The child mothers
Their stories are heartbreaking, their courage is unbelievable.
“My problems started when I was young. You see I was working in the gardens with my mother when the rebels came. I ran away but they chopped my mother up and killed her. I then lived with my step-mother who mistreated me and beat me. Where we lived it was unsafe to go to the road because of the rebels. One rainy day my step-mother forced me to go down the road to collect water. On the way I met the rebels. I tried to run away but they caught me and forced me to walk very far carrying heavy things.
We walked for three days and nights with no food or water until we arrived at a camp and were told to rest. There were many people of my age there. We were separated so the women were together and the men. The men took their tops off and the girls had to choose a t-shirt – that was the man you would be with. I chose a very big t-shirt and was given a very old man. If I refused him I would have been killed immediately. You were forced to do terrible things and if you refused you were killed or they chopped you into pieces. I gave birth to my firstborn when I was 13 years of age and stayed in the bush for a long time. One day there was a big fight between the rebels and government forces. I managed to escape but they shot my baby.”
The transformation from when we met the girls in 2011 to today is quite extraordinary.
We met these girls early in 2011 and couldn't walk away from them after hearing their stories and seeing these young teenage mothers who had suffered so much. There are currently 50 girls in the group. They formed their group in 2010 after discovering they all shared these things in common:
Abducted by the rebels
Forced into marriage as children
What we are doing
We worked out how the girls could be supported by being mentored by another group close by.
Farming: We advanced them enough seeds to grow an acre of beans each and move to commercial group farming.
Paper Beads: We arranged for the girls to be taught how to make jewelry from beautiful paper beads. On each visit we buy some, paying the girls the price they ask (and if it is lower than the retail price in the tourist shops in Kampala we increase the price). We then sell the beads in the UK to raise funds for our projects.
Football: We suggested they set up a football team. They now win tournaments and train every week. There was a visit by 4 football coaches from Burnley Football Club – who also provided enough shirts for each girl to have one! The wonderful NGO Kit Aid also provided us with enough shirts and shorts for the team.
Sewing machines: The kindness and generosity of Beverley Jenkins in the UK meant that we could buy nine sewing machines for the girls. They now make bags, clothes and have secured contracts with 4 local primary schools to make their uniforms!
Saving Scheme: They have also formed a saving and lending scheme, which is helping pay for roofs for their homes, school fees and the paper and materials for the beads.