The Rwanda-Uganda Border is closed; Lads have to postpone their search for brides

The Rwanda-Uganda Border is closed; Lads have to postpone their search for brides

 

I grew up in Katuna at the Border of Rwanda and Uganda, the people across the border in Gatuna are family and friends – we do things together. We are only separated by a stream. Growing up, our house parties were never short of Primus and Miitzig – huge bottles of beer from our neigbours in Rwanda.

After the 1994 war, a market was born, everyone calls it Akensi yona (The world market), the Akensi yona market brought joy and civilisation to my village faster than any colonialist claimed to ever have. People in my village and across the border could access food, medicine, clothing and footwear-  in fact, walking barefooted became a thing of the past in my village when the market was introduced. The market day that happens every Wednesday and Saturday is a major activity in the lives of the people on both sides of the the border.

Remarkably, this market is a hunting ground for lads to find a potential marriage partner. One market day, the boy will woo the girl, they agree to meet again on the following market day, he will give her ezarukundo (money for love) as a sign of commitment. The following market day, the young man has to buy his new bride- to-be clothes usually it is shoes, womanly dresses and a sweater, hilly Kabale district where the border is is cold, so is across the border. These two will arrange where to meet and they will elope. This is a tradition that has gone on between these two communities for very many years long before the colonialists partitioned Africa. . When the couple has settled in, the lad and his relatives visit the relatives of the girl to formalise the marriage. It is a common sight on Sundays to see people carrying ebitenga (Gift baskets) across the stream, to visit the new bride.

On a special Sunday, the catholic church across the border in Rwanda visits our church in Katuna, this was our favourite Sunday when we were growing up, because they sang and danced intore (Rwandese traditional dance), it was a good break from the Sunday routine, we looked forward to this Sunday all year long, and when we would return the visit.

Now, for weeks the border has been closed, even the migogo (Log bridges) have been since removed from the streams that separate the two communities.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Museveni of Uganda are like a fighting couple. It is a cold shoulder treatment and unkind words are being exchanged

“No one can bring me to my knees,” said President Kagame. “Once we mobilise, you can’t survive,” said President Museveni.

As a result of these two bickering men, businesses are suffering, friendships are suffering, and the lads cannot get brides during the market day.

Did the Spanking in School Make Us better Ugandan Citizens?

Did the Spanking in School Make Us better Ugandan Citizens?

Screenshot from the Survey on Violence Against Children in Uganda 2018

I run a poll on Twitter, my question was, “were you beaten at school?” Only 92% of the 73 people that responded had been beaten at school for all sorts of reason, they shared their experiences;

Evelyn tweeted;

Shanine said;

Omara added;

Did the beating make us better people or did it birth angry people or were we subdued to a culture of silence that makes us crouch down in fear in the presence of those that hold authority.

A study from Michael Mackenzie of Columbia University indicated that spanking at age 5 was associated with greater aggression.

Studies show that the use of corporal punishment is associated with increased mental health problems in children including increased psychological distress, which may lead to anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, and general psychological maladjustment in those to whom it is applied.

A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Gender Labour and social development indicates that,

94% of Ugandan children who were subjected to physical violence by an adult, their first experience was nearly
always committed by a teacher. The study further indicates that 1 in 2 boys who experience physical violence experienced greater mental distress than boys who were not exposed to violence.

Unfortunately, this vice has been normalised. There was a common saying when we were in school, that an African Child’s ears are in the buttocks. What is the origin of this saying? I wonder.

Evelyn Masaba breaks it down for me;

I agree with this assertion in many ways; the school system we are attending, was by colonialists so the relationship between the teachers and the learners was a master- subject relationship. 50 years on, most teachers don’t seem to know any other way to discipline kids.

My mind is connecting dots right now – currently, there are high cases of Violence against women in Uganda- is this violence a byproduct of the violence that Ugandan kids faced while growing up?

Could this be a case of displaced aggression? According to Bushman a Psychologist, displaced aggression can occur when someone cannot aggress towards the source of incitement or provocation, so instead takes it out on something else and behaves aggressively towards another individual that had nothing to do with the initial conflict. Most of the victims are those whom the aggressor considers weak- women, children or pets.

I guess the time to take action is now – The Ministry of Education after this survey has to roll up its sleeves to train teachers in better ways to discipline children- because what is called disciplining right now is partly to blame for creating angry and subdued citizens.

Does it Still Take a Village to Raise a Child in Africa?

Does it Still Take a Village to Raise a Child in Africa?

Children playing in the outskirts  of Kampala. Photo Credit: Katumba Badru.

Who is a child in Africa? I asked.

I got various answers ranging from a child is a young human, some said that a child is one that is owned and accepted by the parents, for some even at 20, African parents still consider you a child as long as you live under their roof. In some cultures, a woman will always be seen as a child- her husband her leader, some mentioned that a man will always be a child and so should be cosseted as such by his wife.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines child as “a human being below the age of 18 years.”

It takes a village to raise a child. This is a proverb that seemed to be the governing philosophy for Africans on how they take care of their children. The man Masaba comes to my mind, as long as  parents knew that Masaba was in the village, they would never worry about us, if Masaba found you loitering in the village, he would beat you with a stick chasing you to go back home, a story had been told of him using a nettle plant that was common on pathways in my village to sting the kids that behaved badly.

But what went wrong, look at all the abuses that children of Africa have to endure; those that were meant to protect are now predators – early marriages, child prostitution In South Africa, Female Genital Mutilation among the Sabiny in Uganda, Pokot in Kenya, in Somalia, Ethiopia and many other African countries still persists. In Egypt, there is something called holiday wives, these under-age Egyptian girls enter temporary marriages with rich tourists from the Persian Gulf during the summer in return for money for their families. ‘These arrangements are often facilitated by the girls’ parents and marriage brokers.’

Map showing the Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in Africa  2013

According to Girls not Brides,

   Approximately 39% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are married off before the age of 18 all African countries are faced with the challenge of child marriage, where they experience high-child marriage prevalence, such as Niger (76%) or lower rates like Algeria (3%). Child marriage is widespread in West and Central Africa (42%) as well as Eastern and Southern Africa (36%).

Recently, I watched a tear-jerking CNN Freedom project documentary on child labour Cobalt mines in Congo, numbers of child soldiers in South Sudan is still rising, there are hundreds and hundreds of children on Kampala streets, on the 12th April to mark the Street Child day, about 700 homeless street kids turned up for a march.

These children will grow up to be men and women that raise other generations.

Heinous unbelievable abuses against the children of Africa.

How is Africa supposed to move forward when a majority of the children don’t know what being treated with dignity is? Let us not forget that these are children that later become adults. Are we surprised about the lawlessness of those that we entrust with power? What are our priorities if we cannot invest in the continents greatest resource- the children of Africa? Why offer the innocence of children at the altar of incessant sexual and gluttonous desires?  Maybe it is time to stop lamenting and we take real action against individuals, states and governments that are not taking any action to protect the children of Africa.

There is a charter in place for this; The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child   recognises that the child occupies a unique and privileged position in the African society and for the full and harmonious development of their personality, the child should grow in an environment in an atmosphere of happiness love and understanding.

You can report to the African Human Rights Commission that sits in Addis Ababa.

Article 43 of the charter provides a reporting procedure or you can submit a communication to the committee as covered in article 44; The committee may receive communication from any person, group or non-governmental organisation,a recognised organisation of the African Union, by a member state, or the United Nations relating to any matter covered by the charter and Every communication to the committee shall contain the name and address of the author and shall be treated with confidence.

Once the committee has received this communication, they’ll proceed to do private investigations. If they find that the case is admissible, then they’ll take the matter to the African court and the government will be put to task to do something about the problem.

What makes a case admissible? You must ensure that your country has ratified the Charter, that all other local remedies have failed, there should be sufficient evidence that includes collect affidavits, documentary evidence, Audio Visual evidence media reports, research reports etc

Let us not forget, it takes a village to raise a child.

Scars of Womanhood in Sebei

Scars of Womanhood in Sebei

The road wanders through the lush green slopes of Mount Elgon.  The temperatures suddenly drop as the altitude gets higher and little evening drizzles fall lightly on the gorgeous peaks. Never had I seen that many waterfalls in the same place in my life.  If Hollywood ever wanted a paradise without setting it up, Sebei Region, Eastern Uganda the home of the Sabiny people is the place.

Picturesque as it is, this in the past was no home for an uncircumcised Sabiny girl. She would be ridiculed in the village. Her husband if she was lucky to get one, was mocked when he sat in the company of fellow men. It was believed that the uncircumcised woman could not get near a cow lest she causes it bad luck and it dies, that means she would not have milk and dung to paint her walls. She was a curse to the community.

Succumbing to the pressure at the well, in the field and at home, she would want to get circumcised so that she can fit in. She didn’t do it for her self, she did it for her community.

When the circumcision season approached and she had hit puberty, on the night before the circumcision, as the komek brewed, the girl and her age mates danced all night, watching for the night fade into morning, anxiously waiting to be women, to do this once and for all.

I saw other girls doing it. I had to do it too and avoid shame. You’ve been defeated if you run away, you were not a real woman if you screamed when the mutinde cut you with her knife.” Recalls 72-year-old Koko Yego of Kabei Village in Bukwo District.

The mentor counseled the girls, she told them that real women don’t cry after they’ve been cut. The mentor said that she protected them against the spirits that roamed during the circumcision season.

“Before the cutting day, I would protect the girls. Traditionally we believed that during the circumcision period, the spirt world was awake, that is when witches performed their witchery and it worked. I had to do my job, lest the girls die when they are cut, or are cursed with bareness. I would protect them that no stranger comes near them. I talked to the girls all night to endure the pain.” says 65-year-old Jennifer Cherop a former mentor that abandoned the trade when FGM was outlawed.

As morning dawned the girl and her peers were ready to meet the circumciser. The arena was set, the girls prepared, drums sounded as villagers gathered. It was time for celebration because girls were turning into women. It was her turn, she spread her legs, she could feel the the surgeon’s hands hold her clitoris and labia, she secretly clenched her teeth as the surgeon’s knife cut them off, blood gushed out, she saw her unwanted body parts thrown to the ground. The surgeons bloody knife would then go to cut the next girl and the next girl and the next girl as the villagers ululated at the spectacle, children and villagers giggling at the girl that flinched.

“It was my job to cut the girls, I started cutting girls when I was in my mid 20’s. I cannot tell how many girls I cut because they were very many. I did this until 5 years ago when people came to educate us about the dangers of female circumcision. After cutting the girls, most of them regretted immediately, others came years later asking me why I had done it. Some girls failed to heal until medical workers came to intervene. Thank God none died because I had cut them. But other circumcisers were not that lucky, I know many girls that died after they had been cut.  I knew that I was doing the right thing because I was fulfilling the demands of my culture.” Says 61-year-old Friska Yapkworei of Tukumo Binyiny sub-county Kween district.

The mentor would clean up the bloody arena, throwing the unwanted parts into a pit latrine. That latrine had to belong to the family of one of the circumcised girls to ensure that the parts are not used by witches. By the time the mid day sunshine cleared the misty mountains, the villagers would be drunk on the Komek brew, celebrating that their girls had become women.

She was now a woman in their eyes, she was now marriage material, she now afforded privileges of being a woman. For months she nursed the wounds in the care of her mentor that gave her herbs. Her husband would be confident when he went on expeditions in faraway lands that she would remain chaste, he would sit in the company of men and be respected. Yet, this woman would never know the pleasure of sex, she had been condemned to painful child births, she would go to her grave never knowing what it was to truly be a woman.

“The surgeon left, but the pain remained with me.” says 38-year old Elimo Scovia of Kabei Village in Bukwo district.

The European missionaries arrived on the slopes of Mount Elgon in the early 1900s to spread Christianity to the Sabiny people. The converts were ridiculed and the uncircumcised girl soon succumbed to the pressure from her community,

The Female Genital Mutilation Practice persisted.

The Rebel girls

In 1960, rebel girls arose – they refused to be cut. Among them was Jane Francis Kuka. She narrates her story.

“I told my mother that I didn’t want to be cut. My mother told me that my only hope was education. That if I could read hard and continue with school, I would survive. One day, I visited my grandmother but she and grandfather slept in separate rooms. I wondered why they were sleeping alone each. My grandmother told me that she could not endure the pain every time they made love. My grandmother told me, “My daughter if you keep scratching a scar you will feel terrible pain.” I worked very hard at school. I became a Grade 2 teacher, I upgraded until I became a tutor in a tertiary institution. I got married. I managed to convince my husband but the first real line of attack was my mother-in-law.  She was livid that her son had married an uncircumcised girl. I did all I could to befriend my mother-in-law- we later became friends and I was safe.”

Kuka had started a revolution that she could never imagine. More girls were refusing to be cut and in 1990, the District Resistance Council led by Peter Kamuron a Saul turned Paul, passed a decree that it was mandatory for all women and girls above 13 years to be cut. In 1992, Kuka along with all the rebel girls was being hunted by the elders who wanted to forcefully cut them. She hastily took off to Kampala where she met with Joyce Mpanga, the then Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development. Mrs. Mpanga took the case directly to the president, who gave her a helicopter back to Kapchorwa where she met the Resistance Council leaders. The minister ordered that the decree is nullified. This was a victory for Ms. Kuka but it made her grossly unpopular among the elders and the populace. She stood for office three times and lost the race every time. She started fighting from the sidelines with the women’s movement, the church, civil society, and development partners until 2010 when the Female Genital Mutilation Act was enacted.

The FGM practice has since gone underground – some women are cut at childbirth, where their husbands and community assume they are nursing birth wounds. Some girls are sneaked into neighboring Pokot to be cut. The cutters have no safe haven because Kenya too doesn’t tolerate FGM.

Now that the practice is underground is one of the reasons UNFPA Uganda, religious institutions, the Ministry of Gender conducts an annual marathon in Sebei region. What the heck does a marathon have to do with female genital mutilation? Some people have asked. Here is why: The Sabiny are amazing athletes, in fact, many young Sabiny girls and boys aspire to be runners. They love the sport and they are good at it. World gold medalists Moses Kipsiro, Jacob Kiplimo, Stephen Kiprotich, silver medalist Joshua Cheptegei are all from Sebei region. Youngsters watching their role models running to end FGM creates a huge impact.

“The impact of the event is striking, it helps raise curiosity among the community why all these famous runners, and people of different races are running in their communities. For instance, 2016, was a cutting year, but we never heard of any case being reported. The practice has gone clandestine,” says the Chief Administrative Officer of Bukwo district.

Despite the fact that no case of FGM has been reported in all the three districts of Sebei Region; Bukwo, Kween, and Kapchorwa in the past year, the sensitization has to go on. To change attitudes completely so that the girls can know that their bodies belong to them and not to the community and to make Female Genital Mutilation a thing of the past.

 

 

 

 

Coming out on the other side

Coming out on the other side

Photo Credit: BigStock

My friend texted me after she had read the “Happily Never After” story that I featured on this blog last week. She asked whether I was only writing about Ugandans that had overcome abusive relationships and I told her that if I got an opportunity to interview those outside Uganda, I would definitely take it on. She told me that she had written her story it was on her computer but she hand not shared it on any of her  platforms. Being the brilliant person she is, I knew that she would tell the story more than I ever could. Here is her story of overcoming from an abusive relationship.

Sometimes when you want something so badly, when you get it, you want to hold on to it forever. That was the case with me and what I thought then was my soul mate. In my second year at the university, 21-year-old me, in the process of exiting a relationship with one of those boys your mother says never to date, I met him. He was funny, broody at times, confident, and as far as looks go by, not bad. In my mind, he was a major upgrade from my soon to be ex. He was a friend’s friend; a team player and we soon became inseparable.

He told me he had slapped a girl once before when he was at varsity. He said that he really hadn’t meant to but she had pushed him and he apologized. I believed people could change and of course, I would never let that happen to me. I fell in love. I had found the one person I could be completely honest with.

Funny thing is that I didn’t see this as a warning coming from the horse’s mouth, I never heeded the warning, eyes wide open I found myself in a relationship with an abuser. It started with the comments meant to break down my confidence “what good will come out of that degree you are studying” I took it as a joke. “Look at her, that one can be very stupid sometimes” but I thought he was just teasing.

This extended to the flat out denial, when it suited him, that were not together. All these things said in front of close friends, and It didn’t occur to me that he was trying to publicly shame me. I did not think it was said in a way to hurt me-he loved me, surely we were just joking. Things escalated from emotional tormenting to physical abuse.

The first time I remember quite vividly. A few hours before my best friend’s birthday celebrations, I found myself pinned on my bed, rationalizing with a man who had just spat on me not to land the fist hovering over my eye he still needed to go to work and I had to make it to my friend’s birthday. This was over a cell phone I had dropped by mistake. That was the culmination of the violence and I realized the person I was with. The apology came with lines of I did not deserve to be treated like that, and I thought it would never happen again.

People ask you why you never left the first time? Why did you allow yourself to stay? It’s not like you were married or he owned the house you were staying in. For two and a half years. I had wanted it to work so badly because he got me – I was literally dangerously in love. Sometimes we have to let our guard down and be vulnerable with people, but we choose the wrong people. Every time I took him back, it meant I lost a little bit of myself.

Over two years, I negotiated situations and avoided triggers, I learnt to read this man to avoid the punches. I felt like it was my fault that on a night out he couldn’t find me so he choked me for leaving him at the club. This was on my birthday. He had missed my birthday dinner, then showed up drunk to the dancing afterwards. He found me waiting for him as he had called to say he was on his way. I remember the necklace I was wearing being ripped off my neck. When people pulled him away from me, I ran to the nearest cab and went home.

I fought back. I had taken him back after a long separation which included a move to a different country. In his reconciliation visit, a blow meant for me landed on my friend. I felt more rage that he had attacked her and went after him. Suffice to say, I came out worse. I fell and got kicked in the face. It took a couple of guys who I am forever grateful to intervene and pull him off me.

When my friend begged me to go to the police station, I did not report him but instead the police took me home. I was always making excuses to make sure he did not have to be held accountable.

My friend once said after I took him back, “We are going to bury you after he does something to you.” Now that was the literal rock bottom. I was 23 and I was devastated that the man I loved would not change. I thought that I could save him from his own issues. It took a long time for me to comprehend the fact I did not do anything to provoke him.

With time, prayer, friends, determination to become the first graduate in my family and saw me through. I am a believer in God and at my lowest he saved me.

Some will ask why did he not intervene in the middle of it all? How do you save someone who refuses to take your hand? We all need one friend that holds us accountable.

I had the opportunity to figure things out myself, something I never thought I would be able to do. I have not lived in the same country as my abuser in the last years so I could forget him. The thing with coming out alive is sometimes the elements come together and work in your favour where you never have to be in the same space or breathe the same air with a man who made you question your worth.

In the end, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that there is no type cast for who gets abused. A man or woman uncomfortable in their own skin will seek some form of power over another. For the man who abused me, he chose to vent his demons on me. I am able to share my story not seeking self-pity but to help who ever needs to hear it. Thankfully my pain made me strong and gave me the determination to rise against the odds.

 

I was brought from the village to work as a housemaid #SexWorkerDiaries

I was brought from the village to work as a housemaid #SexWorkerDiaries

This is the story of Kemirembe a 24-year-old sex worker in Bwaise Kimombasa.

“When I was 16, a woman picked me from my village in Bushenyi to work as a housemaid. I saw this as an opportunity because I wasn’t going to school. My parents were poor. All I had were the clothes on my back and two others in a black polythene bag. When we reached Kampala, she took me to the home in Kasubi.

I never saw that woman again.

At my newly found place of work, my boss had three kids. I woke up at 5 every morning to prepare the kids for school, prepared breakfast, cleaned the house, took care of the baby, washed dishes, prepared dinner, bathed the kids and put them to bed. I would sleep at eleven or midnight. This was my daily routine.

Whenever she came back from work, my boss would many times yell and hurl insults at me and ask me what I did all day, because to her, the house didn’t look that clean and the food I cooked didn’t taste good. Once, when I tried to talk back, she slapped me in the face and for the three months that I was there, she never paid me a shilling. One Sunday evening, I came back late from church, she threw me out of her house. I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t even have transport to take me back home, I didn’t even know which buses to take.

I was on the streets.

After a long search for a job, I got one in a restaurant. They paid me 2000 shillings daily and gave us a place to sleep. Thank God. I was there for about two years. The owner got broke and closed the restaurant.

I was back to the streets.

I roamed the streets at night. I pitched camp at restaurants to help wash dishes so that I could have all the left overs to myself. I slept on shop verandas or wherever I found.

I wasn’t the only one roaming the streets, we started to notice each other, I made friends with one of the girls. We shared our stories. We protected each other, another girl joined our group.  That girl told us that she had heard of a place where girls make money in Bwaise. So we walked from Nakulabye to Bwaise.

That evening, we found many girls all dressed up, with makeup and wigs and one by one, men would show up, take them.  We joined the group. That night, I was picked by two men each paid me 2500 shillings for the service I had given.

At first, it was better than being on the street. But then after six months, I got pregnant, I don’t know how that happened. I was careful to use protection. But some men tear the condoms. I don’t even know who the father of my child is.

Right now, I stay at a friend’s place  with my boy. I pay her 1000 shillings per night. My boy is now four years. I have failed to take him to school- it is expensive. I make sure that I am on the streets by 7:00pm because I want to make enough for my child’s food.

Some days, you’ll meet a man, who on the onset looks like a sensible human but when you get to the lodge, he starts to beat you for no reason. Some will do things to you that I cannot even tell you.  Look at the scratches on my face, these are from a fight with a man last night. These days, I am like a grenade I loose my temper easily.  Some nights when I don’t make any catches, I move about aimlessly. I take a little alcohol to help me forget my problems. I feel overwhelmed when I have not taken a little drink. It calms me down.

You are asking me if my parents are alive? I don’t know. Let’s say I have no family, no one for eight years has looked for me. So now that I have told you my story, what is it going to help me?”

Good Lord, I didn’t see that coming. That was a punch in my face.

What am I doing telling these women’s stories? I feel like walking away. But I am comforted by the fact that from last week’s story, two organizations expressed interest in helping these women. You guys that promised had better be serious. The real gutters are down there.

 “Please don’t judge me for selling my body at 5000 UGX.”

 “Please don’t judge me for selling my body at 5000 UGX.”

Out of curiosity, last Saturday, I called a friend, a community mobliser, who had worked  in Bwaise Kimombasa for years rehabilitating sex workers and connecting them to health care services and education programmes for their children. He had shared their stories with me but I wanted to hear and see for myself. I wanted to treat my curiosity, I wanted to know what would force anyone to go into this “World’s Oldest Profession”. With an open notebook, a curious mind and loads of questions, I was in Kimombasa  Bwaise.

Sheila was the first person we met. This is the story of Sheila a 29-year-old sex worker.

“My father worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Our home was at Old Kampala Block 20A5BS New park. My mum was a business woman that would go to Dubai for months to do business. I don’t know what business she was doing. While she was away, my father had a different woman every month, some of the women that he brought home, beat me up and one of them burnt me. Look at these scars on my chest, this was a damage by one of my stepmothers because I scored a first grade at P7.

I decided to run away from home. This is where my running started, and since then, I have been on the run. I am 29 but any escape route from this misery I will run. I am a runner.

When the burns healed, I ran to Kasese, a nun picked me up l told her that I was an orphan- at least that is what I felt. I stayed with her for one year. One day, someone told the nun that they had seen a picture of me on TV. My parents were looking for me. The nun gave me transport and I boarded a bus back home, when I got back home, my father asked

“Ogumwana naruga nkahi?” Where has this child been?” My father asked.

He beat me badly, my latest mum pleaded with him to stop. She was the only mum I liked.

I asked my father that I would go to the village so that I can study there, I had been a city child, in primary, I studied at  Kyaggwe Road Primary School. Life was different in the village, I walked a mile  to school. My grandmother would park my food in a banana fibre, many times, I ate the food before getting to school. The walking was too much for me.

I decided to run away again.

I got into a bus to Kashenshero to become a housemaid, in that household, my English accent was better than for my boss’ kids they asked me to start coaching the kids.  She took me back to school up to Senior Four. I had good grades but I couldn’t tell them that I was a Kampala child, they would chase me away. My boss liked me, she wanted to help me be a better person, she requested that I at least show her one of my relatives. I knew that this wasn’t going to end well for me. I would end up at my father’s house. I didn’t want to go there. I never wanted to get there ever again.

I ran away again, to Ishasha at the Congo border through Kihihi, I made sure I have enough money to get me to my destination, it is the bus conductor that bought me a snack on that trip.

In Ishasha, I got a restaurant Job, then moved from one home to another as a house maid.

I was tired of running.  I went back home but then the neighbors told me that my family had shifted to Kabalagala Kironde road where they had built a house. I  looked for them. I found them but my father was dead.

“You girl, where have you been?” My mother asked “Don’t ask her many questions she will disappear again.” she said. “Kwonka mwanawe nozenga”

She called my seven uncles her brothers and my father’s brothers. At night, they mobbed me and flogged me like those petty thieves in the market. To them, I was a disgrace.

“Why did I come back home?” I wondered.

I should have followed my gut feelings.  I didn’t have a relationship with my mum, she was never there. The only woman that gave me some love was one of my many ‘mums’. Unfortunately, she is dead.

From my housemaid experience, I had learnt how to work.  I busied myself with house chores as I nursed my injuries and hatched a plan for my next move.

I wish my mum had sat me down and asked me why I was doing what I was doing. She said that if I ever tell anyone about the beating, I should die without ever coming back home.

When the bruises were healed, I ran again. This time to Arusha, with a man, who took me with him for a tour. I had a good time, he cared for me. Unfortunately, he was married, he escorted me back to Kampala, gave me some money and returned to his family.

I couldn’t go back home. From the money he gave me, I went to a lodge. I met a friend who told me that I don’t have to suffer alone. So she took me to her workplace at night. I started selling my body.

People ask me why I am selling my body. But they don’t know what I have been through. I don’t enjoy sleeping with men. I sometimes make up my mind not to go back but then I submit to hunger. In 2014, I vowed to stop, someone connected me to a rich man in town to work as a maid. I was sure I would save and start a business but one of their sons raped me, I conceived, when I gave birth, I was chased away, I couldn’t take care of the baby, I took the baby to a babies’ home. I went back for the baby but they have refused to give me the baby. I don’t even have papers to get him because I left them at that place I used to work.

Look, I have three thousand shillings, I made 5000 shillings yesterday, I ate 2000 shillings so that I don’t have to sleep with men today. Please don’t judge me for selling myself at 5000 Uganda shillings.

Last week, my best friend was killed in a lodge in Kisenyi. When I learnt of her death, I drunk so much that I wanted the cars to run over me but they all kept dodging me. I feel lost. This friend would call me to remind me to take medicine. I am HIV+, now she is dead.  I think as you listen to me you realize that there are some people that are not meant to be alive. I think I am one of them. I am lonely, I feel alone, I keep to myself these days.

I wish my parents had understood me. I have no family; I am my family. I last went home last year to bury my mother. I don’t want my kid to suffer, I don’t want him to end up like me. When I am with women around here, I cry- Yeah I cry all the time these days.

You know that song, I know who I am? I don’t know who sang it. I know who I am. No one around this forsaken place believes my story but I know who I am.

You know, I like Juanita Bynum, Oprah and Joyce Meyer. I like their stories.”

For the next couple of weeks, one story each week, I will be documenting the lives of sex workers around the slums of Kampala.  Why am I doing this? I don’t know. But how about listening to the other side of the story. Thanks for passing by my blog. I hope to see you next week.