harm that may occur due to unsafe medication practices. Furthermore, the world patient day offers great potential to raise awareness and understanding of health issues and mobilize support for action, from local communities to the international stage to further the fundamental principle of medicine “do no harm”.[3]

CEHURD with support from the Joint Advocacy for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (JAS) Programme in commemoration of world patient safety day, kick-started a national campaign to amplify and advocate for safety in health facilities, recognizing that safety is a prerequisite for a strong health system. CEHURD is contributing – towards ensuring safety issues in health facilities are addressed and to this end, CEHURD has challenged the actions and inactions of hospitals that put patients safety at stake for instance, it challenged Mulago hospital on new born care and management, challenged the actions and omissions of the government of Uganda for failure to provide minimum maternal health services in petition 16 – What the constitutional court decision on access to basic maternal healthcare means, CEHURD with the Uganda Medical Association advocated for Prioritization of safety of health workers to protect patients during covid-19-and-beyond, an increase of salaries for health workers, documented facts on the state of health facilities and amplified the voice to renovate, build and ensure adequate health infrastructure. All these efforts are aimed at ensuring that patients’ safety is guaranteed and no patient suffers injury or dies because of unsafe and poor health care.

CEHURD’s efforts have recorded stories of success and progress in the health sector; he first success was achieved in constitutional appeal 01 of 2013, In this case, CEHURD contended that the non-provision of basic indispensable health maternal commodities in government health facilities and the imprudent and unethical behaviours of health workers towards expectant mothers contravened the constitution.  The supreme court, in rejecting the political-question-doctrine defence raised by the Attorney General, held that the executive cannot escape scrutiny where its actions or inactions violate constitutional provisions and that Article 20 of the constitution does not exclude any institution from respecting, upholding and promoting human rights. 

In addition to the above, the supreme court opened gates for public interest litigation especially in the area of health rights and patient safety when Justice lady Esther Kisaakye held that it’s not a requirement under the constitution for a petitioner who seeks redress to show that they suffered a personal legal grievance. CEHURD has leveraged on this order to bring legal action to advance health rights and cause structural reforms in the health sector as demonstrated in civil case No. 212 of 2013 in the High Court of Uganda between Center for health, human rights and development and others v Executive Director Mulago Hospital and others. In this case, court issued orders in form of structural interdicts in the health sector for instance orders requiring that Mulago hospital as a mandatory obligation takes steps to ensure and or enhance the respect, movement and safety of babies, dead or alive in hospitals and orders relating to the Executive Director of Mulago hospital to submit as a mandatory duty a written report every after 4 months regarding the steps taken to enhance the respect, movement and safety of babies to CEHURD.

Still in the jurisprudential circles, the dismissal and the decision in Uganda v Kato Frederick criminal case 56 of 2020 builds confidence among medical practitioners to continue providing safe-post-abortion care to different people that enter the doors for help which in turn may   reduce the severe effects of unsafe abortion that contribute to high maternal mortality rates[l2] . The case demonstrates that medical practitioners can provide safe post abortion care without fear of getting prosecuted.

CEHURD has conducted policy and legal framework mapping aimed at identifying laws, bills, policies, strategies and guidelines affecting self-care to identify opportunities and gaps that  inform advocacy for institutionalization of self-care in Uganda. [l3] 

CEHURD has also conducted research and facilitated investigations on the state of health facilities in Uganda for example the “No safety guarantees in moribund health system | PANORAMA” documentary which identified issues relating to poor quality health care, health expert shortage, unskilled man power, inadequate documentation of statistics relating to patient safety, inadequate man power, lack of infrastructure, ageing infrastructure among others. All these efforts have culminated into structural reforms in the health sector such as provision of safety gears to health workers, mitigating health expert shortage, building homes for cancer patients at the Mulago cancer institute, renovation of Busolwe Hospital, and influencing budgetary innovations in the health sector.

CEHURD has condemned detention of persons with mental illnesses and patients in health facilities, emphasising that Hospitals are not gazetted detention facilities according to the law of Uganda, and that there are special places where we have to detain people “No health facility is allowed to detain patients for any reason despite the business background. If people owe you, hand them to institutions who have that mandate.” ~ Dr Katumba | Uganda Medical & Dental practitioners’ Council.

We talk about these successes, achievements, progress to inform, influence, and inspire movements, the government, and all stakeholders to join the campaign aimed at causing positive structural changes in our heath sector and ensuring patient safety because a flourishing health sector is key in achieving our national goals. We call everyone to engage in advocacy efforts with key stakeholders including developing national campaigns, organizing policy forums, advocacy and technical events, capacity-building initiatives, lighting up iconic monuments with the goal of pursuing the objectives of the world patient safety day and the year’s theme of raising global awareness on the high burden of medication-related harm due to medication error and unsafe practices. We must not tire to advocate for urgent action to improve medication safety through engaging with health workers and other partners in the health sector in the efforts to prevent medication errors and reduce medical-related harm. We must empower patients and families to be actively involved in the safe use of medication, and scaling up implementation of the global patients’ safety challenge which is medication without harm.

In conclusion therefore, we all have a role to play in ensuring patient safety and the call for all persons to fully embrace and actively take part in activities aimed at promoting awareness and mobilize support for safety in health facilities at large.

The writer is an intern at the Center for Health, Human rights and Development.


[1] World patient safety day 2022 accessible at https://www.who.int/news-room/events/details/2022/09/17/default-calendar/world-patient-safety-day-2022

[2] Supra

[3] World patient safety day accessible ta https://nationaltoday.com/world-patient-safety-day


 [l1]This is repeated in the same sentence so lets keep the one at the beginning of the sentence

 [l2]I don’t know if this is a fact because we don’t have evidence that the numbers have reduced

 [l3]This is not very accurate so just leave it out.

Problem and Instructions for the 9th National Inter-University Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition Out

Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) thanks universities for registering for the 9th National Inter-University Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. This year’s moot competition is taking place under the theme, “Gender Discrimination: The Plight of Pregnant Girls in School”.

CEHURD is happy to announce that the problem and instructions for the 9th Annual CEHURD moot court competition is out. The problem and instructions for participating universities can be downloaded below.

We wish all the participants the best of luck.

Download CEHURD Moot Competition Problem 2022

Download CEHURD Moot Competition Instructions 2022

Breastfeeding Crowns the Joy of Motherhood

I have personally breastfed my first child up to 1 year and 6 months. My current baby is 1 year and 3 months old, he is still breastfeeding and I intend to breastfeed him for up to 2 years. I am enjoying the benefits of this as they both rarely catch common illnesses. I recognize that I am privileged to work for an organisation that makes allowances for me to travel with my child so that breastfeeding can continue. That is why I call upon the government to mandate workplaces to cater to breastfeeding mothers. 

– sARAH AKAMPURIRA

It’s incredible how happy and fulfilled a mother feels as she watches her child’s development from birth. This growth is usually facilitated by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is more than just the ability to access one’s right to food, one’s right to health, or the performance of the duty of motherhood. Breast milk contains more components than any formula, food, or mixture on earth combined.

The bond a mother forms with her infant when breastfeeding has enormous advantages that assist the child as an adult. While nursing, a mother can quickly determine whether her child is healthy, sick, happy, or upset without using any words. The majority of the time, midwives tell us that talking to our children while we breastfeed is important because even when they are unable to speak back, they understand. This is crucial for the growth and development of children.

Did you know, however, that the benefits of breastfeeding endure longer for both the mother and the baby’s health the longer the child is breastfed?

Many scientists agree that there are numerous advantages to breastfeeding a baby exclusively for the first six months up to two years of age. Antibodies found in breast milk lower the incidence of ear infections, diarrhea, allergies, and asthma. They continue to note that babies who are breastfed have stronger immune systems and are less likely to require hospitalisation.

Appropriate diet, consumption of fluids like oatmeal, water, and fruit juice, good health practices, and the support of the mother’s entire family are all necessary for a mother to properly breastfeed her child and fulfill this divinely mandated duty. A mother will always find time for her baby to breastfeed, connect, chat, laugh, and experience the joy of motherhood despite all the other responsibilities of any adult woman, talk of professional/career aspirations outside the household setting, the desire to achieve career goals, not to mention the pressure that comes with it.

In commemoration of the recently concluded World Breast Feeding week under the theme ‘Step up for Breastfeeding’, I urge the government, the private sector, and other companies to take into consideration creating a nursery or special space at the office. In these spaces, moms can sit for a 20–30-minute break and breastfeed their children. This improves performance, stabilises the workplace, and keeps a mother’s mental health in check because she won’t have to worry about leaving her three-and-a-half-month-old at home with a babysitter for more than 10 hours while she is at work.

It is true that when you strive to eat and drink more to ensure that you have enough breast milk for the baby, this can sometimes result in weight gain. Instead of cutting back on drinks or placing limitations, increase your exercise to stay healthy and fit. So that you may continue to be an example to other mothers. Shut your ears to any unfavourable advice, especially when they say things like, “the baby is now a big boy or girl and he can do away with breast milk at six or eight months.” Continue breastfeeding your child and only introduce supplemental feeds once they are at least six months old. Also, make the most of any free time you have to do so. As a mother, you benefit in two ways: your child grows up healthy, and you lower your risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers. It is a twofold gain.

Never forget the joy of parenthood, and once the breastfeeding phase is over, you will work on it harder. Don’t worry about the peer pressure about how you are gaining weight and, from what I hear, growing out of shape.

I have personally breastfed my first child up to one year and six months. My current baby is one year and three months old, he is still breastfeeding and I intend to breastfeed him for up to two years. I am enjoying the benefits of this as they both rarely catch common illnesses. I recognize that I am privileged to work for an organisation that makes allowances for me to travel with my child so that breastfeeding can continue. That is why I call upon the government to mandate workplaces to cater to breastfeeding mothers. 

Last but not least, I urge all women who are able to do so to prolong their baby’s breastfeeding experience by delaying early weaning and to take advantage of the positive impacts breastfeeding has on both the mother and the child.

Sarah Akampurira is the Programme Coordinator, Community Empowerment at CEHURD, and a breastfeeding advocate.

CASE BRIEF; UGANDA V KATO FREDERICK Criminal Case 56 of 2020

Representing a Doctor caught up in the Justice System for Provision of Post-Abortion Care

KATIA ALUPO OLARO
Programme Associate, Strategic Litigation

In April 2020, the accused was arrested for allegedly committing the offence of Supply of Drugs to procure abortion contrary to Section 143 of the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 of the Laws of Uganda. He was arraigned in court, formally charged and subsequently remanded to Kitalya Maximum Security Prison, Wakiso District, Uganda. This affected the accused’s work and the eventual closure of his pharmacy.

Download case brief to learn more about the case;