As Uganda continues to strive towards women’s emancipation, a number of phrases including ‘The Woman is Female’ came up with intentions of providing a much wider self-belief space to women and girls.
However, how would one expect empowerment storylines of this kind to inspire girls yet they still live in strange vulnerabilities which have since exposed them to among others teenage pregnancies?
For many young girls, witnessing the sendoff of elder sisters to marriage would be an inspiration and a moment to live up to. However, this later seemed not the case for Ahumuza (real name withheld) who recalls the joyful moment being the beginning of her unachieved desired dreams.
Growing up in Akure village, Soroti district, over 190 kilometers from Kampala Central Business District, Harriet Ahumuza’s childhood was stolen as early as primary three.
Ahumuza was born along with three siblings (two sisters & a brother), they lived at their inebriated improvident father’s family land with their mother who later left for Kampala to serve the nation at the expense of her children as a police officer.
Quite often, Ahumuza together with her siblings could not have it all given the mother’s little salary earning going by the nature of her Job. They since considered working on farms in pursuit of a penny to buy what was inadequately or completely not provided for by the mother.
The then little primary three Ahumuza together with her siblings earned only Shs.3000 per worked day, which could only go as far as providing a meal.
She precluded the possibility of attending school weekend programs as this was the only provision she could juggle to earn the much-needed money for the school dues. However, this become unsustainable thus ending her education journey as early as 2019 when she had just joined the candidate class.
“I could no longer maintain concentration on the candidate class and helping out at home, “she said.
Ahumuza’s stay out of school could later grant her much social freedom from which she landed in the hands of her then enchanted 20-year-old boyfriend, who knew exactly how to handle and play around with the teenagers’ mind; from the little gifts of inner-wears, pads, sandals and sometimes food to eat, Ahumuza had definitely found her ‘thoughts and heart comforter.’
Like the many young ladies in the covid-19 lockdown, Ahumuza’s now spiffy life from times when she would barely survive on yam leaves earned her an easy ticket into her boyfriend’s arms which could later get her into motherhood at as early as 15 years of age.
Before her shock, as a teen mother settled in, Ahumuza was duped into single-motherhood, stigmatized by her neighbors, and let down by her only portage and her father who would, later on, be convinced to chase her out of his home.
Unfortunately every year the same tragedy touches thousands of young girls; globally, an estimated 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 become pregnant with at least 777,000 births occurring to adolescents younger than 15 years.
Worryingly overall, Uganda has a teenage pregnancy rate of 25 percent higher in rural areas compared to urban areas with eastern Uganda keeping it at the highest peak.
Most of these pregnancies are a result of rape or other sexual abuses, including survival sex. The consequences are extremely serious: school drop-outs, mental health problems, family and social rejection, forced marriage, domestic violence, increased poverty, and children sent away as street survivors over the fear of bitterness at home.
Upon the bitterness of their father that made Ahumuza’s stay home impossible, she joined her mother in a single ‘corridor’ room in Namuwongo, a Kampala suburb from where she gave birth to her daughter in early January 2022.
Living an irony of what she dreamt of as a young child even after giving birth, Ahumuza, who rather enjoys her humble life without a desire to ever return to her father’s home is fine spending her life at Touch the Slum, an NGO that empowers teen mothers with hands-on skill training. She currently pursues a certificate in tailoring.
As we approached the global Sixteen Days of Activism, Da Parrot started meeting young women and girls who became mothers much too early with the desire to listen to their life stories and look into their eyes, which often say more than words.
Da Parrot would like their stories to be heard, which is why we started the ‘Her Story’ project. The objective is to portray teen mothers in their living and working environments, collect their testimonies and show the consequences of early pregnancy.
We also intended to ask women about their dreams which turned out to be ‘usual and ordinary’: return to schools, have families together, find jobs, ensure a better future for their kids, and stop abuses against women and girls.