Although Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was declared illegal in 2010, the practice remains widespread in Amudat district.
The clandestine practice, once highly prized culturally, has been linked to child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
Locals blame the high illiteracy levels, lack of vocational schools, and absence of technical education in the district as contributing factors to this problem.
“FGM and child marriage are still a significant problem here,” notes Susan Adimo, the Amudat Child and Family Protection Unit officer.
“We receive over five cases of child marriage every month, and girls are forced to undergo mutilation at tender ages.”
In the Pokot tribe, girls as young as ten are considered ready for marriage.
“Young girls here have no future. When a girl is almost reaching 10 years, the parents start yearning for cows; and those with cows come for her hand in marriage, whether she is young or old enough to marry,” says Mary Cheptesei, a local leader.
Authorities say parents take advantage of the lack of technical schools in the area to push their daughters into early marriages, which further leads them into FGM and teenage pregnancies.
Uganda Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that over 50% of the population in Amudat is illiterate. This situation creates a cycle of poverty, where parents force their daughters into marriage due to lack of education and poverty.
In response, ActionAid Uganda is implementing the 9th UNFPA country program in Karamoja sub-regions through dialogue with communities. The project aims to eliminate FGM and provide integrated gender-based violence services in the district.
ActionAid has established the Amudat District GBV One-Stop Centre and implemented various activities, including mobilising and training Male Agent Groups and Female Agent Groups in five sub-counties of Loroo, Kongorok, Abiliyep, Losidok, and Lokales.
“The programmes are geared towards nurturing progressive social norm change specifically in the Campaign to End child marriages and teenage pregnancies in Amudat,” says Emmanuel Oceng, a Legal Officer with ActionAid.
Oceng says the programme will enlist the support of key community influencers such as cultural and religious leaders through community dialogues with boys, men, women and girls.
“We shall engage the different stakeholders on alternatives to child marriage including, education, employment, livelihood and talent development,” he says.