Featured Storyteller

UGANDA: Quarantine Your Uterus

Harriet Kamashanyu
Posted May 21, 2020 from Uganda
Harriet Kamashanyu in front of a microphone

Health advocate Harriet Kamashanyu on why sexual and reproductive health services are essential during pandemic response.

“Let us remember and prioritize women whose uteruses too need to be protected for the good of the nation.

The COVID-19 global pandemic is wreaking havoc on almost every area of society. Global headlines herald the health, economic, agricultural, and social impacts of the novel coronavirus. Yet, often unmentioned and even ignored, is how the virus could decimate the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for women across the globe.

I am the founder of Rhythm of Life Uganda, an organization that provides health and education services to women and girls living in the red light district of Kampala, Uganda. I grew up in this district, and my childhood there exposed me to unbearable challenges including insults, unfair judgments, a dearth of opportunities, and most striking: a lack of access to healthcare. Now, as an activist and advocate, I am committed to helping women and girls speak up and stand up for our rights through all times.

In the era of Coronavirus, I am becoming increasingly fearful of the impact this virus will have on our sexual and reproductive rights. Already, most static clinics that provide sexual and reproductive health services are closed. Mobile clinics and health outreaches that are often conducted in the community have been shut down. Healthcare system capacity is reduced, and the economic slowdown has meant reduced financial resources for many. Of course during such public health emergencies, human and financial resources are diverted from various health programs to respond to the infectious disease outbreak, but delivery of sexual and reproductive health care among women and girls in Uganda has come to a halt.

I call on the government of Uganda, policymakers, providers, and advocates to put at the center of current and future policies the connection between our national outbreak response and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.

We know that access to effective contraception is one of the most cost-effective interventions to reduce maternal mortality through preventing unintended pregnancy. Everyone must be able to access contraceptive information and services during this pandemic to protect both physical and mental health and to reduce avoidable pressures on the health system that will stem from unintended pregnancies.

Uganda’s lockdown began in late March 2020, and even now that it is beginning to ease, SRHR services are limited. There is a real worry about a post-COVID-19 baby boom season due to more time at home and less access to contraception. Thousands of women who are keeping indoors with no protection measures are likely to have several unwanted pregnancies.

As the coming weeks and months unfold and we look ahead to a post-COVID-19 era, we will begin to understand the effectiveness and impacts of our outbreak response. Outbreaks heighten vulnerabilities of various population groups, accentuate gender inequities, and lead to the neglect of the needs and rights of the most marginalized, including women and girls, refugees, migrants, people living with disability, and people living with HIV.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses particular threats to poor and marginalized women who face greater difficulty in accessing the SRHR services, resources, and access to quality health and social services. Women’s societal roles as caregivers, wives, and mothers places them at greater risk of exacerbated impact of the pandemic.

We are witnessing the social and economic pressures that are leading to increased domestic and gender-based violence and sexual exploitation, and the pressure on health services disrupting routine maternity, access to contraceptives, abortion, and other sexual and reproductive health services.

As much as we appreciate the government for the stringent measures put up against the spread of this pandemic, it is critical that responses to this crisis recognize that sexual and reproductive health services are essential. People must have the right to make decisions about their bodily autonomy and integrity.

We cannot postpone any longer essential access to sexual and reproductive health services. This time round, let us defy history, work toward international co-operation, and pull together to develop inclusive, global views on how to learn from, resolve, and come through this latest threat to health for all.

As we are quarantined in our respective homes, let us remember and prioritize women whose uteruses too need to be protected for the good of the nation.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of World Pulse's Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 31

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Chioma Nwaoha
May 21
May 21

Hello Beautiful,
Thank you for sharing.
Please stay safe.

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Jill Langhus
May 22
May 22

Hi Harriet,

Congrats on your feature award! Great job, and thanks for sharing your important work, COVID update and urgent call for SRHR!

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi

Dear Harriet,
Hope you are doing well my dear sister. Congs on your story award and thank you so much for sharing this lovely story. The title alone is very catching and intriguing. It is feared that there is definatley going to be a baby boom after the lock down.
Stay safe and thank you for the great work that you are doing with the women and girls.

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Stay safe too...

Sinyuy Geraldine
May 22
May 22

Dear Harriet. This is an issue that is disturbing to most of us. I fear too for the women who may have to unwillingly get pregnant at this time due shortages of preservatives. How will they get medical and antenatal care in the midst of this crisis?

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Stay Safe....

Vanora.Lee
May 22
May 22

Hope Uganda is recovering a lot and back to normalcy in health services at the soonest. Pray for the needy in your country. Thanks for your sharing.

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Remember to stay safe....

maeann
May 22
May 22

Congratulations Harriet for your story to be featured.

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Stay Safe.....

rosemary_ntoipo
May 23
May 23

Dear Harriet,
Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful piece. You are amazing. am very impressed that you looked at it from that angle. I also hope that the Uganda policy and advocates will consider linking the outbreak responses, sexual reproductive and the rights of girls and women and put the right policies to that effect. Keep up the wonderful work you are doing. Again the other countries of world should adopt this. I love that.

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Hellp, Harriet dear,

Congratulations on the Featured Storyteller award! This is an important call indeed. Well-deserved.
Please keep on writing!

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Tarke Edith
May 24
May 24

Hello sis Harriet
Congratulations for the award dear
Keep up !!!!

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Zohra Elias
May 24
May 24

Hello,

Congratulations for the story award winning.

Thank you for taking part in sharing this great story in this sanitary crises.

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sister... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Harriet Kamashanyu
May 24
May 24

Thanks a lot my dear sisters for all the kind words and encouragement messages... This means a lot to all us as a sisterhood fighting to create change in our respective communities....

Tamarack Verrall
May 24
May 24

Hello Harriet,
The world needs more photos like this, of a strong determined woman speaking out about what needs to change. Especially a woman like you, working for and being a voice for women who are in the most precarious situations, women who are feeling the brunt of this virus the most. You have laid out exactly what needs to happen, and hopefully, collectively we can press all the governments of the world to pay attention and put the resources in capable hands like yours.
In sisterhood,
Tam

MUKABA ZAWADI
May 26
May 26

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story let us work together to develop comprehensive and inclusive views on how to learn, resolve and overcome this latest health threat to all.

ARREY- ECHI
May 26
May 26

This was an interesting and captivating read. The Topic is an interest puller. Well done and thank you for all the hard work you are doing. It takes courage to focus on this aspecct of women's rights in an era when many couldn't.
Congratulations for your Story Award.
Continue to stay safe as you imapct.

Thelma obani 2020
May 26
May 26

Beautiful thoughts.
Very informative and came at the exact time.
Thanks for sharing

Adanna
May 26
May 26

Congratulations and thank you for sharing Harriet.
I love the closing remark "As we are quarantined in our respective homes, let us remember and prioritize women whose uteruses too need to be protected for the good of the nation."

Love,
Adanna

Queen Sheba D Cisse
May 26
May 26

Dear Sister Harriet,
Thank you for a wonderful uplifting story and success in your journey in advocating on the rights of women. Congratulations and keep pushing strong during Covid-19 and beyond!
sincerely,
Queen

JULITON
May 30
May 30

Right, iam also attached of such reasoning. Our ladies are to be looked at, let's not aim at covid and we forget the other matters, thanks ,
Uganda and others let's rise up

Bakhita.Atit
May 31
May 31

Hello Harriet,
Am a new member to the pulse family but already getting energized by great women like you. Thanks for sharing.

Tania Kamaleu
May 31
May 31

This is an amazing story... Thanks so much for sharing

Theresa Takafuma
Jun 01
Jun 01

Wow, thank you for sharing this dear Harriet. It seems as if the social impact of COVID-19 is the same throughout the rest of Africa, if not the world. I recently had a discussion with other women in Civil Society in my town (Masvingo,Zimbabwe) and almost exactly the same issues you raised in your article were raised. Women's uteruses are not safe during this period and there are numbers to back that. Failure to access sexual and reproductive health care leaves a lot of women at the mercy of their male counterparts, and as someone in that discussion said, there is an impending pandemic we might have to deal with post COVID-19.
What makes me a bit relieved however is the suggestions to potential solutions that you alluded to, thank you for that. This was such an enlighetning article.
Congrats on your Feature Award and please stay safe.

Love, Theresa.

Harriet Kamashanyu
Jun 02
Jun 02

Thanks a lot Theresa....