Monday, March 7, 2016

Fighting Child Marriages

Nixon Ochatre is a crusader who looks to help young mothers and teenage mothers, and also works hard to stop the practice of child marriages and associated teenage pregnancy. Here's his story in his own words: 

Nixon (Founder -Amani carrying baby Patience) with
Gloria (Patience's mother) and Pastor at
Busega Community School for the Deaf
I was born on November 11, 1989 in a small village in Yivu , Maracha District to a mother who dropped out of school  due to pregnancy. I am the second born in a family of eight siblings. I am a professional accountant, entrepreneur and community worker who is passionate about ending child marriage and teenage pregnancy.  I started my first community project in high school where I along with a few others raised money for a piggery project for an elderly lady to enable her to look after her orphaned grandchildren. 

I graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce, specializing in accounting. My passion for humanity drove me to start a nonprofit organization that empowers community to come up with community led solutions against teenage pregnancy and child marriage. I have grown to become a passionate young man on issues concerning the youth and children with a special focus on teenage pregnancy and child marriage and social entrepreneurship. I have been recognized by the Tumaini Awards, Future Africa Awards, the Royal Commonwealth Society, and am also a Global Shaper and an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

I have always dreamt of making a positive difference at whichever task I attach myself to.  I was born to a mother who dropped out of school due to pregnancy as well as in a community with one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Uganda which notably also has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the world. This experience shaped my dreams of taking lead in the fight against the vice in my community.

I realized that most of the friends I started school with dropped out due to pregnancy, seeing most of  
Patrick ( Amani Initiative Maracha Program Coordinator)
visiting the parents of Ocituru to inform them about the
school fees program for Ocituru seated in a
yellow top and next to her is her baby boy in a blue sweater. 
them ending some of the dreams we once shared really hurt me and I made the decision to change this. Seeing some of the closest people around me end their life’s and dreams that we once shared because of teenage pregnancy and child marriage inspired me to start Amani Initiative.
Amani Initiative is spearheading the fight against teenage pregnancy and child marriage through community based interventions categorized under four program areas:
·         Education:- “Education is the greatest weapon against poverty, child marriage, teenage pregnancy and most of the most demanding issues affecting the existence of humanity.”  To be in position to achieve the vision and mission of the organization, this thematic area  concentrates on  projects which  promote an equal and quality education opportunities for both boys and girls with priority given to keeping children in school and enabling their completion of the  full education cycle. Amani Initiative is currently implementing the Keep Me In School campaign in 10 primary schools in some of the most vulnerable communities. The Keep Me In School campaign also has a school fees program which supports victims of teenage pregnancy and child marriage back to school.
·         Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health:- This thematic area aims at creating programs and projects that address the issues of sexual & reproductive health amongst adolescents that could lead to teenage pregnancy & early marriage and impact. The activities that are implemented under this program include:-
    •  Empowering young people to be in position to make positive decisions about sex and marriage
    • Promoting menstrual hygiene through sensitization and removal of taboos associated to menstruation in most communities.
    • Reducing impacts of teenage pregnancy such as infant & mortality rate, obstetric fistula.
    • Accessing to comprehensive  Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health information
·         Youths Entrepreneurship Skills Development & Empowerment:- Poverty is one of the key causes to teenage pregnancy & early marriage amongst most communities in Uganda since it denies many children education and is also used as a source of income. Through livelihoods development amongst vulnerable families and youth’s empowerment through social entrepreneurship & leadership skills, this thematic area facilitates a sustainable solution to the problem of teenage pregnancy & early marriage in the community.
Some of the activities that Amani Initiative is implementing under this program include:-
·         Promoting social entrepreneurship & leadership skills amongst partner schools. Currently we are working with 30 secondary schools
·         Youths empowerment through networking and linking them to various income generating opportunities under the Ama Ecora teenage parents project.
·         Supporting income generating activities amongst OVCs in target communities
·         Child Protection & Advocacy:- This thematic area concentrates at forms of sexual abuse directed towards children and also establishing structures that facilitate child protection and justice for child sexual abuse. Forms of sexual abuse include child marriage, defilement, child prostitution, rape, and child pornography.

This thematic area heads all the policy advocacy interventions at the local, national and international level so as to come up with sustainable solutions to teenage pregnancy and early marriage. We have successfully worked with Girls Not Brides to develop the National Strategic plan for ending teenage pregnancy and child marriage in Uganda (2014/15-2019/20) with a vision of a society free from child marriage and teenage pregnancy.

Some of our key challenges have involved  having limited funds to facilitate some of the programs given that the target community highly depends on what we have to offer. Community responsibility to ending teenage pregnancy and child marriage is still lacking. Teenage pregnancy and child marriage is an issue that is bigger than Amani Initiative. The solution to issues related to child marriage can best be solved if the community and families take up the responsibility. This same community is still facing a lot of challenges in owning the responsibility. Some communities are still justifying child marriage and teenage pregnancy to the rampant poverty levels or their cultures which is a challenge to the organization.

We have adopted use of the community structures such as schools, hospitals, churches, leadership and members which has led to low- cost and high impact interventions.  We are also carrying out aggressive community sensitization to inform the communities that teenage pregnancy and child marriage is a serious challenge to the development of their communities. A happy and united community inspires me.

I’d like to tell you a success story, the story of Patience. Patience is only 4 years and blind; she was born to a 18 year old Gloria who was raped when still 14. Being disabled (deaf). The culprit used Gloria’s inability to protect herself to abuse her sexually hence making her pregnant.  The program is currently supporting the schools fees for Patience who is enrolled at Busega Community School for the Deaf. Another story that I count on as powerful and memorable is the story of Ocituru. Ocitiru now in Primary Five at Yivu Primary School dropped out in Primary Five 5 years ago due to pregnancy. Now a mother of a 5 year old boy, Ocituru has been motivated to return to school to provide a good future for her child and herself. Ocituru was enrolled into the Amani Initiative Ama Ecora teenage parents support program which uses entrepreneurship and life skills to empower teenage parents into a second opportunity for a successful life.  Through the program Ocituru was inspired to go back to school after 7 years of dropping out due to pregnancy.

Through the School fees program for teenage mothers and child mothers, Amani Initiative aims at encouraging more teenage parents to go back to school and use the education to improve their lifestyles and that of their children.