by Pru Nyamishana
Meet Nabiseera (not her real name), she asked me not to reveal her true identity, an eighteen year old mother. This mother of a five year-old called out to me as I walked through one of Kampala’s poorest areas.
“You guys registered us but we have not heard from you since,” she queried.
I scratch my head uneasily; I am a little bit embarrassed because I do not have an appropriate answer to give this young girl. Oh by the way I needed us to sit down somewhere and talk, I said. That marked the beginning of our conversation.
I wanted to talk to Nabiseera because after slipping through some files I discovered she had had a child when she was 13.
When I asked about this, she smiled slightly and cleared her throat.
“At thirteen I conceived and by my fourteenth birthday, I was a mother. By then I used to stay with my family in our one room. My mother told me that if I managed to bear a child that means I am old enough to also fend for myself,” Nabiseera narrated.
She had no choice.
“Deep in my heart I knew that she was right, I had to start working hard, yah I am a hard working woman,” she proudly says.
Nabiseera survived by frying cassava chips for a living even with the little capital.
“Well, I have to pay rent for my room which is Ushs. 15000 (USD7) a month. But there are months when I cannot raise that money, when things are really tight. But I thank God for my Landlord, he is reasonable he says that I can pay him whenever I get the money. “
Half way through the conversation we are interrupted, her son is sick with malaria.
She tells me she does not have even a coin to take the boy to the hospital. There’s hardly any free medical care in Uganda and most Ugandan pay out of their pockets for treatment of common diseases like malaria.
Nabiseera tells me they used to get free treatment sometime ago from some organizations but the help stopped coming-one of the five year projects.
From these organizations, she would get beddings and sometimes maize flour and ARVs for HIV positive people.
When she mentions one of the organizations, I am come to realise that she’s living with HIV/AIDS.
As if she got the puzzle on my face she says, “Yes, I am infected, these TASO (The AIDS Support Organisation) people have really been helpful, and I should be dead by now.”
I was curious I wanted to know the story of the father of her child.
“I have never seen him since he made me pregnant. I don’t even think he knows that he has a child. And I don’t want to get married, men are all the same,” She says.
Her attention is on her life and her child, Nabiseera has seen enough friends in the neigbourhood nurse wounds from their husbands’ beating. Is it necessary?” she stared at me seeking affirmation but she tells me she has a boyfriend. She says she would better off if she was availed capital to start her own business.
“I am a hard working woman, but what fails me is the capital, and I do hope you can help. Anyway, let me go and attend to my customers, they want some cassava.”
She leapt off and held her son’s left hand; she disappeared behind the craggy wall.
Again I leave the slums with the same question, how many more people are living like this? I see campaign posters of politicians hanging on the walls promising heaven on earth, its campaign time here and no one will see them after the February elections.
Taking care of such girls needs collective effort, from members of the community and anyone out there that identifies with the plight of the child mother. The African girl initiative is committed to equipping such girls with entrepreneurial skills that will help them take care of themselves and their children.