In September 2020, cultural leaders from the Lango Kingdom in northern Uganda for the first time signed a joint/group resolution to promote family planning. The resolution, which impacts all eight districts in the Lango region, will focus on educating communities about family planning and integrating family planning into the kingdom’s budget and development plan. Lango Kingdom’s cultural leaders are custodians of local traditions and important influencers of community values and health seeking behaviors.
Unmet need for family planning in the Lango region is 27.4% among married women and girls . Cultural preferences for large families and substantial dowries for young brides have traditionally hampered family planning use. This has contributed to a teen pregnancy rate of 35.2% in the region .
Advance Family Planning local partner Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) has supported family planning advocacy in the Lira district of Lango since 2017. In 2019, during a meeting with the Lira district advocacy working group, a local district speaker identified the challenge of cultural leaders speaking negatively about family planning within the community. In August 2020, the National Population Council (NPC), a national governing body, held a meeting in Lira with representatives of the Lango Cultural Foundation, the kingdom’s governing body, on how to engage with cultural leaders to promote family planning. They identified the council of clan chiefs, overseen by the paramount chief, as key to their advocacy efforts.
The district working group brought together clan leaders in September 2020 to build consensus on the need to prioritize and promote family planning. Speakers from RHU; UNFPA; the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development; NPC; and the Lira district health officer shared compelling narratives and statistics highlighting the importance of family planning to support economic development and harness the demographic divided.
During his presentation the Lira district health officer, Edmond Acheka, highlighted the high percentage of child marriages and teen pregnancies in the region. He told cultural leaders that if nothing was done to reverse these indicators, the already impoverished communities in the kingdom would see their situations worsen. “It’s my humble appeal that all of us here should stand up and guard the future of the girl child. It’s only then we shall be able to achieve the demographic dividend for Lango sub-region,” he said.
“Your highness, distinguished leaders, together we have to ensure that family planning is part of every nation’s development and poverty reduction plan, integrated in our primary health care system and budgets. The opportunity is now,” said Dr. Betty Kyaddondo, NPC’s director of family health.
Following the meeting, the paramount chief, his three prime ministers, cabinet ministers, and clan leaders jointly signed a resolution to support family planning within the kingdom.
In addition to highlighting the importance of harnessing the demographic dividend, the resolution lays out plans to integrate family planning messages into community gatherings and to debunk misconceptions. It also commits to incorporate family planning in the Lango Cultural Foundation’s budget and development plans and establish a family planning advocacy working group in the region.
RHU and NPC will continue to work with the Lango Cultural Foundation to ensure implementation and funding of the resolution, support establishment of the advocacy working group, and provide up-to-date information on family planning and reproductive health for messaging.
- Uganda Bureau of Statistics (2016). Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016. Retrieved from https://dhsprogram.com/publications/publication-FR333-DHS-Final-Reports.cfm
- Uganda Ministry of Health. Uganda District Health Information System (DHIS) 2. Accessed October 2020.