Joan Cherop (not her real name) is among the few lucky girls who stuck to the oath of abstaining until 19 years when tragedy befall her.
On the fated day, Joan was betrayed by the person she presumed her own (boyfriend), he raped, impregnated, and abandoned her. Da Parrot caught up with Joan to better under her under our Her Story Project.
About 15 years ago, Joan now a mother of one was a primary pupil at Abim Primary School.
Joan grew up as an enthusiastic firewood collector, but this could not take away her quench of becoming an engineer despite the challenges associated with paying her own school dues.
“I would every weekend walk miles in search of firewood which I later sold to get school fees. Paying school fees was a nightmare for my father.”
At the age of 17, Joan stretched juggling between her firewood collecting hustle and school hours, the little time she could spare only enabled her to collect a few firewoods that could no longer cater for the dues at school.
She could later be forced out of school in her senior one since she had failed to keep her end of the baggage.
In 2018, with the hope that things could become a little different, she trekked a journey of 35 km in search of her mother who had fled home and left her at the mercy of her father and stepmother.
“Fortunately, I found my mother; living with her friend in Abim that had taken her in after she was left as a caretaker in one of the houses that belonged to a widow,” she narrates.
Joan’s unfortunate side of finding the mother was that she had become a serial drunkard.
Joan recalls an incident when the mother came back drunk, abusing everyone that crossed her face. They nearly fought each other which prompted the two to part ways.
She was later supported and started a money-making venture supporting herself with a cassava, chips-selling business. However, the slouching business could no longer wither out of the lockdown storm.
Journey to Kampala
Following several quarrels with her mother, Joan was 2019 offered a job opportunity by her cousin in Kampala.
“Here I was supposed to work as a housemaid, but after a few months, my very own turned against me, plotted my forceful exit,” she said adding,
“I didn’t have any transport to take me back to the village here, I literally became a street girl.”
Her efforts to secure a new job didn’t yield any positive results as the only opportunity required an input of shs.60000 she didn’t have.
Her instincts could later guide her to seek refuge at Kanyogaga police station where she spent a few nights.
She made another attempt of returning to her cousin only to be sent out again.
shortly she fell in love with her then-boyfriend and father to her two-year daughter who lived a few meters from her cousin’s residence.
“My boyfriend ushered me in as boys normally do, remember I was a virgin and thus feared having sex”
“Initially he was disciplined until he could no longer stand my shyness away from sex, even when I tried to resist he threatened to kick me out of the house, I insisted and he raped me,” she tearfully recalls.
The aromatic incident got Joan pregnant, and the boyfriend on realization ordered her to abort. she, however, refused for fear of losing her dear life.
She later considered aborting after realizing the harsh conditions she was passing through, “which would escalate if am pregnant,”
Joan recalls visiting a nearby clinic along Namuwongo market but was directed to a more facilitated hospital designed to handle such cases when they reached the hospital, the lady asked for Shs. 160,000 which I didn’t have at the time, because of my situation l pleaded until she allowed me to bring Shs 60,000 lifetime savings I had.
When l returned to pick up the money, l, unfortunately, lost my ATM card on my way, something that got me rethinking my decision.
I agreed to keep the child, who later lost my job
Joan, who was deceitful about her truth because of her insecurities and experiences could later be helped by one of her colleagues at work who paid three months’ rent for until she cut her tails with her on disclosing her big secret.
Fortunately, Joan met a Pastor Opio who would then let her sleep in the church and also sell sweets on the roadside earning a commission from her boss by then
While on the roadside Joan also met manager Ronald Eligu founder of an NGO that helps teen mothers
By then manager Eligu could not handle her situation but then referred her to a White lady who was willing to take her on.
She says, an agreement with pastor Opio was written and she was set for her new journey.
Two days l was then taken to my now new home in Kira before I could give birth in 2021.
At six months, the couple had a big misunderstanding which resulted in their separation and distort the image of the Women’s Home Organization
Joan could then go back to her village in Abim but the situation didn’t become any easier, where she could again return to Kampala through a connection from a step-sister in Kenya whose mother had given birth to after separating from Jenifer’s father as a housemaid but rejected because of her little baby
In march 2021 Jenifer traveled to Arua with hopes of revamping her life, but this time stayed in touch with manager Ronald who later received her back in Kampala in August and enrolled her in a tailoring class
In 2022 Joan graduated with a certificate in advanced tailoring, got her first Japanese client, and acquired some capital to start her own tailoring shop but still curtailed by her long-time phobia of rent in Kampala
With her Shs 240000 coming in handy, she lost faith in her then-boyfriend who only promised to take care of their child if she agreed to sleep with him again something she refused.
Violence Against Women is Real, women suffer through a lot, but teenage pregnancy much as easily talked about has made very many girls suffer.