To those who neglected the hard plight of a girl child.
Story By: Frederick H
Thunderstruck, lightning lit the skies and the ground trembled. For a minute darkness disappeared. My heart started racing, blood in me was boiling with fear. Looking around, I was surrounded by streets, crowded during day and occupied in the night. On the verandas of specific arcades were small children, boys and girls. Some breastfeeding mothers and the others grappled with various disabilities. It was my first night on the streets. Those that I found occupying the streets at night were deep asleep. The verandas were their homes, used boxes were their mattresses and polythene sheets were their bedsheets, nevertheless they occupied the streets. Rain was threatening to fall, it seemed like the heavens were angry, but the streets were home and everyone there was trying to catch a good night sleep despite the circumstances. My mind was littered with thoughts and my heart was soaked in an ocean of sorrow. My stomach was empty and my lips trembled like hands subjected to immense fear. My dreams had been choked, but my spirit was still fighting on. At sixteen and a total orphan with no foundation of education, being judged became the order of the day. Being a girl made it more complicated, the world that I lived in gave me ropes to hang myself, but I refused. I believed in the good me that the world had not seen. For four years, the streets were my home and from there I built a mind-blowing business empire.
To my relatives that abandoned me and pushed me to the cold because they wanted to take over my deceased father’s property. The village house that I called home became a torture chamber, my father’s land that I used to till to get something for a day’s meal was made a no-go zone, they called me a worthless child. Every day, my uncle woke me up at 3 am, he poured a bucket of cold water over me. I had to get ready to milk the cows. The cows that once belonged to my father were now his. Being a girl, I had no rights over my father’s property, they said. My heart grew and my palms hardened, I was no ordinary girl, I fought back silently. I did every chore I was commanded to, I escorted my uncle’s children to school and returned to do the day’s chores. When I fell sick, I ran to the forest and picked herbs that I used to treat myself and no one ever noticed any moment of my sickness. Even then, I loved humanity with all my heart. I smiled and shared my smile with the people that embraced me. Those chores became part of me, waking up early became a routine that was written in my heart. These defined my eventual success in life. When I chose to run away from the village home, I believed that living on the streets was far better than staying at that home. Right now as I supervise work in my restaurant, I do not regret any minute I spent on the streets.
To the big boys that attempted to rape me. Believe me, the gates of hell are wide open, ready to receive you. They thought I was powerless, they thought I was a toy they could selfishly use for pleasure. Little did they know that the village had taught me how to look for solutions to my own problems. Carrying wood and pots of water over miles had strengthened my muscles and my spirit was unfazed by the adversary. Besides, God has watched over me ever since I came into existence. At the street corner came two big boys, covered in hoods and smelling of alcohol. They staggered and I can reliably say were tipsy. That night, I had just left the restaurant that employed me as a dishwasher. I was heading home, the corridor off the street. At my ‘home’ were those I called my brothers and sisters, fellow street children with whom I shared the pain and the struggles. The small one of the big boys ran up to me and started fondling my breasts. Being the ‘ninja’ I had become, I kicked him in between his legs. Weak like any other drunkard he got his filthy hands off me and fell on the ground, he wailed in pain – I was only defending myself. Immediately, I screamed and my brothers, sisters came to my rescue. We were always alert and ready to come in aid of any family member. As I defended myself every single day, I learned that I was never going to outgrow adversary but I had to learn how to overcome every challenge that I faced while living this life.
To the doctor that refused to treat my fragile sister because he judged us and called us ‘filthy poverty-stricken street children.’ Nature did not judge me or any of my brothers and sisters. Even when I was living on the city streets, it did not take away my experience of treating myself with herbs back in the village. Judging us was not going to take away the fact that we were human beings that wanted to save another life. A small girl, not any different from that one that is pampered and driven to school every morning and given all kinds of snacks to enjoy throughout the day. Heaven was still watching over us, I walked seven kilometres to the city suburbs and looked for possible forest cover with particular shrubs, where I got the herbs I knew. I was sure they could serve as an alternative treatment to my ailing sister. A mixture of herbs and water became an everlasting solution and the fragile sister became well again. The doctor did not know, he was pushing me towards an everlasting solution that would eventually restore the health of many other people that faced similar health challenges. Right now, pharmaceutical companies are using the medicinal plant to produce several tablets. I am one of the suppliers of the medicinal plant to the several companies.
To my aunties, that wanted me to get married at the age of 12 to the elderly Muzeyi. You gave me the strong will to run away from torture. The girl that did all the chores in the village homestead was regarded worthless because she was a total orphan. All they cared about was bride price of two cows that Muzeyi had promised. They secretly organized customary ceremonies to have me married off, I was to be his third wife. Adversary had taught me better, I was only 12, but my mind was that of a 20-year-old. I knew of their secret when they told me I was going to start cooking for Muzeyi. That sparked off the journey that led me to the street. The other day I visited my village, after eighteen years, with my two children and my husband who I met when I was 24 years old. We met while I was in vocational school and only touched me when I finished my studies. He encouraged me and supported me to stay in school and here I am, beaming with the success that came from adult education. There was a solution to every challenge, my mindset was glued towards success and hope was all that kept me alive. The village that pushed me into the cold was overwhelmed to see what I had become, a symbol of success under adversary.
To my brothers and sisters that embraced me on the streets, the elderly lady that gave me my first job as a dishwasher at her restaurant, my heart embraces your kindness. It was a family that I never had and she was a mother that I never had. I worked wholeheartedly and gave it my all, it was a source of hope. I wished for everything that would make my life better but stuck to the basics. Deep down my heart, I knew I was working so that my children, especially girls may never go through what I had experienced. Now as I drive through Kampala road every day, I park at the roadside and show my little ones where I used to sleep. The first time I showed my husband, he shed tears and vowed to start a children’s home. This is our fifth year in marriage and every year we get several girls and boys off the streets and find them shelter in different homes. This is the joy of a girl who never gave up and fought tooth and nail never to drown in hopelessness. I chose to look for solutions and the good out of every negative thing that happened to me, you can do the same. I chose never to ignore humanity, every street child was my brother, my sister, and we laughed and hustled as a family. Right now we are all successful adults that still take good care of one another – Still family.
To the world that does not know what really goes on behind the curtains, wake up, open your eyes and see what it is like to live under abandonment as a young girl. I am counting on you to make this world a better place for all of us.