“I have a plan”

“I have a plan”

” I have ever made 100 dollars. You know how? Someone hooked me up with a white man at the Sheraton that wanted my services, he was going to pay me well. I was 19 and I was hot. I thought 20,000 shillings maybe. So I put on my best clothes and there I was at the Sheraton. When I was done giving him the service, he told me to pick from a bundle of money in his coat pocket. I had never seen such money before.  So, I went to that forex bureau at the casino that operates all night. When I exchanged the money, it was about two hundred something thousand shillings. Well, I don’t remember exactly but all I know is it was a lot of money. I was happy. I rented a new place, bought a plastic carpet, bought new covers for my 2-inch mattress and a kerosene stove. But rumor moves quickly around here. One of the popular guys Hamza said that he wanted to talk to me in private. He took me to that other side of Bwaise where there is a boxing club. He took me to a room. I thought he wanted sex. No, he wanted my money. He said that someone told him that I keep money in my knickers. That I cut my knickers, sew an extra cloth on top and hide money inside. Yeah its true but I had told one friend so clearly she didn’t keep the secret. We know each other around here so word goes around.

“Where is the money?” He asked.

“Which money?”

“They told me you made a lot of money.”

“I don’t have any money.”

I wanted to run, his one hand gripped my arm and the other reached for my knickers, he wanted to pull them off. He threw me down. He was on top of me. His one hand tugging at my knickers. He held my mouth, every time he released my mouth, I screamed. I was trying to tell him that I didn’t have the money. I had hidden the remaining money in the new stove that I had bought. He instead grabbed my mouth and my nose, I could feel life leaving me. I surrendered. I knew that was it. He suddenly released me and rushed out of the room. I didn’t tell anyone about what had just happened. I didn’t see Hamza for a long time. Years later, he came back, he asked to see me, he said that he wanted to apologize to me. I accepted to see him. He was splashing money around. I guess when he was away, he was robbing people, he was known here for terrorizing people in those rich neighborhoods. I hated him but I was scared that If I don’t go to see him, he might kill me. You know what? Hamza was killed last year while breaking into a woman’s house in Kazo.  The woman hit him with a metallic object on his head.  I sometimes dream about him and yet that was 2004.

I was 17 I when I came here. I deliberately refused to go to school. My mother wasn’t rich, but she could afford to take me to school. I wish I had an opportunity to tell the girls that deliberately refuse to go to school. I would tell them my story. But I guess the tears of my mother have cursed me. In the 13 years I have been here, I have never had peace. I have a man that I stay with, I stay with him because he protects me from rapists and people like Hamza. When I was pregnant with this baby, he used to beat me every night. Three days before giving birth, he threw me in that sewage stream. Everyone here knows me as  that woman who they beat every night. Our home was also a bar, he brought women, gave them beer from my bar and refused to pay. He went away with them and come back that following morning. When I gave birth, he played very loud music and continued to beat me.

I thank God that he lost his job. He had a job with KCCA to excavate rubbish stuck in sewage channels. When he lost the job, the beatings stopped and he doesn’t play loud music anymore. He sold the music system. Now he takes care of the baby when I have gone to work. Yeah, he knows the kind of work I do. When I come back home in the morning, he asks “Have you brought me something to eat?” Its OK I feed him, I feed the child too. I hope he doesn’t get a job soon because “esente zimuwaga” (money disturbs him).

I have plans, I am 32 but I tell everyone here that I am 30, please don’t tell them. Yeah, I have plans. I picture myself owning a salon, with big mirrors on the wall, two dyers in one corner, those nice white plastic chairs, two ladies helping me. A man washing the customer’s feet and painting the nails, a black and white carpet and those curtains in salons – you know them. So one day maybe one day.”

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.

Ugandan Women Online and The Challenges They Have To Overcome

Ugandan Women Online and The Challenges They Have To Overcome

Picture Source: Internet

Women in Uganda use the Internet for business, political dialogue, to blog their thoughts, share beauty and hair tips, counsel, to inspire, to advocate, , to connect, to chat, to rant, and whatever.

It is ideally supposed to be space for free expression. What happens when this space is invaded?

I thought I should ask my online female friends whether they had faced any challenges online and what they had done to deal with these challenges. Stalking, harassment, verbal abuse and self-censorship came across as some of the challenges women face online. The perpetrators are both men and women.

Evelyn: “Yes I have; there are so many of them but I think the biggest one would be the constant disrespect most women get from our male counterparts online. I have been stalked several times with someone obtaining my contacts from someone else and calling me at odd hours, texting me, stalking my Instagram and Facebook. When I didn’t do much, they start insulting me, filling my mentions with hatred from different fake accounts. I used to censor myself on what I say online due to how women are perceived but after some years I have learned to speak my mind.” I have been insulted several times after I said No to men/ women online or responded to them about some of the mean comments they give to women online. Of course there are situations I have said something stupid and been castigated by my friends about, then I have to apologize for that. The saddest experience online though is seeing how we women go up against each other because we seem to interpret feminism differently. And of-course those who find joy in putting others down”

Maria “Can I call it Stalking? This happened two to three years ago, I was in a conversation with a male acquaintance that I had recently befriended on Facebook, and they randomly referred to an event in life that I had posted in 2006! After more interactions with this person I realized they had scanned all my social media profiles, and even downloaded my photos to their phone. One of my biggest challenges online is total lack of social media etiquette. I find it weird when some people start privately texting, whatsapping or DMing me about posts or tweets I have made. Yet they will never publicly post a comment. It’s a public post, they should comment on the post publicly! When they only ever approach me privately over a simple post, I can’t help but feel like I am being watched and I feel very uncomfortable. I have had to block and restrict a number of people because of this behavior. Because nothing physical is being done, I can’t report such behavior. What to do?” Not everyone is like this. But it certainly makes you paranoid.

Lucinda: I have had stalkers online. People pretend to want to do business with me then I invest in a lot of time only to realize that all this time the person was interested in a date. I have tried to be polite by telling them that I am a married woman and Facebook is strictly for business. If they persist, I block them.

Linda: Uhm as a woman, not exactly, but as a young adult using social media, the biggest challenge is self censorship which is a necessary defense mechanism against being attacked for my opinions, I have dealt with it by having sufficiently informed opinions which I can back however bold, with facts and truths.

Emily: Well, I was attacked for my political views, the troll hurled insults at me, he told me that I was rubbish and that I had no Idea of what I was talking about. I blocked him immediately.

Women cannot afford to acclimatize to abusive online behavior that distresses them, if tolerated, online abuse just like physical violence is detrimental. It can cause women to reduce their online activity yet only 1 in 9 women in Africa use the internet.

So then what must women do? Stand up, speak out, do not feed the troll, and do not indulge the stalker, empower other women.

So how far is too far?

Dr Emma Short a Co-Founder at the National Centre for Cyber-stalking Research and a leading researcher on online harassment says, “you’ve gone too far in your online activities if you know your actions are upsetting another person: “Once you are causing fear and distress through your communication and you know the communication is unwanted, then you are engaged in harassment which is against the law.”

Take Back the Tech defines Technology-based violence against women (tech-based VAW) encompasses acts of gender-based violence that are committed, abetted or aggravated, in part or fully, by the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Your Excellency, about Uganda becoming a Middle-income country by 2020

Your Excellency, about Uganda becoming a Middle-income country by 2020


Photocredit: Outreach Uganda
Photocredit: Outreach Uganda

Your Excellency, since you were sworn as the new president of the republic of Uganda, one thing has been on your mind – transforming Uganda into a middle-income country by 2020.

The year 2020 is four years away, how do you plan to achieve this your Excellency? For countries like Singapore to achieve this status, one of the key things Mr. Lee did was to keep the government small, efficient and honest.

From what I see on ground, the doubting spirit has never attacked me like this before.

You dear president have created 116 districts. That means a lot of money is going to be spent in administrative costs, you have 78 cabinet ministers- more administrative costs, 427 members of parliament -more administrative costs. I am yet to hear this parliament discuss better healthcare, better education, but rather are preoccupied with more salaries and more allowances.

The current state of hospitals – many districts do not have a referral hospital, no ambulance, and no medicine. I would be interested in knowing what magic wand you are going to wave in the next 4 years. Your government decentralized medical services hence the existence of health centres at all levels. That on the onset looks like a good move your Excellency but these health centres have been taken over by donors. Think of one health centre – Mulanda HC in Tororo district, family planning services are offered by Maries stopes, AHF Uganda cares offers HIV care and treatment, World Vision supplies malaria drugs – Baylor too is there. Yet, there are countless big Toyota cars at the Ministry of Health with red numbers.

The current state of schools – Your Excellency, education in this country belongs to the rich. A Primary one child in a private school pays 1.2 million in school fees. That means your teachers, policemen, government doctors, nurses cannot afford to send their kids to these schools. Yes, I am aware that there is Universal Primary Education. Just tell me one of your ministers whose child goes to a UPE school just one.

The transport system – During the campaigns you boasted of your government increasing paved tarmac roads from 3,000 km to 4,000km between 2011 and  2015 but then this is borrowed money we are talking about. I wish this borrowed money was spent on infrastructure that was going to last many years. But no, roads like the one from Mbale to Soroti will soon give way yet it is a new road, whoever was contracted to construct that road, did a bad job. Do you have any plans to introduce transport options like trams that first world countries use? The traffic jam in Kampala is crazy, more Ugandans buy second hand Japan cars to escape the madness that comes with public transport not because they are rich, but because the public transport in Uganda  sucks. Funny thing is your ministers always have police to clear the traffic. If they sat in traffic for an hour they would probably use that hour to plan polices to move for better roads.

Accommodation – Getting a decent house in Kampala with running water, electricity and in a fence where you won’t fear Kifesi attacking in the middle of the night, you will have to part with not less than 500,000 Uganda shillings. Every middle-income country has a plan for its citizens’ accommodation.

Technology – one of the objectives of the National development vision 2040 is to promote science, technology, innovation and ICT to enhance competitiveness but what exactly is the government of Uganda doing to support young innovators? I know young Ugandans that have innovated incredible applications that are life changing but what happens when they hit walls? They give up and settle for an IT job where people at office call them to ask why their Microsoft word document is not opening.

Mr. president, I hope this doesn’t crush your dreams  but deliberate moves can be taken for the country to become middle-income country.

What is the link between Energy and Maternal Health in Uganda?

What is the link between Energy and Maternal Health in Uganda?

Nasieku at Kapedo Health Centre 111 Photo Credit: Justus Lyatuu


Nasieku is expecting her fourth child. She has come for antenatal check up at Kapedo Health Center 111, Kabong district in Karamoja. She gave birth to two of her children from home.

“It is humiliating for me to have a torch pointing at my private parts when giving birth. If there is no electricity at the health centre, I would rather stay at home and give birth with the help of a traditional birth attendant.” She said in her local language.

The expectant mothers that I spoke to in various health Centres in Kotido and Moroto share Nasieku’s sentiments, yet delivering from home puts mothers and their newborns  at risk of infection and even death.

According to the Uganda Health and Demographic Survey 2011, Uganda’s maternal mortality rate is still high at 310 deaths per 100,000 live births  and in Karamoja region alone, at 500 deaths per 100,000 live births.

I met Nasieku during a visit organized by UN Women Uganda office to galvanize support for powering health facilities. UN Women believes that lack of access to modern forms energy or energy poverty has both direct and indirect negative effects on health and medical care facilities. These include inability of health centres to provide life saving emergency obstetric care in cases of pregnancy and delivery complications, attention to neonates and premature babies; clinical services after sunset, adequate lighting conditions for childbirth and surgical operations, refrigeration of vaccines and medicines, sterilization of medical equipment and tools; and power for laboratory diagnostic equipment.

“No client wants to come to a health centre that doesn’t have facilities. When there is power, word goes around that there is power and the numbers of mothers that visit the health centers increases.” Says Dr. Nalibe Sharif District Health Officer Kabong.

Kabong district not being on the national power grid is a challenge, to solve this , the health facilities have resorted to using innovative sources of energy. Under the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), solar panels were installed in all the 29 health facilities in the district.

At Kapedo Health Center 111, the solar system in place is weak; Although it is reserved to light only at night , the light will work for only one and half hours meaning that the midwives have no choice but to use torches to help mothers during delivery.

Doctors with Africa installed solar suitcases in delivery rooms at all health Centre 11 and 111 across Karamoja. This solar suitcase innovation is “an economical, easy-to-use portable power unit that provides health workers with highly efficient medical lighting and power for mobile communication and small medical devices.  The Solar Suitcase was designed to support timely and efficient emergency obstetric care. For clinic installations, the yellow case becomes a cabinet that mounts to the wall, and the panels are secured to the roof. The system includes high-efficiency LED medical task lighting, a universal cell phone charger, a battery charger for AAA or AA batteries, and outlets for 12V DC devices. The basic system comes with 40 or 80 watts of solar panels, and a 12 amp-hour lithium ferrous phosphate battery. The maternity kit comes with a fetal Doppler.”

“This solar suitcase has made our work easy,” says Acech Rebecca Nursing officer at Rupa health Centre 111.

Yet with all these innovations, the energy required in the health Centre is not sufficient to solve other energy needs such as refrigeration and sterilization.

“We need solar systems with a mini grid because these small solar systems at the health centres are not sustainable. For example there are solar systems that were installed by the Ministry of Health ten years ago and they have never come back for any maintenance.” Says Dr. Nalibe.

Although the government of Uganda has taken strides in ensuring that the physical structures are near to the people of Karamoja, more must be done.  There must be renewed determination  to upgrade the  solar systems and invest in alternative sources of clean renewable and sustainable energy such as wind energy but obviously the best option would be for every area in the country to be on the power grid.

A nursing officer at Kapedo health Centre holding a torch that she uses to help mothers deliver their babies . Photo Credit Justus Lyatuu



If Only the Ugandan Opposition Could Stop the Sqabbling Within

At the beginning of  February 2014, Civil Society Organizations  worked together with presidents of various political parties in Uganda; Jemba Party, Democratic Party, Forum for Democracy, Uganda People’s Congress and conservative party, religious organizations and civic leaders for the call to free and fair elections. An event as was described by many as a historical one

General Mugisha Muntu the President of FDC challenged the Ugandans to decide on what kind of Uganda they want to see noting that the integrity and stability of the country is hanging in the balance so Ugandans should not expect any sort of reform to come on a silver platter.

“There is no country in the world that enjoyed freedoms and rights that got them on a silver platter.” General Muntu said.

Norbert Mao president of DP asserted that 2014 is the watershed year that Ugandans will think and determine what the future of their country will be.

All who desire peace, democracy and good governance will have to start now. We owe it to ourselves, our children, our children’s children and this will only be achieved if we unite. Mao said.

Are free and fair elections attainable in Uganda? This question seemed to be the question that lingered in the minds of the people as was revealed by the skepticism that trickled from the participant’s reactions at the launch of The Call for Free and Fair Elections. The call is very optimistic, well researched and written, great diction, clear objectives and implementation plan that suggests electing a new electoral commission, new voters registers, role of security forces and militia, massive diversion of public funds, demarcation of electoral boundaries, freedom to organize and assemble, selection of presiding officers, processing of electoral materials, ensuring integrity of tallying process, adjudicating presidential election dispute.  Although these demands look like a utopian suggestion, I am convinced that this would be possible if only the opposition could stop the internal squabbling.

From the 2011 election, the apathy that is revealed by the 48% of Ugandans that did not vote does not only expose the poor electoral system but also but also the nakedness of the opposition. The power struggles and disunity within the opposition turns off the people of Uganda.  It wouldn’t come as a surprise to know that majority of Ugandan youth have held their hips akimbo and behave as though the politics of the nation is not their thing.

In my opinion, this call for a free and fair election can only be achieved if there is maximum collective work from every that calls for individual responsibility of every Ugandan