By Emmanuel Ainebyoona
In a desperate move to cope with menstruation, hundreds of girls in Uganda are forced to trade their bodies in exchange for money to buy pads in order to stay in school.
This is according to the office of the Ambassador for Women and Girls, a non governmental organisation in Uganda.
Esther Nakajjigo, the ambassador for women and girls in Uganda, whose passion is ending teenage pregnancy, says according to their research about 3,211 adolescent girls dropped out of schools between 2014 and 2015 due to lack of sanitary pads.
"I was forced serve him sex because l wanted him to give me money to buy pads to use at school to escape the fun boys used to make of me every time in was in my menstruation...I love school and never wanted to drop out like my two other friends.
He made me pregnant...when l went for antenatal, they said l was HIV positive..." one of the victims told Nakajjigo.
Nakajjigo, who was part of a teenage pregnancy prevention campaign in Maddu Sub-county, Gomba district says: " when l met Molly Nabayego 15, on her death bed. Her mother stood cautiously watching her daughter losing the battle every hour that passed."
She adds that on that Christmas eve of 2014, Molly was pronounced dead, she was the only daughter to the 53-year-old Ms. Margaret Nabayunga.
"Just like Nabayego, thousands of girls in Gomba District, desperately try to cope with menstruation. Amidst abject poverty, girls are forced to trade their bodies in exchange for money to buy pads," Nakajjigo says, adding that businessmen from Kampala who trade in cattle at Maddu cattle market, poach on innocent bodies of girls as young as 13.
On the market day, schools hardly operate but rather lodges filled with school girls trying to 'earn a living'. This no wonder has contributed to Gomba district having the highest prevalence of HIVAIDS and teenage pregnancy among the central districts.
Ray of hope
However, Nakajjigo, through her position as the ambassador for women and girls in Uganda, has been empowering girls with skills to make their own re-usable cloth sanitary pads.
She says the menstruation should not be taken as a challenge but a pride.
Despite the situation, Uganda at the Weekend joined the rest of the world to mark menstrual hygiene day, an annual awareness day observed every May28.
The day aims to break taboos and raise awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management for women and adolescent girls worldwide. It was initiated by the German-based Non-Governmental Organisation known as Wash United in 2014.
Nakajjigo last week launched a campaign dubbed: "Saving Innocence Challenge 2016," a television reality show where girls from Kampala schools will inspire rural girls on personal hygiene.
During the competition, each school will select the girls to participate in the challenge and each team of the three girls will be attached to family with a teenage mother in Gomba District.
"Young people are supposed to be guided by their parents. However girls are not being prepared at home," says Olivia Kinconco from the reproductive health department at the Ministry of health.
She says the high teenage pregnancies are due to family negligence and low contraceptives use by adolescent girls.