Robina’s house is not a home, it is more like a tiny abandoned unfinished makeshift dwelling logged among bricks and roofed on one side. Mama Jane the lady I came with, goes and talks to Robina but address her as Mama Beni. Ben, a tiny little toddler runs towards me with his frail hands stretched and asks for a sweet, his Mother calls him back and lightly slaps his hands then apologizes to me. I ask if we could talk for a while and she gives me an irritated look, then turns and says; “What are you going to do with it? Sell me to some white people in some stupid magazine? I am not a peasant trying to ask for their help!” Mama Jane explained to her that I am not a journalist and as they spoke, Mama Beni’s face calmed a little then she motioned with her dainty but weathered finger for us to sit.
“Please don’t take any pictures of me or my son… I beg of you..” I stare right into her eyes; they were big beautiful ones, the kind I see in anime and saw the reminisce of a youth lost and gone, of innocence replaced by anger, pride and distrust. ”I once wanted to be a Nurse, you know work in Mulago, get money and marry a doctor, live in a beautiful house like every other girl. Right now I am packing my things to go back to the village with my son because my Grandmother just died and she left me a tiny plot where me and Beni will live from now on. At least that is a start…” She looks at the ring on my finger, looks at her hands, hides them under her over-sized blouse then asks me; “Are you married?” I replied in the negative and she smiled, “You look like those girls that have spent their lives on computers and big hotels…” I smile back at her and ask her how she ended up where she is. She laughs and continues; “Do I look 19 years old?” She stares at me for a long time waiting for the shock to sink in and I see tears forming in her big eyes.. she had aged fast for a young girl, I could not believe she was only 19. “We lived in Masaka, I was raised there and went to school, I was not as bright as all the other students but I was not failing through. My father could fairly pay fees with the other 11 children around, but my Mother wanted better for me. One day I and a friend of mine went for an Eagle’s show and I met this wonderful guy. He was so different from the other village boys, he was sweet and quite respectful, we spoke throughout the whole concert then he later dropped me home, he had a boda you know so it was a huge deal for me. After that night, we met every evening and he would tell me about his plans about moving to Kampala, about making money and buying land in the village. I was excited and I thought I was in Love..
One day he said he wanted to take me a long, that I would be his wife and we would live together. I didn’t want to go but I said I would think about it. The next time we met, we did it in the bush near home, I did not know what we were doing but he talked me through it. A month went by and I didn’t see him then another month, I got his number from his friend and they told me he is in Kampala. I thought I was doomed, I had missed my periods twice and he was no where. There was this pit in my stomach that didn’t seem to go away and my Mother was noticing then she finally lamented to me about how I had disappointed her, my Father noticed too. He chased me out of his house “since I had chosen to be a Parent..” My Grandmother, had a kind heart she took me in and gave me some money for a while. I boarded a bus to Kampala and called him, he was excited to see me of course till I told him, I was pregnant. He told me to sleep over and go back to the village after that, I pleaded with him but he refused to relent. I stayed of course by force; when I gave birth he walked out two days after and a month later the landlord kicked me out with no place to go and a baby, I walked around the village till the old lady who owns this place let me stay in this house. I have lived here for a while now, It has been horrible. This is not how I wanted my life to be, I see how all the ladies on the village look at me. I am the cautionary tale they tell their daughters. If I could turn back time, I would not have given in. I would happily stay in Masaka maybe I would be joining University right now, I do not know if I love my son but he is all I have right now.
I think I cried when while walking back home that day, I thought about how many young girls have gone through such or even worse because of unplanned pregnancies and some die trying to abort or during childbirth. Let’s help end teenage pregnancies in Uganda by joining the the campaign under the Straight Foundation’s Youth Enterprise Model which helps equip youths and everyone in society with youth friendly information on sexual health and development. Teenagers are not meant to be Parents, they are children too.
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