Social justice and the moral question

Foregrounding the paradox of teenage motherhood and education in Uganda

Authored by: Annah Kamusiime , Doris M. Kakuru

The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472468512
eBook ISBN: 9781315557359
Adobe ISBN: 9781317029380


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This chapter seeks to explain the factors that facilitate or impede girls’ access to education in Uganda. In particular, it discusses how schoolgirls who fall pregnant are excluded from school and thus denied their right to education. Motherhood outside of marriage meets with social disapproval and teenage mothers, who face humiliation and moralistic judgments, are seen as a disgrace to their families and society. The structural perspective explains how social norms and practices, values, identities, and cultural beliefs shape and perpetuate relations of domination and oppression and give rise to categories such as superior and inferior, and moral and immoral, as markers of inclusion or exclusion. It provides a useful framework from which to examine the factors contributing to the oppression, marginalisation, and exclusion of teenage mothers from essential services that puts them at high risk of poverty and ill health. Overlapping oppressions result from multiple factors, such as is the case with teen mothers (that is, young girls) in a patriarchal society, who have been judged moral and social failures, denied their basic human rights, and excluded from society’s benefits. The chapter discusses anti-oppressive practice as one way in which social workers have attempted to advocate for social change and achieve social justice for this stigmatised group in Ugandan society.

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