"I told him to help me out so that I could sleep at his place for only that night and he accepted. During the night, he forced me, I did not want to but he raped me,"
By Bayan Nalubwama
According to the Ministry of Health, 25 percent of Ugandan teenagers become pregnant by the age of 19. Close to half are married before their 18th birthday and continue having babies into their mid-40s.
Apio Joslin (not real name) was nineteen when her boyfriend raped her and she became pregnant. She is now a mother to a one year old.
Growing up in Abim district, keeping safe as a girl and staying in school are some of life’s challenges Joslin has had to fight alone in order to survive.
“Life has actually been very hard. My parents separated when I was four years old. We were eight children and we stayed with my dad who got married again. Our step mother made our dad dislike us. I don’t even know the whereabouts of my siblings.
When I asked my stepmother why my parents separated, she said that my mother, under the influence of alcohol, stoned my brother’s head and he started bleeding. My father asked her to stop or else he would beat her but she did not listen. She ran away out of fear and she never looked back.” Apio recalls.
Living at the mercy of her stepmother, Apio’s father did not want to educate her, he always told her to first go to the garden and whenever she came back, Joslin said her father would send her away, sometimes on an empty stomach.
The situation however, never stopped her from school as she used every opportunity she got to work and collect money for her school fees.
“I was struggling to pay my school fees. I used to go to a public school where we only paid examination fees. I used to dig the roadside and that money helped to keep me in school. In primary seven, I could not afford the money needed so I went to my uncle who is a policeman, I explained my situation and he catered for all my primary seven expenses.” She narrates
“I performed poorly but I really wanted to continue with my education. I went to Nyakwai Seed Secondary School, the school fees was shs.170,000/=, I talked to the administrators and they agreed that I would fetch enough firewood on weekends which would be used during the course of the week. The firewood was to be used for my school fees. I started fetching firewood every Saturday.
Unfortunately, I went three times and they told me that the firewood I fetched was not enough to cook for children from Monday to Friday. They told me to stay home until I got school fees,” She continues to recall.
Tired of facing life alone, Apio decided to look for her mother who she met later in Abim. She was living with her friend but had not dropped her alcoholic habits.
“After reuniting with my mother in 2019, I wrote a letter to the Straight Talk Foundation requesting them to pay for my school fees. They took my letter and told me to wait. I waited until today, they have never called me.
Then again, I went to a certain woman in World Vision called Miss Jennifer. I again submitted my application and when they received my application ,they told me to get my results from my previous school which I did but since 2019, I haven’t gotten their feedback.” She narrates.
‘When I went to stay with my mum, alcohol had really taken over her system. She is the kind that drinks and quarrels and also pours food. One day she went, got drunk and found me cooking. I told her “Mother, today I have cooked and I don’t want you to go anywhere minus eating. Freshen up as I also finish preparing.” She went and picked the food from the charcoal stove and poured it in the compound. When I asked her what was wrong, she said “I don’t want anyone to cook here. Go and look for where you can cook.” The situation had repeated itself many times so I decided to leave because of stress.
I used someone’s phone and called my friend Grace who was already working in Kampala. I got to know Grace through my mum as she used to help in selling local brew that was made at Grace’s home in Abim. When I called Grace, she told me to board a bus and come to Kampala. I came and stayed with her in Namuwongo. She used to also stay with some woman who has three children plus a babysitter. I had to find a boyfriend to help me out with some needs,” She continued to tell.
Adding, “Time came and they got tired because I did not contribute anything. I told them I had applied for a cleaning job at Forest Mall and was only waiting for a response from the employers but they did not listen.
One night, they connived and chased me away at 8:pm. I told them to keep my clothes until I found a place to stay and they gave me the next day only. I picked only one bedsheet, went and slept at the Kanyogoga Police station. I told the policemen that I had nowhere to sleep because my sister had locked me out and I did not know the time she was coming back.
They let me sleep in the office and the next day, I went to my other friend Sharon who also lives in Namuwongo. I told her about my situation and she agreed to give me shelter. I also received a call from Forest Mall to go to work that day. They were paying shs.150,000/= per month with shs.10,000/= weekly allowance.
I don’t know why but after sometime, Grace told Sharon that I had plans of bringing my boyfriend to stay with us at her home. She got angry and started quarreling so I moved out. When I came back later, Sharon was inside the room with her boyfriend. I waited for over two hours and when they came out, I entered the room, collected my things and called my boyfriend.
“I told him to help me out so that I could sleep at his place for only that night and he accepted. During the night, he forced me, I did not want to but he raped me.” She reveals.
“The next day, I reported to work and my boss immediately realised something was wrong. I told her what had happened and she sympathised with me. I went and tested after one week and found out that I was pregnant. When I told my boyfriend about it, he advised me not to tell anyone and also, not to do an abortion. He however kicked me out of his house and ended the relationship.
I had met a good samaritan at Forestmall, her name is Miss Lydia and she is an optician. I went and talked to her and she paid for me three months rent for a room in Namuwongo. She also bought me household items. I hid from her that I was pregnant.
Later, she called me and said she wanted to take me to her mother’s home so that I could start a new life there, this is when I told her that I was pregnant. She was really disappointed. She used to help me with anything I asked and I think she felt betrayed because I did not open up to her. When I Call her, she responds and asks about the baby. She also told me to visit her at Forest Mall anytime.
My boss had discontinued me from my duties because according to her, bending to mop was risking my pregnancy and also, I had insulted a male employee who had shown interest in me,” She continues to reveal.
When She was left with two days to leave the room, Jeniffer reveals that she met pastor Opio in Namuwongo who was to become her next shelter provider.
“I met Pastor Opio while I was looking for something to eat, he asked me to meet him at his office later that day. I went to his office and explained my situation. He allowed me to sleep in the church where I stayed for like three to four months until Ronald Eligu of Touch The Slum (GAF) came and connected me to his mzungu friend Lyn Kiwanuka. They came and took me to Kira where I gave birth. We then shifted to Kyaliwajjala under the care of the Mzungu and after like a month, Lyn gave me money to go and spend Christmas with my family in Abim.
I went to the village and found my mother a little bit drunk but she pretended because I had warned her that If I found her drunk, I would leave. I stayed for over a month and I had learnt to endure her habits. I used to counsel her and she dropped the habit for a week. There is a friend of hers who always made sure she became her old self again.
When I came back to Kampala, Ronald called me and said I came to do tailoring so I left my mother unhappy because I need to work for a good life.” She concludes
Would you like to support Touch The Slum’s skills projects that are aimed at equipping young mothers like Jeniffer, please message us at firstname.lastname@example.org