Centering Marginal Voices: Building Research and Advocacy Skills for Young Mothers to Negotiate for their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Principal Investigator: Dr. Doris M. Kakuru Associate Professor, University of Victoria, School of Child and Youth Care
Co-Investigator: Dr. Mandeep Kaur Mucina, Assistant Professor, University of Victoria, School of Child and Youth Care
Co-investigator: Dr. Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo, Full Professor, Makerere University, School of Women and Gender studies
Collaborator: Ms Annah Kamusiime, (PhD Candidate) Nascent Research and Development Organization
Research Assistant: Thais Amorim, PhD Candidate, University of Victoria
Funder: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada - Partnership Development Grant

Project Summary

The challenge: Young motherhood is a worldwide problem, reflected by a total of 21 million pregnancies occurring every year to girls aged 15-19, excluding 10-14-year-olds who also become mothers annually. Uganda has one of the highest rates of young motherhood in sub-Saharan Africa (25%) a rate likely to rise sharply due to Covid-19 response measures. Uganda has an extensive legal framework meant to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people. However, the policy regime is protectionist, morally conservative and rooted in religious and cultural values and ethics. As a result, the government restricts SRHR services and information given to young people. Consequently, young people are unable to make informed decisions regarding their sexuality and SRH. Further, pregnant young people are judged irrespective of circumstances surrounding their pregnancy. That is why we seek to interrogate the socio-political variants which shape young mothers’ SRHR needs, decision making and justice in Uganda.

Overall goal: The overall goal of the partnership is to investigate and reveal the gendered, generational, structural, and cultural forces that frame young motherhood and how young mothers navigate the social definitions to meet their SRH needs. More specifically, we will further analyse policies that shape adolescents’ SRHR, assess young mothers’ everyday experiences of parenthood, how young mothers conceptualize and navigate social norms and describe the process of knowledge co-creation.

Breadth of partnership and meaningful engagement: The proposal will be implemented by a partnership between University of Victoria’s (Uvic) School of Child and Youth Care, Makerere University’s (MUK) School of Women and Gender studies (SWGS), and Nascent Research and Development Organisation (Nascent RDO). The expertise of Dr. Kakuru and Dr Mucina in the field and in leading international projects is pivotal. The SWGS at MUK specialises in feminist research and Prof. Kyomuhendo’s wealth of experience in similar projects will be of great value to the project. Nascent RDO is a youth, and research focused local Non-Governmental Organization. Their community networks and partnership experience will be used. The project will be implemented in two different poor contexts (one urban-Kawempe, and one rural-Iganga), in three distinct phases.

Together, we will use multiple lenses of reproductive justice, postcolonial theory and Sociology of childhood to bring to the fore the socio-political underlying social powers that define young mothers’ sexuality and SRH.  Using relational epistemology, young people will be trained and mentored as youth peer researchers (30 YPRs) and using participatory approaches will be supported under the circles of support to collect quantitative and qualitative data. While the YPRs will be at the centre of the process of knowledge co-creation, they will be continuously supported by a team of emerging and senior researchers. In the inner circles of support are YPRs, then project officers, graduate students from the two participating universities, and the outer circle are the senior researchers from all participating institutions. Thus the partnership engages all participants and is of benefit to them.

Duration: 3 years