Adolescent Girl’s Triumph Story

                                                              Resilient Rise from Adversity of Teenage Pregnancy!

“If every underage girl exposes what grown men say and do to them, you would immediately lose respect for most men, including many of those camouflaged-uncles, seemingly-harmless-clerics, and educated-men wearing expensive suits” – Amina

Simon Mugudde – MAKEXAFRICA: By the time of this interview, Amina was met at her grandfather’s house that afternoon to advise him on how to solve a land wrangle with his neighbours, since she had acquired a certificate in legal practice. “My father’s plan for me was that I would go to Saudi Arabia after my PLE. This is something I hated with all my heart. But my father had met a man from Saudi Arabia with whom he negotiated to connect me to “better opportunities” in Saudi Arabia. To prepare me for this journey, I had to learn Arabic. I already knew a bit of Arabic from the language program at our local mosque. To perfect my skills in speaking Arabic, my father hired a teacher of Arabic. Umar used to come to my father’s house to teach me Arabic. I spend every Friday and Saturday evening of primary seven with Umar, sometimes in my father’s living room, or under acacia trees on his compound. I was less interested in skilling in Arabic. My interest was to pursue further education, probably up to university level. I remember two girls on our village who used to wear t-shirts written on ‘Makerere University’ in large letters. I fantasized about studying in Makerere University. My father had such trust in Umar to the point that he was the only man he would allow have access to me. As I neared sitting for my PLE, I could hold a modest conversation in Arabic. Umar had done a good job. That was not all. Umar made me so comfortable around him to a point where I could feel annoyed if he never showed up to teach me Arabic. After my PLE exams, my father started processing ‘papers’ for me to travel, with the help of the man in Saudi Arabia. Before my PLE results were out, I got results from my comprehensive health check. My father beat me up so bad, into a stupa! On the living room floor that night I could hear my mother begging with my father, ‘stop it please – you are going to kill her’. My body went into a painful-trounce, I stopped feeling my father’s lashes. I blacked-out. The morning after, my father instructed my mother to let me know that he was going out into the fields to work, but he did not want to find me at home when he returned. With the help of my mother, I made it safely to a distant relative of mine in Namisambya in Kamuli district. Carrying the remaining seven months of my pregnancy was hell-on-earth, as a naïve thirteen-year-old. My living conditions were pathetic. My caretaker relative lived off of a tiny piece of land in a little grass-thatched-mud-and-wattle house, growing crops for food and rearing a few chickens. The pregnancy test-scan had indicated that I was carrying twin-boys. The weight of my pregnancy overwhelmed by tiny thirteen-fourteen-year-old body. With poor feeding, and almost no access to antenatal care, I got weak, weaker, and sick! I gave birth to two-underweight-boys who looked exactly like Umar. All this long I had not heard from anyone in my family, except one day when I received a verbal message from my mother through someone who visited Namisambya. At the village maternity where I gave birth were three white girls who had come to the local health facility for medical practice. One of the girls got so interested in me and my babies, and ensuring that my wound from the C-section was healing as expected. Everything from learning Arabic, to sitting for my PLE, to getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy, to giving birth by C-section, happened so overwhelmingly quickly. And just like that, my life had taken a U-turn. Sometimes I broke down and cried really hard. I regretted everything. I blamed Umar for making me pregnant. I blamed Umar for not looking for me when I left home (I also did not want to see Umar, ever again). I blamed my father for throwing me out of his house. I blamed my father for bringing Umar to our house. I blamed my mother for something I did not know how to articulate. Entangled in blaming everyone and everything, the realities of my situation started twinkling in, and hitting me hard. My distant relative could not afford to take care of me. Her own pregnancy had grown. Her food stock was depleting. My babies needed milk more that my breasts could produce. I could not afford diapers or warm-clothing for my babies. Mosquitoes were relentless on us. I was pushed to the lowest limit. I regreted everything. At the local health facility where I had gone for malaria treatment for myself and one of my twins, was a girl who had given birth two months earlier than me. It was her second child. She looked younger than me. We started talking. I could visit her home. She could visit me.  My conversations with her felt like calm downpours on a withering plant. Over the months I had accumulated steam trapped within me. Her name was Bilabwa. The white girl who was interested in my health and that of my babies ended up staying – living longer in Uganda. She accepted me in her house. Natalie connected me to support for my babies but on condition that I was willing to go back to school. She helped me trace my PLE results. I had scored aggregate 13 – a super-B. While my score was not a first-grade score, it was the best my school got in my year. Natalie was proud me for being the best student in my class. I was happy. I enrolled in a secondary school in Acholi in Northern Uganda where Natalie worked at a health facility. Many things happened during my education. My babies grew up. Natalie got married to a man from Acholi. I enrolled for a course in legal practice. I am now 27 years old, skilled, employed, focused, healthy, and optimistic about the future, as a professional and a mother of twin boys. With resilience, I rose out of my predicament but not every girl who experiences underage pregnancy rises out of it. Some are emotionally hurt beyond repair. Some are left with incurable infections. Some suffer Post-Partum-Haemorrhage. Some suffer life-threatening abortions. Some are disowned. And some pay with their lives. My message to anyone trying to protect girls from getting pregnant is that, instead of giving endless lectures to girls, parents put in your homes serious restrictions preventing your girls from having access to men, or any environment that would compromise them. You cannot control an adolescent girl’s hormones with lectures and scripture verses, but tough barriers on who they have access to at home, in school, at church, at the mosques, anywhere. The reason I got pregnant at 13 was not because my parents did not talk to me about not getting pregnant. It was not because I didn’t know what the Quran says. It was not because I did not know the value of education. It was because I had access to a man in my father’s house, and I could only control my teenage hormones sometimes, not all the time. Parents who can afford, please provide your girls with access to entertaining physical activities, especially sports. The more I sat idle in my father’s house, the more I thought about Umar. I had unreleased hormonal energy trapped inside of me. The unreleased hormonal energy in me overpowered my fear of consequences. Let the law enforcers arrest and imprison the men who impregnate underage girls. Why should a man be known on his village for impregnating underage girls but he still roams freely on that village, even runs for elective politics? There are many, many men who wake up in Uganda every morning and the most important thing on their mind is to find an underage girl to sleep with. They prefer the underage girls because they are ‘affordable’, and do not ‘disturb’ them. In a way, due to the women empowerment programs, the older girls/women are more independent minded, assertive, as well as ‘expensive’, making it hard for most men to hoodwink them into quick sex. That is why they prefer underage girls who are still naïve. But what message are we sending to our girls, that it is okay for men to prey on them? If men impregnating girls cannot be arrested why should girls see it as wrong to go out with them? What is so annoying is that the very men supposed to be arresting men preying on underage girls, are also preying on underage girls! It is such ‘grown’ men who go around asking, “what is wrong with children of these days”? Well, how about we start asking, “what is wrong with elders of these days”? do you remember, a few years ago, when a government minister said that if girls who dress skimpily are sexually abused, they have no one else to blame but themselves? Let me tell you something; over the years I have realized that it is not so much about provocative dressing that will compel men to lure a girl into sex. Men, in my observation, will have intentions of sex even with a scarecrow dressed as a woman, with breasts and bums. Mothers, protect your girls the way a hen protects her chicks from preying eagles! In my opinion, the increasing teenage pregnancy in Uganda, with limited action to curtail it, is a sign of our collective hypocrisy as a country! If every underage girl exposes what grown men say and do to them, you would immediately lose respect for most men, including many of those camouflaged-uncles, seemingly-harmless-clerics, and educated-men wearing expensive suits. I will try the best I can to raise my twin-boys into men who value and respect women, men who will not prey on underage girls” AMINA

By Simon Mugudde

SIMON MUGUDDE is a project planning, monitoring, and evaluation consultant and founder of MAKEXAFRICA a Community Development Organisation improving health and well being of adolescent girls and young women in Jinja - Uganda. He has offered consulting services for various organizations, such as CIPESA, Busoga Health Forum, and USAID. Previously, he earned experience designing and implementing research and rural development projects. While at the UN he worked alongside expert researchers participating in large scale projects. He has supervised international interns and volunteers in Uganda, and has presented papers on rural development to local governments, Civil Society, and at international conferences. Simon attended the Queen of Apostles Philosophy Center where he graduated with a bachelor's of Philosophy. He attended Uganda Management Institute (UMI) where he graduated with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Project Planning and Management (PPM), a Post-Graduated Diploma in Project Monitoring and Evaluation (PME), a masters in Monitoring and Evaluation, and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). His core priority currently is networking with individuals, groups, and institutions to further contribute to healthier lives and wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women in Jinja - Uganda.