Articles by Uganda
Ugandan LGBTQI+ organization banned by government
On 3 August 2022, the Ugandan National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations unfairly halted the activities of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) – a prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQI+) rights organization – for failing to meet the bureau's registration requirements. SMUG has provided sexuality education and advocated for LGBTQI+ healthcare since 2004 and is well-known for providing services and guidance to the LGBTQI+ community in Uganda. The organization also contributes to Uganda's health goals, including the country's HIV/AIDS strategy, which includes the provision of healthcare to vulnerable and marginalized populations. Although SMUG applied to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) in 2012, the URSB declined the organization's request on the grounds that SMUG was "operating illegally", a position the organization petitioned with no positive response. In a clear case of harassment and restrictions against Ugandan rights groups working on LGBTQI+ rights, the URSB further asserted that registering SMUG's name would be difficult, calling it "undesirable and un-registrable". In response to the ban the Africa Regional Director for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) urged the Ugandan government to review its decision to suspend SMUG and to work towards accommodating the organization's mandate of advancing the rights of the LGBTQI+ community in Uganda. Marie-Evelynne-Petrus-Barry said: "As a global human rights organization and the world's largest sexual and reproductive healthcare provider, the International Planned Parenthood Federation upholds the rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. "The Ugandan government's ban of SMUG has created huge anxiety among health service providers, human rights defenders, and members of the LGBTQI+ community, who risk their lives daily so that LGBTQI+ people can access healthcare and information just as any other person would. "We ask the Ugandan government to urgently reconsider its decision to suspend SMUG and to put an end to laws and policies that criminalize, target and endanger members of the LGBTQI+ community and the organizations that advocate for their rights." Petrus-Barry added: "IPPF works to ensure that people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) – including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people have access to the full set of human rights enshrined in international human rights laws. IPPF is willing to work with the Ugandan government and other stakeholders to ensure that all Ugandan people can access these rights without restraint." For media enquiries, please contact Mahmoud Garga, Lead Specialist – Strategic Communication, Media Relations and Digital Campaigning, IPPF Africa Regional Office (IPPFARO) on [email protected] or +254 704 626 920 ABOUT IPPF AFRICA REGION (IPPFAR) The International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) is one of the leading sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service delivery organizations in Africa and a leading sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocacy voice in the region. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, the overarching goal of IPPFAR is to increase access to SRHR services to the most vulnerable youth, men and women, in sub-Saharan Africa. Supported by thousands of volunteers, IPPFAR tackles the continent's growing SRHR challenges through a network of Member Associations (MAs) in 40 countries. We do this by developing our MAs into efficient entities with the capacity to deliver and sustain high-quality, youth-focused and gender-sensitive services. We work with Governments, the African Union, Regional Economic Commissions, the Pan-African Parliament, and United Nations bodies, among others, to expand political and financial commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa. Learn more about the IPPF Africa Region on their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
In pictures: The changemaker keeping her community healthy and happy
The Get Up, Speak Out! initiative works with and for young people to overcome barriers such as unequal gender norms, negative attitudes towards sexuality, taboos about sex, menstruation, and abortion. Empowering youth communities - especially girls and young women - with information and knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, and the provision of access to health and contraceptive care, is at the heart of the initiative. Get Up, Speak Out! is an international initiative developed by a consortium of partners including IPPF, Rutgers, CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality, Dance4Life, Simavi, and Aidsfonds, with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Meet Olgah: the sexual health activist challenging gender norms in Uganda
Olgah Daphynne Namukuza, a 25-year-old Ugandan Executive Committee member, has never let traditional gender roles hold her back. “When I was younger I was very argumentative”, she says. “I used to take part in a lot of debates, I used to participate in school competitions for delivering speeches. I wanted to be a lawyer.” Now Olgah is channeling those same skills into advocating for sexual health and reproductive rights for young people in Uganda. Currently the youth country coordinator for the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance in Uganda, she was elected as the IPPF regional representative for the Youth Action Movement in 2016, and has volunteered at Reproductive Health Uganda, a non-governmental organization (NGO) since she was a student. Challenging gender roles from a young age Brought up primarily by her mother in a middle-class family in Kampala, she says her mother tried to raise Olgah and her two brothers and two sisters outside of traditional gender roles, asking each to take their turn to cook and do other households chores. But soon, she says, tradition took over. “The more we grew up, it wasn't up to her [Olgah’s mother] anymore, because she would tell the boys to cook and they would just not do it”, she says. “They'd be like, "Why should I cook? There's girls in the family"." In school, traditional gender roles were reinforced, especially when it came to sex education. “It was a fear-based message”, she says. “Many of the talks were centered around: you need to abstain in order to not get pregnant and not get HIV, so that you can be successful in life.” Olgah says shame and fear were the main tools used by teachers and matrons, but she is thankful for her mother and aunts who taught her to speak openly about sexuality and pregnancy. Stigma & society Living in a country where one in four girls give birth before the age of 19, Olgah saw the repercussions of teenage pregnancy early in life, when two of her classmates dropped out aged fifteen because they were pregnant. Aside from the potential health complications, teenage mothers in Uganda face huge social stigma, and often struggle financially, falling into a poverty trap from which it’s almost impossible to escape. “It was very difficult for them. People in school were scared to talk to them”, says Olgah. “They seemed like they were these people who had some disease…They were rejected by their families, they were rejected in school...they had literally no support.” Volunteering at Reproductive Health Uganda While working towards her degree in Development Studies in Makerere University, Olgah was introduced by a friend to Reproductive Health Uganda, IPPF's Member Association in Uganda. After completing an internship during her university course, she continued to volunteer there after she graduated. “During my internship, I saw that there were a lot of young people who are employed, a lot of young people who were in positions of power, who were making decisions on behalf of the organisation”. She says this innovative approach was inspiring. “One thing became clear: that it's not about how old you are, it's about what you can do and how you can do it.” Olgah is determined that young people need to lead the way on sexual health and reproductive rights. “The current reality is, young people are very dynamic and the times we are dealing with are very dynamic. You need to involve young people because they understand those issues more. We're at a crossroads between breaking that generational hold of traditionalism and conservativeness and embracing the new reality of the influence of technology.” Throughout her career, Olgah has been using technology to help young people in Uganda access the information they need to empower them. As a volunteer and ICT coordinator with Reproductive Health Uganda, she worked with the organisation on a project which used ICT to improve access and utilization of SRHR information and services. Investing in youth She now helps run several programmes, including a club for teenage mothers which offers them a small investment and financial advice, to help them to start their own businesses and escape poverty, and the Get Up Speak Out programme, which aims to change the conversation around sexuality and education, and create a more open dialogue between young people and parents, teachers and service providers. The programme trains school staff in sex education, and uses music, dance, drama and lively debates to explore love and sex in an open atmosphere, free of the fear and mistrust she experienced in her own school days. And it’s not just women who benefit. Olgah runs programmes for men and boys to access contraception, and says it’s crucial for both partners to be comfortable discussing and using them. She is determined that men have to be a part of the change. “It is very important to bring them on board, to help them understand the issues”, she says. ”And to help them know that sharing power is not so bad after all - it will actually have greater results for them”.
Celebrating passion and commitment this International Women’s Day
International Women's Day (8 March) is a time to celebrate the incredible achievements of fearless women around the world. Today (and every day) we’re honored to highlight the passion and continued commitment of doctors, nurses, peer educators, activists and volunteers who dedicate their efforts to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights globally. These are just a few of them: Chathurika Jayalath, youth volunteer, Sri Lanka In May 2017, flash flooding in Sri Lanka triggered landslides resulting in many people losing their homes and forcing them to seek emergency shelter. 24-year-old student Chathurika, a youth volunteer for IPPF’s Member Association the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPASL), took part in the response. She helped in organizing the health camps, and she even runs a youth club at her university to inform her peers about sexual health. Find out more about Chathurika inspiring community contributions Emma Watson, actor & activist, UK For almost as long as she’s been in the spotlight, actor Emma Watson has been well known for her feminist activism. Over the years she has lent her support to many vital issues including ending child marriage, violence against women and female genital mutilation, as well as fighting for abortion care and LGBTQI rights. She’s also a partner to IPPF! Keep up with Emma’s important work by following her on Twitter now Vicky Acora, volunteer, Uganda Vicky is a married mother-of-two. She faces all the usual challenges that women face when it comes to getting sexual and reproductive health services - but Vicky’s life is complicated further because she is deaf. In the past, she would have trouble communicating with health staff who did not understand her needs, but since seeking services at Reproductive Health Uganda’s clinic in Gulu (a Member Association of IPPF), she has been able to get the healthcare she needs. She has since then even been advising other deaf people to seek services with the clinic. Read more about Vicky’s experience Dr Leana Wen, president of PPFA, USA IPPF was thrilled when Dr Leana Wen was appointed as President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America last year. She is a dynamic public health leader, a practising physician and not least, a formidable woman. Since she started her demanding role, she has helped Planned Parenthood continue to provide high-quality care to the people who need it across the United States, and she is a powerful voice in our fight to ensure that women have the ability to make their own healthcare decisions. We look forward to seeing what she will achieve next. If you do too, then follow Dr Wen on Twitter Abla Abassa, health worker, Togo Abla is a community health worker. She spends her days cycling around her home village’s dusty streets in rural Togo visiting households who have signed up to an innovative programme that provides contraception in hard-to-reach places. She might visit as many as five households in one day, where she’ll discuss and provide family options including the Pill, condoms and injection, with people who might otherwise not know what their choices are. Find out more about what her vital job entails
“A radio announcement saved my life” – Gertrude’s story
Gertrude Mugala is a teacher in Fort Portal, a town in Western Uganda. While Gertrude considered herself fairly knowledgeable about cancer, she had never considered taking a screening test or imagined herself ever having the disease. Then one day, she heard an announcement on the radio urging women to go for cervical cancer screenings at a Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) clinic. “The radio presenter was talking about cervical cancer, and in her message she encouraged all women to get screened. I decided to go and try it out,” she said. Gertrude made her way to RHU's Fort Portal Branch clinic for the free cervical cancer screening. There, she met Ms. Irene Kugonza, an RHU service provider. Ms. Kugonza educated Gertrude and a group of other women about cervical cancer and the importance of routine screening. Gertrude received a type of cervical cancer screening called VIA (visual inspection with acetic acid). "I did not know what was happening" But Gertrude's results were not what she expected; she received a positive result. The good news, however, is that precancerous lesions can be treated if detected early. “I was so shaken when I was told I had pre-cancerous lesions. I did not know what was happening and I didn't believe what I was hearing. I had no idea of my health status. I thought I was healthy, but I was actually harbouring a potential killer disease in me. What would have happened if I didn't go for the screening? If I hadn't heard the radio announcement?” Gertrude was then referred for cryotherapy. “Following cryotherapy, I am now in the process of healing, and I am supposed to go back for review after three months,” said Gertrude. Community screenings Today, Gertrude advocates for cervical cancer screening in her community. She talks to women about cancer, especially cervical cancer, at her workplace, at the market, in meetings, and any other opportunity she gets. “I decided to let women know that cervical cancer is real and it is here with us, and that it kills. At the moment, those are the platforms I have, and I will continue educating women about cancer and encourage them to go for routine testing. I am also happy that I was near my radio that day, where I heard that announcement encouraging all women to get tested for cervical cancer. It might be because of that radio announcement that I am here today,” she said.
Integration of DMPA‑SC into the method mix contributes to increased uptake of all methods of family planning
Injectable contraceptives are an increasingly popular method of family planning. They are safe, discrete, highly effective, and generally last for several months. Sayana® Press, also known as subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone (DMPA‑SC), is a lower‑dose formula version of the already popular injectable Depo‑Provera. DMPA‑SC combines the drug and needle in a single‑use unit, which makes it easy to transport and simple to use with little training. DMPA‑SC can be administered by community health workers (CHWs) and women themselves – potentially making injectable contraceptives available to women who can’t easily travel to clinics.
Sayana Press: empowering women with the ability to administer their contraceptive of choice
Every year, hundreds of millions of women in Sub-Sahara Africa travel to their local health clinics to receive regular contraceptive injections. Injectables are popular because they are safe, discrete, highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancy, and last for several months. However, for many women, travelling to a clinic to receive a contraceptive injection is not feasible. The costs of travel are too great; the distance too far; and the time spent away from family or work too great a challenge to overcome. Sayana Press has the potential to address these problems, and in doing so, bring injectable contraception within reach of women millions of poor women who might not otherwise be able to prevent unintended pregnancies. Unlike traditional injectables, Sayana Press can be administered by any (non-medical) person who has received minimal training - including community health workers, pharmacists, and crucially, by women themselves. This is because, unlike traditional traditional injectables, Sayana Press has a user-friendly design that makes it safe and easy to use. It is injected just below the skin (subcutaneously) rather than deep into the muscle, and comes in an ‘all in one’ injection system - rather than in a vial with a separate syringe like traditional injectables. IPPF along with other global service delivery partners, such as Marie Stopes International (MSI), Population Services International (PSI), and PATH are playing an important role in introducing Sayana Press to under-served communities. By using their systems, technical capability, and community-level presence, these partners are galvanising on Sayana Press’s potential role help reduce unmet contraceptive need and reach new users. Specifically, with support from USAID through SIFPO-2, IPPF's Ugandan Member Association, Reproductive Health Uganda, is leading the introduction of Sayana Press, as part of a comprehensive mix of methods, in four rural districts within Uganda. Public health providers and community workers are trained to counsel women in a full range of family planning methods, and their side-effects, so that they can make a full, informed and voluntary choice. As regulatory approval for injectables is being granted in more and more countries, there is an opportunity to apply lessons from early-adopter regions where Sayana Press is already being provided. Recently, with support from USAID, IPPF convened a technical workshop with PSI and MSI to collaboratively prioritise the expansion of quality access to Sayana Press, so that more marginalized women with the greatest unmet need for family planning can also benefit from this option. Attendees came from Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They developed plans and strategies for to increase access to Sayana Press and other methods in their countries. Together, the efforts of these partners will reduce the unmet need of the 225 million under-served women and girls around the world, who want to use contraception but can’t get it. Sayana Press is part of this puzzle which will improve the lives of these women and girls.
Safe Abortion Action Fund in Uganda
Safe abortion is heavily restricted in Uganda, yet gender inequality and sexual violence are widespread. Hosted by IPPF, the Safe Abortion Action Fund is helping vulnerable women to turn their lives around. People are learning about safe abortion and fewer girls are dying. Community attitudes have been transformed and social stigma has started to give way to human rights and understanding. Read the success stories and meet the people behind the scenes
Sex workers in Uganda: fighting violence and inequality
In Uganda, 42% of all pregnancies each year are unintended. The country's weak economy is exacerbated by high levels of gender inequality and poor access to jobs for women. Many women who turn to sex work are at risk of abuse and often rape. Abortion is heavily restricted in Uganda and clandestine safe services are very costly. This results in further poverty for many sex workers and sometimes unplanned pregnancies or even death from unsafe abortion. View the project and meet the women who are turning their lives around
Ugandan communities against unsafe abortions
Rural communities in Uganda have a high prevalence rate of gender inequality, sexual abuse and incest. There is little provision of sexual and reproductive health services and abortion is highly restricted. The Safe Abortion Action Fund, hosted by IPPF, is financing the grassroots organization, VODA, to empower young people as changemakers in their schools and communities. With training and support, peer educators have been educating friends about sexual and reproductive health, and local health providers are serving women in need. Death from unsafe abortion was once a widespread problem but through the power of peer education, these have almost disappeared and community attitudes towards safe abortion has been transformed. View the project and meet the school communities making change