Why girls are economically challenged

Girls in rural communities like Katine have very little financial independence. But attitudes are slowly beginning to change…

Annie Kelly 
Monday 17 August 2009 09.00 BST

Guardian.co.uk

For the majority of girls in Katine, money is something that is made, saved and spent by other people.

“Many girls in a remote rural areas like Katine will have no direct relationship with money at all,” says Barbra Babweteera, country director at Plan Uganda, an international NGO running programmes for young women across the country. “The majority of girls and women will never have any money or land of their own, but yet will work all their lives generating money they have no rights over.”

……A recent Unicef report underlined the wider implications of girls’ inability to find the money for things like sanitary towels. The report found that girls and female teachers often refuse to attend school during menstruation because of inadequate toilet facilities or embarrassment. This results in absenteeism for up to a fifth of school time, which “may very well be the first step towards dropping out,” says the report.

……In Uganda 31% of girls get pregnant in their teens, the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Plan International nearly 40% of these pregnancies are unwanted or unplanned.

“If you’re a teenager in a place like Katine, the only power you have is your sexuality, it’s your only bargaining tool,” says Cathy Watson, director of the Straight Talk Foundation, a Ugandan NGO that produces magazines, newsletters and radio shows for young Ugandans about sexual health and HIV prevention.

“It’s a vicious circle because girls are using their bodies as economic commodities, which leads to many of them getting pregnant and being forced into early marriage and has big implications when it comes to sexual health, all of which negatively impact on their ability to fight their way out of their reliance on men for their survival.”

The economic status of girls has more wide-reaching implications for the lives of women in Uganda. Watson explains that while sons are seen as income generators, many daughters are considered little more than an asset, another piece of property, and while this mindset exists it is nearly impossible to create opportunities where women gain some kind of financial power or economic independence.

Campaigners point to the issue of “bride price” as evidence of how girls have become commodities in many communities across the country.

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Comment from Leslie

I have excerpted pieces from this excellent article – because I think that this is a global issue for adolescent girls to one extent or another.  This is a must read for parents – also for health educators and counselors.

PG

Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.