Living a life of suffering

06:50 Dec 27 2011 Ssenga village, Matugga, Uganda

Robinah narrates a tale of recovery

Twelve years ago, my father and mother used to stay together, in a one-roomed house. They were not officially married though my father, then a pastor had abandoned the calling and soon he started coming home drunk and would start quarrelling with mother.

They separated when I was 3 years and being young I could not clearly understand what was happening then. But I remember dad my siblings moving out of the house, and walked a long distance. We had left mum in Katosi.

We travelled with father to a location I late learnt to be Ssenga village, near Matugga. Along the way I needed someone to tell me what was going on, where I was going and why I was leaving my mother behind. However, non of these questions could be answered by my father who kept a deaf ear through the journey.

Upon reaching Ssenga, father pointed to a dilapidated house with scattered saucepan, unwashed plates and an old sponge mattress. He directed us to a place where we could fetch water, showed us food and vegetables he had bought for the day. He promised that our mum would join us when school starts! But up to this day, she has never come to live with us.

Fending for them selves has helped me to mature at an early age. I started seeking for solutions to the problems that I was facing. When ever I would feel hungry, the option was simple; climb the neighbour’s jackfruit tree, mangoes, or cook something for myself.

Meanwhile, my father would come home drunk, and any request we made would irritate him resulting into a beating. In fact, he could ‘remind us of how stupid’ we were.

The conditions at home worsened when we started school, we would stay hungry all day, only to come back home to find no food. Little as we were, we would often forge temporally relationships with the neighbour’s children to welcome us to their homes, with an intention of gaining some food. Both girls and boys seemed willing to help me but with varied intentions. Much as the girls helped me in areas such as giving me their underpants, dresses, offering shelter and Vaseline, they were always reluctant to give food. So I would stay hungry sometimes.

The relationship with the neighbour’s children produced positive results for us. I began studying at Saint Kizito Ttikalu Primary School, a government aided school and our neighbours offered to pay my school fees.

I was studying in primary seven when COFCOWE, a non-Governmental Organisation visited Saint Kizito Ttikalu Primary School. For five days COFCAWE facilitators taught us the consequences of risky sexual behaviour; reproductive health, gender, power relations and effective communication and its benefits in promoting better relations between boys and girls.

I then understood that the practice of seeking for favours from boys in exchange for sex may lead to health risks such as early pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, STDs and dropping out of school. Till this day, I recall the facilitators urging pupils to always abstain from sex.

After the training I felt the need to denounce my past in order to begin a new life. My memories included the lack of love from parents and missing food among other essentials.

During the feedback session with parents I was chosen to present the children’s views and I did it without fear and told them about the injustices I was being subjected to as a young girl. For example after my father had abandoned us, my two sisters were married off at 15 and 17 years respectively. I felt this was the time for parents to learn what injustices girls from poor backgrounds were going through for them to survive.

Back home, rumours had spread that Robinah was a ‘spoilt’ child and would contaminate others. I was accused of promiscuity, chased away from the home I was staying. I sought shelter from my sister’s home but later on left. This time I went to live with a friend and once again I had to leave and decided to go back to my father’s home.

I began questioning the existence of God, wondering why God could not rescue and end the misery I was going through. And one day as I was preparing to wash my clothes, I saw my former teacher who had come to inform me that COFCAWE had found a sponsor to further my studies and join secondary education!

I wept that day; I could not believe that a person who wasn’t my relative could be more helpful than my father. To me, this was a God sent opportunity to forget my past, stay in school so that I improve my status and hopefully one day, I graduate as a doctor just like Riitta K. my sponsor!

With that I would be able to help my sister and brothers who are languishing in poverty and later work with service organisations that promote girl education. I’m sure that with education, other girls in the community will not suffer the same fate like my sisters who are trapped in abusive relationships. I want to help the sick people and sensitize people on health related matters.

Years later, mother told us that our father was a pastor in one of the churches but was attacked by evil spirits, and abandoned the calling. This made him change, began drinking, and constantly quarrelling with mother. This affected us so much.

The relationship between the parents became unbearable. Yes, I am growing up but I feel so bad and could not help but cry because of the pain my mother has had to endure. I can imagine the emotions she has been undergoing because even up to now my father does not love us as his children. I just don’t understand.

For me, Domestic violence is caused by poverty that cripples the man’s ability to provide for the family. The constant requests and demands to buy necessities for the family makes the man become irritated if he has nothing to offer to the family. This causes tension which leads to quarrels amongst t them hence leading to battering of the woman. And when the man refuses to provide for the family, the woman is left with no choice but to take on the responsibility of the children. And if she gets money from the few yields in the garden, and does not present the money to the husband to apportion it, this leads to violence. The man feels insecure. He does not feel a ‘boss’ anymore!

The other cause of Domestic violence is lack of trust between husband and wife, the man may not trust the woman or vice versa. This suspicion may cause misunderstandings, sometimes ending in violence. Lazy and drunkard fathers who demand for money from wives are another cause for violence. It is important to have both parents working, and respect each other.

Source: The other Voice , Uganda Media Women’s Association News Paper, October 2011.
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