Child Marriage a Handicap to Female Labour Market Transition

Although Uganda has a fairly strong and enabling legal and policy framework, young females continue being propelled into early marriages and pregnancies and are often deprived of full education attainment.

This experience according to Gemma Ahaibwe, a Research Fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) is likely to have lasting impacts on female opportunities, particularly, their engagement in productive and decent work.

Drawing from findings of the 2013 and 2015 school to work transition survey conducted across 4 districts from the East, North and Central Uganda, Ahaibwe warns that progression from primary to secondary school remains a challenge for females and this usually climaxes by failure to attain better employment.

In 2015, barely 31 percent girls attained at least some secondary education and only 16 percent completed primary. 53.1 percent either had no education at all or attempted only primary school.

According to the survey, girls drop out of school majorly due to early pregnancies, economic barriers and child marriages, with the latter being largely driven by social norms.

The survey explains that children sent to school with no books and pens feel out of place, going back to school after giving birth is looked at as a waste of money by most parents and many parents marry off their daughters early to acquire cows, which they feel may reproduce faster and create wealth.

 

Gemma Ahaibwe (holding mic) takes part in a panel discussion duirng the 2018 GrOW Policy workshop held in Uganda. Photo by Mouris Opolot

Ahaibwe was presenting- Education, marriage, fertility and labour market experiences of young women in Uganda, during the GrOW Policy workshop held at Lake Victoria Serena in Wakiso on March 11, 2018.

Her presentation originates from the 2016 study titled “An Assessment of Early Labour Market Transitions of Women in Uganda: A Descriptive Approach”, which she co authored with Sarah Ssewanyana, and Ibrahim Kasirye.

The study explored the inter-linkages between the transitions from school to work or motherhood and/or marriage and the ensuing effects on future labour market outcomes and choices.

The report quotes a female participant cry that “those who drop out of school before completion are less likely to access formal employment opportunities.”
“Unpaid family labour is more likely to be the first activity for most young people particularly uneducated women,” another female participant said.

Ahaibwe calls for sensitization programs to break cultural norms and keep girls in school, provision of second chance programs for teenage mothers and strengthening of enforcement and awareness of legal sanctions against child marriages.

Source links: Economic Policy Research Centre

The Ugandan girl who trekked barefoot to escape marriage at 13

Scholastica Nacap walked barefoot for 60km, across dangerous mountain terrain in north-east Uganda, to avoid getting married. She was just 13. Orphaned at nine, she was told by her father’s relatives she must marry a much older, wealthy man, so Nacap ran.

“I had to escape. I couldn’t accept [becoming] a wife and mother at 13,” she says.

Five years on Nacap is back in Karamoja, this time leading the way in the fight against early marriage and child pregnancy in this remote region. Child marriage is common in Karamoja, which has a population of about 1 million people, mainly pastoralists, scattered across 27,900 sq km of semi-arid terrain.

“Change is a gradual process that takes time,” says Alain Sibenaler, Uganda’s representative of the UN population fund, UNFPA. “However, through awareness-raising and community engagements, communities are beginning to appreciate the need to invest in education.”

Globally, an estimated 12 million girls are married before they turn 18. A report by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the World Bank concluded that child marriage costs nations billions and destroys life prospects for girls.

The legal age of marriage in Uganda is 18 (although girls can marry from 16 with parental consent), but UN statistics suggest 40% of girls marry before 18, and 10% before they are 15.

The ICRW report said a lack of sex education and access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services contributed to early pregnancies that very often lead to early marriage.

The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016 reported that almost a fifth (19%) of girls aged 15 to 19 have given birth – another 5% were pregnant with their first child. Teenagers in rural areas were more likely to have children at a young age. Around 25% of those who drop out of school are pregnant teenagers.

Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations, with 75% of people below the age of 30 and 58% under the age of 20. The country also has one of the highest fertility rates – women give birth to an average of 5.6 children – compared with 4.8 in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. This is attributed to low use of contraceptives and early marriage.

Nacap is one of those trying to turn the tide where she lives. She now helps at a club for girls run by Bangladeshi NGO Brac, aimed at 10- to 22-year-olds and offering information on the dangers of early marriage and pregnancy. They also provide training, including tailoring and agricultural skills, and advice on how to manage money.

“In club discussions I advise the girls to shun early pregnancy and early marriages. I tell them not to be deceived by boys to ruin their future. I encourage them to go to school to study,” says Nacap, who is back in contact with her family. “Those who can’t manage studies [I encourage] to engage in a particular business activity and earn money for themselves.”

There are 250 clubs in Karamoja’s seven districts. “We share our experiences by telling stories, participating in debates, discussion of issues such as rape, adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights, growing up and menstrual hygiene. We talk about HIV, family planning and contraception,” says Nacap.

A total of 14,392 of girls have attended since May 2016, and about a quarter of them now run a business or have a job. About 80% have control over their earnings and 59% participate in household decision-making.

Nacap now runs a small bakery and restaurant – making doughnuts and selling cooked mixed maize and beans, chapatis and tea. She is not married and does not plan to be any time soon. “Which boy or man can deceive and lure me? No. I have money from business. I am busy trying to expand it. I don’t have time to think about men and marriage,” says Nacap.

She uses some of the money she earns to support her two sisters. “I need them to study and become role models. Our [relatives] should stop thinking about marrying them off. They should educate them to become lawyers, teachers, engineers and bankers who can make change in our community,” says Nacap.

“I need financial support. I need to expand the bakery and restaurant business to achieve my dreams.”

Understanding key forms of violence against children

Violence against children takes different forms. It is crucial to understand each of them and come up with measures to handle them.

It is also common that a child may be victim to more than one category at the same time, and therefore require more than one measure of intervention.

Uganda’s National Strategic Plan on Violence Against Children in Schools (2015-2010) defines forms of violence inflicted on children of school-going age – three to 18 years – in four broad categories.

The five-year strategy relies on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) definition of violence as ‘all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse’.

Physical violence is any form of punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort. Physical violence can be fatal and non-fatal. This involves hitting children with the hand or with any object, kicking, shaking, scratching, pinching, biting, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions and burning, among others.

Corporal punishment refers to any disciplinary measure in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort. Psychological or emotional violence is any act or behaviour that conveys to a child that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or of value only in meeting another’s needs.

It includes blaming, degrading, intimidating, terrorizing, isolating, restraining, confining, corrupting, exploiting, spurning, withholding affection, and belittling the child’s capabilities, qualities and desires, or otherwise behaving in a manner that is harmful, potentially harmful, or insensitive to the child’s developmental needs or can potentially damage the child psychologically or emotionally.

Sexual violence is any sexual act (or attempt to obtain a sexual act), unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic a person’s sexuality, using coercion, threats of harm or physical force, by any person regardless of relationship to the child.

This encompasses a range of offences, including completed non-consensual sex acts (i.e. rape), attempted non-consensual sex acts, abusive sexual contact (i.e. unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment).

Sexual violence also includes the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful or psychologically harmful sexual activity; the exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; and the exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials, and the provision of gifts especially from men to girls or from women to boys in return for sexual pleasure.

Neglect and negligent treatment is the failure to meet the children’s physical (such as food, shelter, clothing) and psychological needs; protect them from danger; to access vital services required by the child such as education, medical care, registration and or abandonment when those responsible for children’s care have the means, knowledge and access to services to do so.

Some of the common forms of negligent treatment in schools include failure by schools to provide midday meals, absenteeism among teachers and deliberately providing substandard education.

The strategy observes that there are also new emerging forms of violence such as school fires that have resulted into loss of lives of children and property.

Children still face sexual violence

In Summary

Incidents: Findings show that one in four young adults has experienced sexual violence in their childhood and had their first abuse at the age of 13 or at a much younger age.

Back in 2012, Daily Monitor published a traumatising story of Joan (not real name) narrating how her own father had repeatedly raped her on a number of occasions.
As a result, the young girl sustained injuries to her private parts which oozed blood and pus.
To date, the girl continues to suffer psychological distress from the ordeal.
Joan is among many girls whose stories have been highlighted in the different media platforms as a way of raising awareness about the vice.
Sexual violence encompasses sexual abuse and exploitation of children including forced sex, erotic touches such as grabbing or fondling of the child. Sexual violence also includes harassment, threats and tricks directed towards a child in exchange for sex.

The statistics
Uganda Violence Against Children survey report findings released on August 2018 show that one in three young women have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood.
Also, one in four young adults who experienced sexual abuse in their childhood had their first abuse experience at 13 or at a much younger age.
Further, the report highlights that most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence against girls during their childhoods were neighbours and strangers. These girls, aged 13 to 17 years, most frequently experienced sexual violence on the road, their own respective homes and school.
Meanwhile, boys aged 13 to 24 years reported friends, classmates, and neighbours as the most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence. They were abused in the evening, and most commonly at school, in their homes, and on the road.

Consequences of sexual violence
Children who suffer sexual abuse get affected in different ways.
They may get mental disorder as a result of recurrent sexual episodes playing in their minds, says Ian Musoke, a child welfare social worker.
“For example, if a girl was raped, there is a likelihood that she will keep thinking of what happened to her, and, in the long run, this may cause her mental agony,” Musoke says.
Rape also comes with the high risk of exposure to HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases including gonorrhea and syphilis. Some girls also get pregnant in the process.
“Sadly, because some of these girls conceive at a time they are still very young, they end up losing their life as well as that of the baby,” Musoke says.
Then, some of these victims may either resort to run away from home or committing suicide out of shame.
Musoke says sometimes these victims can end up detesting men or relationships.
A case in point, Namayanja, now aged 25 years, says she starting hating men after being raped by her uncle at the age of 10 years.
“I don’t like the idea of any man touching me as it always reminds me of my painful past,” Namayanja says.
Although a number of suitors continue to propose marriage, Namayanja continuously says she is not yet ready to settle down. Uganda is a signatory to a number of international instruments including the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), article 19, which requires that children are protected from all forms of violence (including sexual abuse).
However, a Ministry of education and sports report issued in 2014 titled Response, Tracking, Referral, and Response (RTRR), guidelines on violence against children in schools, noted there were existing challenges towards reporting cases of abuse.
These included limited understanding of children’s rights and responsibilities, mismanagement of reported cases of violence among children as well as gaps in the existing laws on violence against children. The RTRR report highlighted that although Uganda has various laws that prohibit abuse, they lack specific provisions on mandatory reporting of cases of abuse against youngsters.

What can be done to avert sexual violence?
Mr Timothy Opodo, the child protection manager at Child Fund International says there is need to empower children especially the girl-child to be able to detect and report cases of sexual abuse.
“They should be able to identify incidents such as inappropriate erotic language directed towards them as well as bad touches and report the culprits to the law enforcement officers,” Opodo says.
In addition, Opodo says there is need for both parents and teachers to empower children with life skills so as that they can grow up to be confident and not shy to speak out any issue.
Since there are still communities with unfair norms targeting the girl-child including early child marriages, Opodo says there is also need to address these issues at hand.

Violence against children: a global problem

Violence against children is one of the biggest problems affecting families and societies. It happens all around the world, in all countries and societies; all too often it happens in the family. Read on to learn more about the problem of violence against children and effective approaches to ending it.

International law clearly establishes every child’s right to protection against violence. That right is underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet violence against children persists. Often, it remains hidden. Many cases are not reported or investigated.

The many faces of violence against children

Violence against children has many faces and forms: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, emotional abuse, and more.

  • Every five minutesa child dies from violence. [The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children 2016]
  • One billion children– over half of all children aged 2 to 17 – are estimated to have experienced emotional, physical and/or sexual violence. [WHO 2016]
  • One in 10 girls– 120 million – under the age of 20 has been subjected to forced sexual acts. [UNICEF 2014]
  • Nearly one in 10 children– 250 million worldwide – lives in a country affected by conflict. [UNICEF 2016]
  • At least one in six children entering an SOS Children’s Villages’ programme has previously experienced violence.

Risk factors for experiencing violence

Our experience and research show that children who are inadequately protected and cared for are at a higher risk of experiencing violence.

Effectiveness of “Girls Parliament” in ending child marriage

What is the effectiveness of “Girls Parliament” in ending child marriage?

By engaging girls with community and religious leaders including boys and girls, men and women, policy makers and influencers the power of Girls Parliament as a community awareness intervention in ending child marriage will be realised. SCOEN will identify impact pathways included creating opportunities for reflection and helping people shift both attitudes and practices, face-to-face communication with target groups and generating the ability to address issues of concern directly and to re-frame local thinking.

SCOEN will use communications-focused interventions

  • Community and religious elders be prioritised for child marriage and gender equality messages as they are often the ultimate gatekeepers of social norms.
  • Boys and men be targeted aimed at encouraging new masculinities that support their sisters and daughters to reach adulthood before they become wives.
  • Face-to-face discussion encourages local ownership and combined with top-down or media approaches for best effect.
  • Peer-to-peer education, girls’ clubs bring transformatory change to girls, helping them build confidence and voice while learning about their rights, serving as critical venues for reporting planned marriages.

Whats Girls’ Parliament and how will it be run?

A Girl’s Parliament consists of a sequence of sessions, each leading to the intended outcome. Child Marriage may not be discussed in the initial sessions to avoid community backlash. Related motivational activities will be used to introduce the topic. The initial sessions will be informed by the local context of the community.

The main objective of Girls’ parliament is to create a platform that promotes critical reflection that allows for questioning of beliefs, myths and practices in order to realize a change in social norms to accelerate the abandonment of Child Marriage.

This will: –

  • create a deeper understanding of communities, their situation, current practices, interests, existing opportunities and challenges and helps devise mitigating strategies for sustainable behavior change
  • enhance accountability and stimulates action and a sense of ownership of agreed interventions by the community
  • enable identification of key persons in the community in order to build networks and partnerships to ensure sustainability
  • enhance the capacity of the facilitators to develop effective and adaptable skills in inclusive decision-making for attitude and behavior change

The following steps are essential in organizing and conducting the girl’s parliament:

Training of community facilitators; stakeholders’ mapping and engagement; participant identification; develop leading questions; venue selection; and timing of the dialogue; Participant mobilization – a maximum of 45 participants is advisable for one facilitator.

It’s also important to understand how to conduct such effective sessions to bring about the desired change. Like to: – introduce the purpose of the dialogue; language of the dialogue, rules of engagement; community resolve and action plan; evaluating the dialogue and concluding the dialogue

FACILITATION:

Facilitation plays a significant role as it ensures that the objectives are met. It is thus imperative to have a qualified individual who will understand the qualities, roles and responsibilities of facilitation to effectively moderate theconversation. This person will be sourced to facilitate, conversant with Child Marriage issues and may be able to handle different scenarios. she may be confronted with different scenarios during the dialogue process that may hinder successful engagement and conclusion of the process

 

Educating Girls: A Way of Ending Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy

KAMPALA, 5 December – Annet Nyaburu is only 18 years old, but she is a mother of two boys, aged 4 and 3. At 13, she fell pregnant and dropped out of school after her mother, a widow, decided she was better off married to the father of her child to secure her future.

Towards the end of last year, she left her sons in the care of her mother, bought a one-way bus ticket from the eastern city of Mbale, and found work as a housemaid in Namugongo, a residential suburb of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

“Life got unbearable,” she says of her marriage now, a note of determination in her voice, “as there was not much to eat, and the man would come home drunk and sometimes beat me up. I don’t regret leaving him because I am now earning some money, which I send home to my mother to look after the children.”

Defined as formal or informal unions made before the age of 18, or having a first child before the age of 18, child marriage and early childbearing remain common in Uganda despite legislation against them. As many as three in ten Ugandan girls have their first child before their 18th birthday; more than a third marry before the age of 18. In turn, both child marriage and early childbearing lead girls to drop out of school prematurely.

The World Bank’s 10th edition of the Uganda Economic Update estimates the negative impact of child marriage, early childbearing, and the low educational attainment of the many girls affected by the two, on a wide range of development indicators.

Estimates of the cost of child marriage to the economy are also made. The cost of not taking action now is high, and will run into billions of dollars a year by 2030.

It reviews the literature on the types of intervention that can work to empower adolescent girls, and specifically calls for greater investment in girls’ education; for providing opportunities to girls who are out of school and cannot go back; and for equipping adolescent girls with life skills and knowledge of reproductive health.

Closely connected

Our report shows that close relationships exist between child marriage, teen pregnancy, and the low level of education reached by large numbers of girls. It shows that child marriage is likely to be the cause of more than half of babies born to under 18s in Uganda, so that ending it could reduce early childbearing by the same amount.

It also shows that both child marriage and early childbearing force girls to drop out of school. According to parents and principals interviewed in surveys, early pregnancy and marriage are major reasons for this.

The report’s analysis suggests that, depending how early a girl marries, child marriage reduces the likelihood of completing secondary school by 12 to 23 percentage points. Once a girl is married, it is very difficult for her to stay at school, whatever her age. In contrast, keeping girls in secondary school substantially reduces the likelihood they will marry or have children early.

Impact of child marriage

Uganda’s fertility rate stands at 5.9 children per woman, above the Sub-Saharan average of 4.8. This high fertility rate is attributed in part to the low use of contraceptives, but high rates of child marriage and early childbearing also play an important role. Ending child marriage would reduce fertility by 8 percent nationally, and could lower the country’s overall population growth rate of 3 percent by 0.17 percent. If child marriage were ended today, it is estimated that the benefit—in terms of the higher standards of living that would be generated thanks to lower population growth—would reach US$2.4 billion a year by 2030.

There are other risks associated with early marriage: Girls who marry before 18 are at a higher risk of dying in childbirth. When a child is born of a mother younger than 18, research shows there is a higher risk of him or her suffering from either stunting (physical and mental underdevelopment through undernutrition) or mortality under the age of 5. The economic benefits that resulting from a reduction of these could reach US$275 million per year by 2030.

Under Ugandan law, child marriage is a crime. Global research, suggesting that girls who marry early are more likely to experience physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and violence from their partners than those who marry as adults, applies also to Uganda. “Ending child marriage, preventing early childbearing, and improving educational opportunities for girls is not only the right thing to do from a moral and ethical standpoint, it is also a smart investment for Uganda’s development,” said Quentin Wodon, co-author of the Update.

Increasing women’s earnings and family welfare

Uganda has one of the youngest populations in Africa: According to the 2014 census, 55 percent of its population (now estimated at about 42 million) is below 18 years old. The report’s economic argument is that women who are girls now, and who wait to marry and have children, are more likely to complete their education and earn more later in life. And that this will help them to take better care of themselves and their children in the future.

Ending child marriage could also increase their participation in the labor force. Instead of marrying early, earnings in adulthood early could increase by 14 percent, leading to an overall increase of one percent in earnings in the population.

Today, such gains are estimated at US$514 million per year. The benefits of more girls completing primary education would be even larger, as would the benefits of secondary education. Ending child marriage and improving the education of girls could dramatically improve the standard of living and reduce poverty.

Implications for Policy

The overall boost to Uganda’s economy that ending child marriage, preventing early childbearing, and investing in girls’ education could provide is substantial—given the recent slowdown of the economy. At 4.5 percent a year, the average rate of growth for the past five years is far smaller than the 7.0 percent or more achieved in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“In 2016/17, the rate of real GDP growth barely reached 4.0 percent, and driven by consumption, rather than investment. This is not sufficient to achieve sustained progress towards poverty reduction,” said Rachel Kaggwa Sebudde, co-author of the Update.

Uganda has adopted many progressive policies and regulations to safeguard the rights of girls, but many are not enforced. Increased investment in adolescent girls could have a majorly positive impact on Uganda and accelerate its development. And initiatives that are already successful could be scaled up quickly to make a big difference.

The special topic section of the 10th Uganda Economic Update benefited from support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the Global Partnership for Education. The report is one of several country studies prepared by the World Bank following up on a global study on the economic impacts of child marriage conducted in partnership with the International Center for Research on Women with additional funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

End the silence on child marriage

This year’s Day of African Child commemoration theme: ‘Leave no child behind for Africa’s Development’ contributes to Agenda 2030 that emphasises that children should be at the centre-stage in the drive towards sustainable economic development.

In Uganda, we are living in a situation where more than half (53 per cent) of women aged between 20 and 49 marry before the age of 18. Sadly, many girls, and to a smaller extent boys, enter marriage without any chance of exercising their right to choose.

Within a rights perspective, key concerns are the denial of childhood and adolescence, the curtailment of personal freedom and the lack of opportunity to develop a full sense of selfhood as well as the denial of psychosocial and emotional well-being, reproductive health and educational opportunity.

Generally, where girls are uneducated and ill-prepared for their roles as mothers and contributors to society, there are costs to be borne at every level – from the individual household – to the nation as a whole.

The accepted and respected marriage had respect for the girl-child where a woman could not be married unless she was at least 24 years and this involved negotiations and consent.

The new disorder introduced new violent approach of abduction of girls and women without their consent or the parents. Any child marriage constitutes a forced marriage in recognition that even if a child appears to give their consent, any one below the age of 18 is not able to make a fully informed choice whether or not to marry.

Forced marriage in these many conservative communities has resulted in young girls being pushed into a huge responsibility of becoming wives and mothers. And because girls are not adequately prepared for these heavy burdens, it has often resulted into serious impact on their psychological welfare, their perceptions of themselves and their relationships.

Early marriage plans are also discouraging parents of girls from educating their daughter with perceived believe that a formal education will only benefit her future family in-law and yet a lack of education also means that young brides lack knowledge about sexual relations, their bodies and reproduction, exacerbated by the cultural silence surrounding these subjects.

This denies the girl the ability to make informed decisions about sexual relations, planning a family, and her health, yet another example of their lives in which they have no control.
Notwithstanding the laws in place, a range of policy and programmatic actions should be orchestrated to reduce child marriage and its impact.

Every stakeholder must be concerned that no Child is left behind by ensuring that critical, broadly adapted and cost effective programmes are effective, but also feasible to implement at sufficient scale to make them meaningful and sustainable.

Johnson Okwera
okwerajohnson@yahoo.com

NBS TV Investigates exposes modern day slavery in Uganda

Have you ever stopped to wonder what 50,000 Uganda Shillings can do for you today? With 50, 000 shillings, I can pay for my monthly Netflix subscription, with 50, 000 shillings, I can happily buy 7 beers at Valhalla’s reggae night, with the same amount still, I can afford a good steak from a fancy restaurant around Kampala. But there is more.

In Soroti district, the life of a girl is worth 50,000 shillings. For seven beers, you can buy a human being in Uganda today. Let that sink in!

In yet another groundbreaking investigative story, this is what NBS TV’s journalists have uncovered. The story under the NBS Investigates feature went deep cover to expose modern day slavery in our country. The months long investigation, now showcased on Next Media Uganda YouTube channel and already aired is present for all to see and attest for themselves.

NBS TV journalists risked their lives, led by Canary Mugume, to go undercover to untangle the web that begins from Soroti and finds its way onto Kampala road and other parts of the country. The hope of this investigative piece being that the authorities and Ugandans who care about their country take note.

One can only hope that this investigative piece on modern day slavery in Uganda will encourage a crackdown on this evil in our country. We hope that lives will be saved and changed for the better and everyone will take up the mantle to break up this vicious trade that ruins lives.

Meanwhile NBS TV is not done. We have lined up yet another social good investigative piece coming up, one helmed by Solomon Sserwanjja. The piece is about the illegal sale of government drugs. I cannot wait to share it with you very soon! Source NBS TV

I became a mother at 16

“As a teenager, I was not stubborn nor was I bubbly and loud. I was reserved and introverted, almost always engrossed in my books reading and revising. I was also an excellent performer in class, something that turned me into some sort of envy of everyone in our neighbourhood. You could barely tell I had a boyfriend.

Young love spelt trouble
I met my boyfriend, who is now my husband around the same time. We fell in love, and like all such stories, shortly after I realised I was pregnant. That is when it all turned south. Breaking the news to my parents is by far the most painful experience I have ever had to go through. My parents were greatly disappointed. My mother was literally in tears when the truth sank in. To make matters worse, my boyfriend was not even Muslim.

Fortunately for me, and contrary to what I expected, my family was very supportive right away. Of course, many of my relatives and our neighbours were not amused. They ridiculed me almost the entire time for casting shame upon the family. Thanks to the support I had, I carried on with my pregnancy.

On December 13, 1996 I gave birth to Sharon Kanyange, my first daughter. Carrying her in my hands for the first time made me realise that I was a child no more. I had to fend for her just like my parents had done for me. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I just had to find a way.

Motherhood and tough decisions
I had to make another tough decision. I chose not to go back to school. I was in Senior Four then which meant that I had to repeat the class. My parents’ dream was for me to become a doctor, and they were willing to see me through school even when I was a mother. But I thought it would affect my child; I would either get bad grades or a poorly raised child. I never wanted my daughter to go through what I was already going through.

I started my journey of motherhood almost immediately. I will be honest, the overwhelming support I had made it all easy. My mother, mother-in-law and a few of our close relatives were always in and out helping me. I would be lying if I told you I know how to perfectly use the famous herbal bath known as kyogero. That is how supportive they were. They did it all.
Shortly after, my boyfriend and I moved in together to start our little family. He promised to take care of us, and I must say he has since kept his word. He helped me start a small business, and concentrated on his job as an engineer. When I was 19, I gave birth to my second daughter Maria Namulwana.

Together, we have managed to raise our two daughters into responsible young ladies. Raising a girl is no small feat especially in this generation. Sharon is making 22 this year and is about to graduate with a degree in Veterinary medicine from Makerere University while her sister Maria is in Senior Five.

As a child, Sharon was so stubborn. We were always fighting. There is a time I asked her to go to the bedroom to pick something for me. I think she was around seven. Minutes later, she had not returned. I went to the bedroom to check on her only to find out that, instead of doing what I had asked her to do, she had poured milk all over the carpet.

I slapped her so badly, it terrified me later. I thought something bad would happen to her. Because I am short tempered, I was going to beat her more often as she was showing no signs of change. That is when I decided to send her to boarding school. I thought that her father and I were showering her with love,.Things had to change. Boarding school helped a great deal as she returned a changed girl. After a few school terms, she and I were on good terms. In fact, I have not had any trouble with her ever since. The thought of her going astray always scared me.

Joy of motherhood
My children are my pride. I am 38 and Sharon is 21, but people cannot believe that we are mother and daughter and not sisters. Her friends are always in awe. It makes me smile, seeing them in shock asking her how old her mother is. That is something not many parents experience. I just enjoy it.

Seeing my girls and the infinite possibilities they have to become whatever they wish to be outweighs all my regrets. At least I have not let the 16-year-old me down. Besides teaching her to make responsible decisions, I have tried to instill in her the spirit of being tough and never giving up. I have been a bit tough on her and she knows it, but it has been worth it. I do not regret it at all.”

Sharon’s story
“My mother has taught me many things, but the spirit of never giving up which she has instilled in me stands out. She has gone through a lot raising us and always going the extra mile so that we have everything we desire. I have been to good schools, and never have I had troubles of school fees.

Growing up, our home was filled with so much joy and happiness. However, she was always a tough disciplinarian. I thought that she disapproved of the fact that my father loved me so much. I was sent to boarding school, a decision I later found out was made because I was quite stubborn. When I became old enough, I understood why she and my father were doing all this. I also found out that her dream was to be a doctor. I decided to concentrate on my books so that I become the doctor she wanted to be.

I attended a number of primary schools; Kampala Quality Primary School, Vincent Alex Boarding Primary School, Mukono then Namugongo Girls School where I was until Primary Seven. I then joined St. Maria Goretti Katende for my O-Level and Rubaga Girls School for A-Level. I am now in my third year doing Veterinary Medicine at Makerere University. My dream is to graduate and make her proud.

Source Daily Monitor

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