Prison was my place of redemption

Prison was my place of redemption

Gloria Acan Photo credit Advance Afrika

Gloria Acan gazed at the prison cell wall wondering when this ordeal would be over. She remembered the sound of the magistrate’s hammer when he sentenced her to six months in prison. She had appeared in court three times before. She had prayed that the magistrate would have mercy on her and allow her to take care of her three children. Now, she was certain that everybody was right about her being a pathetic mother.

Her life had been like a free fall; the magistrate’s hammer was rock bottom – She dropped out of school at senior 4, a marriage gone sour at 20, here she was at 22 in jail.

“When I was four months pregnant with my second child, he went on a ‘work trip’ and never returned. He had told me that he could never take me to his parents’ home because they could never accept an Acholi girl.”

For a girl in her village, if she hadn’t completed school, a man with some property was her way out. A year later, she met a man of her own tribe that seemed to love her and her two children.

“He owned land, he introduced me to his family and he wasn’t embarrassed to have me like the first Munyakole man that had disappeared.” She said.

This love affair soon came to an end when the man started to drink alcohol.

“My husband was drinking all the time, and every time he drunk, he beat me. One day, we were attending his relative’s funeral when he started to beat me up in front of mourners. It is like he enjoyed humiliating me. People came running towards us and pulled him away from me. Those that witnessed the scene at the funeral cautioned me that he was going to kill me if I didn’t leave him.” She said.

She left him.

“Life was hard when I left him. Our child was five months old.” She said

After what seemed like series of endlessly failed business ventures, she decided to take her last child who was eight months then to his father. His father, in turn, took the child to St Jude a foster home in Gulu town. Before St Jude takes on a child, they inform the police. The police started to investigate and ended up jailing Acan for child abandonment.

Close to three months into her time in prison, the prison warden came with an announcement. A civil society organization called Advance Afrika was conducting a rehabilitation and economic empowerment of inmates and ex-inmates in Northern Uganda to prepare them for life after prison.

“I must have been the first one to apply.” She said. “I prayed day and night that I would be selected for the training program. My gut told me that this might be an opportunity for a second chance in life.”

The organization conducted an interview, where she mentioned that she was interested in studying business skills. After a few weeks, they came back to announce the participants. She had been selected.

“I was excited. It never occurred to me that prison would be my place of redemption – the skills that they taught me I could never have learned from anywhere else. I paid all the attention that I could afford to the teachers that were teaching us.”

In May this year, she was released.

“On May 23rd, a social worker from Advance Afrika gave me a bale of second-hand clothes as start up kit. The first time I went to the market, my sales were 150,000 Ugx. Everything has turned around for me.” She smiled. “My children are in school. I got my son back, from St Jude. I can afford to pay rent. I hope to purchase land soon and build a home for my children. I am not in a hurry to get married again because I want to go back to school. I am not the same woman that walked into that prison cell.”

The Worst is over

The Worst is over

Just after a storm: Source Internet.

This is the fifth story in the series of elite women that have overcome toxic marriages and relationships. I listen as she shares with me her story of loss, abuse and the fight to overcome.

In my eyes, the path for my future was well paved out it was clear and very bright. But there are occurrences in this life journey that can either destroy you or leave you stronger. Sometimes taking the next breath  is a choice you have to make. In 2010, the death of my aunt was the tide that turned the course of my life. She had taken me in when I was eight after the loss of my parents. Many thought that she was my biological mother because she treated me as such. She had me and her one biological son. At the funeral, we were surrounded by relatives and friends that spoke nice things of how they were going to take care of us. I was in senior four when she passed away. When the funeral was over we went back to our house in Ministers’ village Ntinda.

Since my aunt was married off, they said that we were being raised by another clan as tradition. So the clan members to my Aunt’s husband came held a meeting and they gave us days to leave the house. That is when my mom’s cousin come in gave us transport and we left for the village.

They removed us from of the good schools because they couldn’t afford them. When I was in senior six, I kept defaulting on school fees. It is at this time that I met a man.  He was 29 and I was 18. He showered me with love. He was like a God send. He offered to pay my senior six school fees, upkeep, and all other needs. When I completed senior six, he asked me to move in with him. I was now 19 and I felt that I could handle a marriage relationship.

My cousins, uncles told me that I was making a terrible mistake but all their appeals fell on deaf ears. The first few months were an extension of the bliss. In February, my results were released and I had scored 17 points. Since I was studying arts, this wasn’t enough to get me a government scholarship, but I was certain that my man would help me. In the same month, I got pregnant, what was supposed to be good news started causing hostility. We argued every day until our baby boy arrived. I was so distracted that I didn’t even apply for a course at the University so that had to be a dead year. After the baby arrived, the arguments escalated into physical abuse.

one day, he got my phone and started going through all the received calls of that day the last call was from a male voice he knew that because he called all the numbers when he heard a male voice on the other side of the line, he rained on me slaps and he picked a knife and cut off all the clothes I was wearing he was aiming to cut my private parts. I fought hard, I got up and started fighting for the knife he was aiming the knife so in the at my chest. I fought. I couldn’t allow the knife to pass through me. At this point, I was fighting for my life. He was holding me from behind that means I was in his arms. When he saw me not letting the knife that is when he off bit my ear. Look, he bit off my ear lobe.

I run for my life.

I went to Lira town where I rented a shack. Life was hard. I can’t count the times we went to bed hungry. Everything was a luxury.

When my child turned two, I frequented Lira district head quarters in search for tuition sponsorship opportunities- asking whether there was anyone that could help pay my tuition at the University. My results impressed the officers that saw them but they said that they could not do anything about it. I reached out to some of my aunt’s friends that I could remember some of whom were in high places- most of them couldn’t even remember me. I approached my area MP to help me.

After months of my pestering, he said that a friend of his – Hon Daudi Migereko had the arrangement to help girls that had passed A level exams but didn’t have any financial support. When I approached Hon. Migereko, he agreed to help only if the area MP too contributed. I applied to the University and in 2015, I was admitted at Kyambogo University.

I couldn’t go with my son to the hostel so I took him to his father. That was the last time I saw my child. I am not allowed to see him. I have just joined the third year. For two years, I have been barred from seeing my kid. Even when I send clothes and toys, I am told that they are thrown away. He has told me that as long as he lives, I will never see my son again. I miss my boy. This is the first time I am opening up about this but talking to you makes me feel like a burden has lifted off my shoulders. I hope that someday, my family members can accept me again. Right now, I am on my own, when the other students go to their homes, I stay at the hostel. From my internship, I have been retained now I have a job that I will do alongside school. If only I can have my son back. But I am glad that slowly my path is beginning to light up again.

Walking Away

Walking Away

When she heard that I was profiling stories of elite women that have overcome abusive relationships on my blog, she had already written her story and was waiting for a platform to share it. for the past four weeks, I have had the privilege of hosting elite women on my blog to tell their stories of victory from abuse. As I edited this story, it personally spoke to me as a single woman. She articulately narrates the pressure that society mounts on single women.

At 27, the pressure to get married was hiking. My age mates and those much younger than me were slowly settling in marriages and here I was without a boyfriend. “If I had not wasted my university days, may be I would have found a serious man to marry, I would be settling by now like my age mates”, I thought to myself. I had dated this boy since I was a fresh girl till the end of the third year at university. Our relationship was just a big joke that wasted my 3 precious years and led to a terrible heart break.

I joined the university with partial excitement, I had missed my dream course but at least I was glad to be in university, I didn’t have a clear purpose for my life, and the devil was soon going to use this purposelessness to bring me down. I had studied from a single girls’ Christian school where Jesus was being preached day in and day out, I had gotten this relationship with Christ, but albeit not so strong a relationship. The bible would describe me as lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. Revelations 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth”.  Had I been pure cold, may be then I would have enjoyed the things that the world offers, (clubbing, dating rich married men, and “enjoying a life of the sort”), but poor me, I have missed out both on the worldly pleasures and the Godly blessings. Being lukewarm is not a place to be!

My first friend at the university was this beautiful, humble born again girl. From our interaction, I realised she had a boyfriend. From my former girls’ school, having a boyfriend was considered sinful; but here I was seeing this pretty girl with a boyfriend. “I would have a boyfriend and be like my friend”, I resolved. This wasn’t at all hard; I had 4 of my year mates pursuing me to be their girlfriend and 2 others off my campus. One of these pursuers went an extra mile, he was my friend, we attended the same class fellowship and he always came to my room to pick this other friend of mine (they were staying in the same hostel).

One day, he looked really perturbed; I had known him well to tell that he wasn’t fine. I asked him what the matter was to which he told me that he had just realised that his high school girlfriend (who went in a different university) had left him for another boy. I counselled him and told him that God would give him someone else, he had to let go, I didn’t know that by counselling him, I was scooping fire to my own laps. He soon started behaving funnily towards me. He inquired from my friend whether I had a boyfriend to which to the best of her knowledge, there was none. This gave him grounds to “launch his manifesto”.

One evening, they stormed my room with this friend of mine; the man in tears went on his knees, requesting me to be his girlfriend. He was sure he had ‘heard from God’ that I was the right one for him. I was confused and moved with compassion at the same time. I come from a tribe where kneeling is done only for God, seeing a man kneel for me was so strange. I told him I would pray about it and give him an answer. Every time I went to pray, I didn’t get any response from God. “How does God communicate?” I wondered. My friend, on the other hand, was also praying for us and she surely got no revelation. Just because I wanted to have a boyfriend, like my friend, I decided I would give it a try. The relationship was a huge joke. I felt absolutely nothing for this boy, I didn’t know how it felt to be in love. I thought I was abnormal, I can’t recall the number of times I tried to break off the relationship, every time I did, this boy would cry uncontrollably, and moved with compassion, I would reconsider my decision. Long story short, he soon ended the relationship but I felt bad  because I felt like I had wasted my three years.

By the fourth year, my friend was introducing her boyfriend to her mother; they would be wedding the following year. I attended her wedding; she was a beautiful bride on a beautiful rainy day. “If I had not wasted my years with that boy I would also be getting married soon”, the thought haunted me. I was at this time praying for a serious man to settle with. There is this particular one I was convinced was the one. He had all the qualities I would desire in a man; in addition, I had had several dreams about us together. I believed God still spoke in dreams since we see many examples in the bible that got to know God’s will through dreams (Joseph son of Israel, Joseph earthly father of Jesus, e.t.c). I prayed for him for two good years. No proposal came. I painfully gave up the struggle.

While the internal pressure was mounting, the external pressure from my own mom was also there. This is the person who never wanted me to go in a mixed secondary school for my high school, for fear of me interacting with boys, but here she was pestering me about marriage. “This God doesn’t seem to understand the pressures that I am dealing with, I will do things my own way”, I decided. I would date which ever man that was ready for marriage. The first one I got wanted me in bed before knowing my second name, he wouldn’t marry someone he hadn’t “tasted” and he would only be ready in 3 years. I let him go. There was this senior bachelor, I didn’t like him because he drunk alcohol. My sample size was only of worldly men. There was one Christian that was really interested in me but I honestly didn’t like him. Then soon, I landed my self in hell.

As I was busy searching for Mr.Right, I was also searching for a good business having recently read a book “poor dad rich dad” a book that clearly explains that it is hard to become rich through earning salary alone. In the quest for riches, the thought of starting a business at the university where I was teaching came in my mind. I thought of a photocopying machine that I was sure would make me money. The only way I would secure a place for my business was by seeing the estates director.  “Who sent you to me?” He asked I told him that no one has sent me. When I met him, he was with his wife heading home, he turned to her and said that he was sure it was God who had led me to him, he had all along admired me, and if he was to be a young man again, he would pursue me for himself until he marries me, but now that it was impossible, he was going to ensure that his own son marries me. I laughed hard, but at the same time, I was confused. Who in this era would get a wife for his son? I thought that this was a joke. He told me that he would do anything for me on condition that I accepted to marry his son that I hadn’t met. I told two of my colleagues, one told me to ignore the deal, and another one told me to play politics, “Who tells you that son doesn’t have a girl friend already?, Just play smart, get a place for your business”. I accepted the offer of the place, if his son appeared, I would know how to handle the situation.

One day, as I was chatting with this mature lady (relative) who had accommodated me before I got a place of my own, our conversation led to her asking me whether I had a boyfriend. I told her about this strikingly handsome man who seemed too eager for the bed. I told her of a senior bachelor that I didn’t like and then somehow told her of the conversation that I had with the estates’ director, wanting me for his son. But as far as I was concerned, I didn’t have a boyfriend at the moment. She counselled me that in a girls’ life there are times suitors are many and after some time, they all disappear, she advised it wouldn’t be good to put off all men just like that. She requested to meet this other guy who seemed so eager, but then she said she would also investigate on my behalf this director’s son. She thought it was better for me to go in a known family than date a stranger. The next time we met, she didn’t want to hear about my stranger stories.

She had done her research and was assured that this director’s son was a “good guy”. I told her that this whole thing was his father’s idea, whether good or bad, he had his own tastes and preferences, to which she intercepted that no man in his proper mind would refuse a girl like me. I was slowly settling for shit. My other mature workmate who knew this boy so well told me that he was a “good boy”. He had been like an older brother to her son while at Ntare School and he also taught in her husband’s school during his senior 6 vacations. She told me how the husband was fond of him because finding a student far away from home committed to church was uncommon. Was God finally answering my prayers as regards a marriage partner? We soon met with this guy that would be my husband. There were no butterflies, no chemistry, and no nothing. We both had studied from the same university, but we had never crossed each other’s paths. A little inquiry from his classmates told me that he wasn’t a bad boy. “I will settle with this man”, I told myself; that would bring to an end all these internal and external pressures. His father took the lead in preparing for the wedding.

“I am in love”, I told one of my close confidants. she discouraged me because the guy was a Seventh-day Adventist. I would not let this man go because of mere religion. My friend’s pleas fellow on deaf ears. I didn’t give a damn about what she thought; I just wanted to get married!

She wasn’t the only one that discouraged me, there was this female doctor who warned me that I was bound to be cheated on if I went ahead and married this guy. At the climax of it all, my friend gave me this movie “WHY DID I GET MARRIED”. In this movie, there was this particular lady who wasn’t loved at all by her husband. He would bring in girls in their matrimonial home, right under her nose. When she had had it all, she divorced the guy, the guy married his mistress and they later had issues. Luckily enough, this other unlovable woman got a loving man who married her and made her forget her former problems. My friend hoped by watching this movie, I would change my mind about this WORST decision, but I didn’t; Ooh I did change my mind a number of times, a month after our engagement, I was sure that I wanted to break off the engagement, I was convinced that my fiancée was marrying me to honour his father’s choice but not because he loved me, I let him know what I was planning,  he came and assured me that irrespective of the fact that his father saw me first, he had grown to love me. One week before the traditional kuhingira, there were all these ‘red flags’ (his dependence on his father to make all decisions, some funny family dynamics, e.t.c). I cried uncontrollably, I called this lady who had acted as our “go between”, I told her that I wanted to end “this whole thing”, and she was like, “don’t be stupid, how do you end the relationship when it is only one week to the wedding?” Then on my wedding day, I felt this strong urge not to say the vows, deep inside, I felt I was doing the wrong thing, I am generally the smiling type, but smiling was hard to come by that day. I thought of saying “No, I don’t”, instead of “Yes, I Do”, but then there were all these people from my village, and the thought of making the news headlines the following day, may be weeks or months and years (BRIDE DENOUNCES GROOM ON WEDDING DAY) crossed my mind, it would be weird, what would all these people think of me? Especially the ones from my village? I surely would be the talk of the village. Oh, how I wish I had done it that day. It would have saved me all the heartache I have had to endure all these years. The news would be in archives by now, and I would either be living happily single rather than endure the hell I have been through. I have had to share my teenage house maids as my co-wives and a bunch of many other nasty things that I would equate to what was taking place in Sodom and Gomorrah.

When I was supposed to be celebrating 8 years marriage anniversary, I was instead filing for divorce. Actually, for the 8 years of marriage, we had spent 6 years miles away from each other, and in those 6 years, my ex-husband used  “to change women like pants”. I had been more or less single, though married on paper. But what took me all this long to make the decision to quit? When I am well conversant with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7: 15, “but if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace”, It took me longer because I didn’t want to suffer the shame that I thought accompanies being divorced, it is a social disgrace.  And also I kept hoping after hope that if I stayed maybe he would change and we build a home together. My friends who were concerned about my failing marriage gave me this Christian literature that would teach me how to become a Godly wife, but no amount of trying could change this guy.  Then after realizing that he was never going to change, I was advised to pretend and stay around until I snatch back the money that I had invested in the awful marriage. Like Lot’s wife, I kept looking back, I didn’t like what I was doing, but I told my self, if only I could get my money back, then I could quit for good. The final straw was when I read his Facebook and WhatsApp messages he shared with his mistress discussing our sex life, it was too much for me that I couldn’t take it anymore. If the divorce meant that I lose all the things I had invested, then be it, at least I would regain my esteem with time.

I would choose to live single for the rest of my life than be in the kind of marriage I have been through. It is surprising that I would end up with a man that treats me like crap as if I was the worst of the worst. There is a saying that “experience is the best teacher only for the fools”. I have been a fool, but you don’t have to go through what I have gone through to learn a lesson.

I am free and forgiven but the consequences of a wrong choice do remain; taking care of the children as a single mother and the constant worry of whether their father’s immorality will catch up with them when they become grown up men.

To the single girls and boys, my advice to you is not settling for less than what God has promised. Husbands are instructed to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? To the point of death! Yes, that’s God’s standard, that this man should lay his life for you. If he’s not treating you right, with respect and love before he marries you, he’s not going to all of a sudden change after marriage. But the truth is that no man or woman can love the other like this unless they know the Lord, for God is love and is the only source of love. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1John 4:7. Religion or going to church and trying to be/do good doesn’t cut it but fully trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross and having a relationship with Him. My husband too was and still is religious; goes to church on Saturday and even led a Bible study (what a joke!). So don’t be deceived by external things like this but rather look for a changed heart which will be manifested in character. A person who knows Christ has a changed life that is different from the ways of the world. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.2 Corinthians 5:17, so anyone who claims to be in Christ yet stays the same, behaves the same etc is a liar. But a life that has been transformed is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22.

someone said to me, “When you marry the right person, there is nothing like it! And when you marry the wrong person, there is nothing like it!” Another person said, “There are worse things in life than not being married, like marrying the wrong person.”

 

Side Note: Are you an overcomer of an abusive relationship and would like to share your story? Please share  to encourage those that are stuck in these toxic relationships. Get in touch with me at nyapru@gmail.com I would like to tell your story.

 

I have never healed

I have never healed

I met her at a meeting in Nairobi in 2015, she is bubbly, we stayed in touch through Facebook. When I called out to elite women to share their stories of victory against abuse, she inboxed me admitting that she was not sure whether she had really overcome, I told her to share anyway. She had written something about her experience but never had the guts to share it really and all I needed to do was to review.

Fresh at the university, I met James in March 2011 through my cousin Denis. I was a virgin that knew neither trust nor love.

My trust was leaning on the fact that Denis and I were close.  I held onto the old adage that “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are” besides my physical eye, I could not see beyond the man that I was attracted to and that he was 29 and eight years my senior didn’t matter.

He visited me in Nakuru on a number of weekends but never ever suggested anything like sex or even romance. My trust increased. He told me that he wanted me to finish school and we would take the relationship to another level. He was simply perfect. We went out on a couple of dates- a few drinks here and there but never did we share a bed.

One day, during his visits he drunk a little too much and an argument ensued. He slapped me. He apologised profusely and even cried for forgiveness. I was in love so I forgave but I never forgot. I had started seeing skin deep. That was in August of the same year. In September, he slapped me again over a simple argument but still, I forgave him.

In December 2011, I went to my rural home in Kisii for my grandfather’s funeral. We agreed to meet because that was his home, where he lived in his house alone. We met at a local club and he had his few drinks before we departed. As we left the club, I was quite sober but he was tipsy. We got into the car and his driver was supposed to drop me home then drop him. He instructed the driver to take us to his house first then later I would be dropped. I tried to resist but his driver could only take his instruction.

We went.

The alarm in my mind went off when his driver left. He (James) locked the gate and all the doors and kept the key. From the time we arrived at about 7.30pm at 9.05pm, there was an uneasy silence. My phone didn’t have credit. We did not say a word to each other. (I will never forget this) at 9.06pm, I asked him to drop me home instead of us sitting quiet and staring in the air. For heaven’s sake, it was my grand father’s funeral.

I didn’t know that my question was fuel on flames. He gripped my head, pulled my hair and pressed my head to the floor. He stepped on my head thrice and hit me with a big stick. I have no idea where that stick came from.

I felt like I was bleeding from every part of my body. I cried and screamed but no one could hear me. It was the only house in the compound. He began to wipe my blood. At around 11 pm, he told me that it was time to sleep. He showed me the bedroom –  I slept on the bed and him on the floor. This time, he was not sorry.

I kept crying. After over two hours, he suddenly stood up from the mattress he was sleeping on. He came towards the bed, he tied my hands to the bed and he raped me. This is stamped in my memory. I will never forget this day. I pinched myself to see if I wasn’t having a bad dream that I could somehow wake up from.

Morning came, he forced me into the bathroom to clear any evidence from the rape then told me to leave his house. I took a cab to attend my grand father’s funeral. I was embarrassed. After the funeral, I stayed indoors. I don’t know where he is, I don’t really want to know.

To cover up my hurt, I started to attend the gender meetings at campus, the leaders would tell give us messages to take to victims, I never opened up because I didn’t want to be the girl that wears the scarlet letter on her forehead. I started hard and graduated. I am a working woman woman but my trust was robbed. That dark day is engrained in my memory.

This is the first time in 6 years speaking out about this ordeal. I have never healed – I have never talked to anyone about this. It kills me every day. But I have dedicated my time to helping others heal and along the way I hope I can find my own healing.

Back then I did not know anything or any legal action.  I would take but today am empowered and I encourage other women to not keep quiet about such issues But what is love again?

 

Coming out on the other side

Coming out on the other side

Photo Credit: BigStock

My friend texted me after she had read the “Happily Never After” story that I featured on this blog last week. She asked whether I was only writing about Ugandans that had overcome abusive relationships and I told her that if I got an opportunity to interview those outside Uganda, I would definitely take it on. She told me that she had written her story it was on her computer but she hand not shared it on any of her  platforms. Being the brilliant person she is, I knew that she would tell the story more than I ever could. Here is her story of overcoming from an abusive relationship.

Sometimes when you want something so badly, when you get it, you want to hold on to it forever. That was the case with me and what I thought then was my soul mate. In my second year at the university, 21-year-old me, in the process of exiting a relationship with one of those boys your mother says never to date, I met him. He was funny, broody at times, confident, and as far as looks go by, not bad. In my mind, he was a major upgrade from my soon to be ex. He was a friend’s friend; a team player and we soon became inseparable.

He told me he had slapped a girl once before when he was at varsity. He said that he really hadn’t meant to but she had pushed him and he apologized. I believed people could change and of course, I would never let that happen to me. I fell in love. I had found the one person I could be completely honest with.

Funny thing is that I didn’t see this as a warning coming from the horse’s mouth, I never heeded the warning, eyes wide open I found myself in a relationship with an abuser. It started with the comments meant to break down my confidence “what good will come out of that degree you are studying” I took it as a joke. “Look at her, that one can be very stupid sometimes” but I thought he was just teasing.

This extended to the flat out denial, when it suited him, that were not together. All these things said in front of close friends, and It didn’t occur to me that he was trying to publicly shame me. I did not think it was said in a way to hurt me-he loved me, surely we were just joking. Things escalated from emotional tormenting to physical abuse.

The first time I remember quite vividly. A few hours before my best friend’s birthday celebrations, I found myself pinned on my bed, rationalizing with a man who had just spat on me not to land the fist hovering over my eye he still needed to go to work and I had to make it to my friend’s birthday. This was over a cell phone I had dropped by mistake. That was the culmination of the violence and I realized the person I was with. The apology came with lines of I did not deserve to be treated like that, and I thought it would never happen again.

People ask you why you never left the first time? Why did you allow yourself to stay? It’s not like you were married or he owned the house you were staying in. For two and a half years. I had wanted it to work so badly because he got me – I was literally dangerously in love. Sometimes we have to let our guard down and be vulnerable with people, but we choose the wrong people. Every time I took him back, it meant I lost a little bit of myself.

Over two years, I negotiated situations and avoided triggers, I learnt to read this man to avoid the punches. I felt like it was my fault that on a night out he couldn’t find me so he choked me for leaving him at the club. This was on my birthday. He had missed my birthday dinner, then showed up drunk to the dancing afterwards. He found me waiting for him as he had called to say he was on his way. I remember the necklace I was wearing being ripped off my neck. When people pulled him away from me, I ran to the nearest cab and went home.

I fought back. I had taken him back after a long separation which included a move to a different country. In his reconciliation visit, a blow meant for me landed on my friend. I felt more rage that he had attacked her and went after him. Suffice to say, I came out worse. I fell and got kicked in the face. It took a couple of guys who I am forever grateful to intervene and pull him off me.

When my friend begged me to go to the police station, I did not report him but instead the police took me home. I was always making excuses to make sure he did not have to be held accountable.

My friend once said after I took him back, “We are going to bury you after he does something to you.” Now that was the literal rock bottom. I was 23 and I was devastated that the man I loved would not change. I thought that I could save him from his own issues. It took a long time for me to comprehend the fact I did not do anything to provoke him.

With time, prayer, friends, determination to become the first graduate in my family and saw me through. I am a believer in God and at my lowest he saved me.

Some will ask why did he not intervene in the middle of it all? How do you save someone who refuses to take your hand? We all need one friend that holds us accountable.

I had the opportunity to figure things out myself, something I never thought I would be able to do. I have not lived in the same country as my abuser in the last years so I could forget him. The thing with coming out alive is sometimes the elements come together and work in your favour where you never have to be in the same space or breathe the same air with a man who made you question your worth.

In the end, the biggest lesson I have learnt is that there is no type cast for who gets abused. A man or woman uncomfortable in their own skin will seek some form of power over another. For the man who abused me, he chose to vent his demons on me. I am able to share my story not seeking self-pity but to help who ever needs to hear it. Thankfully my pain made me strong and gave me the determination to rise against the odds.

 

Happily Never After

Happily Never After

 For some Ugandan women, the case of happily ever after is a tale that has remained in the story books and Telemundos. Violet watched as the man she fell in love with became a monster, hoping against hope that he would change. I listened intently as Violet narrated her story to me.

“Ours was love at first sight, he was the storybook tall, dark, and handsome or at least that is what I thought. It was two years after graduation.  Long story short, we got married. A few months later, I was pregnant. He was responsible and I had no doubt that he loved me.  When the child was born, I noticed that he started staying out late with his friends.  I brought up the issue and he instead brought his friends home every day of the week – they ate all the food in the house. This became an issue.

When I finally got a salaried job, he stopped buying food or anything for the house.

We were arguing one day I don’t remember about what when he slapped me, I slapped him back. He kicked me, pulled my hair and hit me with every object his hands could touch. He was like a rabid dog. I thought that it was a one off, but later, it became routine. In the morning, he would apologise and tell me that he did it because of the alcohol and that he would never do it again. I clung to every word that he said.

I was tired of neighbours’ peeking eyes that pried the nightly scuffles. I secured a salary loan from the bank, bought a piece of land and started to build a house. We moved into the house in an isolated place outside town.

I wanted to stay married because I didn’t want my friends and relatives to know that I was fighting with my man. For a few years, we had been the perfect couple.  When my boy was three, the fighting intensified. At 3:00 am, he would return home drunk, and chase all of us away from home – My kids, my maid and  we would spend the rest of the night in the bush.

I thought enough was enough. I called my father to mediate. My husband told my father to take me away with him. My father asked me to go back home with him. I refused. I was hoping that he (my husband) would change. He was a different person when he wasn’t drunk. It is like they were two people. I clung onto the good sober person that I had fallen in love with. I turned my eyes to church to pray for him. I prayed for peace for my in the family, I prayed for peace to grease my heart. The peace for my heart was an illusion. I dragged him to church, they prayed for him I didn’t see the results for months until he got saved. We savoured some peace.

Those few months when he ‘got saved’, I decided to have another child. I was six months pregnant when he started to drink again. He started beating me, he would strangle me, urinate on the bed, and sometimes even shit on the bed.  Yes, you heard right a grown man defecating on our marital bed. I would be expected to wash up the mess in the morning.  I cannot count the times he said that he hated me.

I thought that he would change. Often, I went to work with a black eye. At work, it was an open secret that I was being battered. Where was I supposed to go?  I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere not even at my parents’ home. I was scared of the gossip of the villagers. I was stuck. I decided to stay. I felt like no one would truly understand my predicament.

The day I gave birth to our second son, my husband didn’t show up at the hospital. He texted me saying that there was no food at home. He had been fired from his job because of alcohol.

One day, I was coming from fieldwork on a dirt path that leads to my home, I saw two people wiggling in the grass, I requested the company driver that was dropping me home to switch on the full headlights. The driver turned on the headlights. I quickly asked him to switch them back to normal, because I noticed that it was my husband on top of a woman – a village drunk. We all knew her in that village as that woman who got drunk every day. I was speechless but my mind was racing. That was the last straw. I got home, bade the company driver goodbye. My mind went blank. I sunk into the couch.  Checked on the kids. I paced. I couldn’t sleep. I was losing my head. About three hours later, he knocked at the door. I refused to open. I told him to sleep outside. He banged the door as if he would break it with his bare hands. I placed the kids and the maid in one room. There was silence- a calm like one before a storm. My mind was telling me that he would kill me. I tiptoed and unbolted the door and I run back locking myself in the room with the kids. A few minutes later, he fell inside the house when he came  back to bang the door with force.  He snarled and yelled, threatening to kill us if he lay his hands on us. This was the last straw.

When he fell asleep, I packed my stuff. I waiting for dawn and I left never to look back. Leaving everything behind, I had lost my job already. I had nothing left to fight for.  I had saved up some money, I started a business. I didn’t have time for a pity party. Driven by the determination to work hard for my children, I moved on.

When I left him,  I started to talk about the abuse. I didn’t care who listened to my story, I told it to everybody like a broken record. It is only when I started to speak out that I realised that silence was the key to the handcuffs. When I broke the silence that had held me captive, my friends started to counsel me, my family received me and accepted me. By God’s grace, I started to heal. I am still healing. It has been five years since I started the healing journey.

The consequences of his actions live with us. One of my boys the other day was diagnosed with severe anxiety and has had sleeping disorders since he was three.

At first, he (my ex) would call promising to send school fees for the kids, I would wait for the school fees in vain. I stopped waiting for him when I realised that his empty promises were one of the ways to keep himself relevant in our lives.

I have moved on since. My business is doing very well and I can take care of myself and my children. He is just a past chapter in my life.  I love my boys, I will work to the very last drop of my sweat to give them a good future. To the women that are stuck in abusive marriages, there will always be signs, leave the relationship when the signs begin because changing a grown up is hard.”

 

Side Note: Are you an overcomer of an abusive relationship and would like to share your story? Please share  to encourage those that are stuck in these toxic relationships. Get in touch with me at nyapru@gmail.com I would like to tell your story.

The elephant

The elephant

To tame an elephant, catch it young or make sure that it is born in captivity, she will never know her power. You will use her in the circus to entertain humans, You will ride on her the safari to see other animals, You will use this elephant as crane for construction projects, and you can use her in religious festivals like the Asians do.

This elephant will never know the power her African cousin wields.

She will not know that her African cousin is the real king of the jungle. She will not know that her African cousin’s one kick is enough to knock out  that preying lion that is trying to eat her calf, She will never know how the Matriarch of the savannah gracefully leads the herd.

This story of the elephant reminds me of the free expression story of Uganda.

The suppression is steady but sure. From the banning of the ebimeeza (citizen forums) and the birth of disclaimers on radio stations that the ‘views aired on this radio station are not necessary those of this radio station.’ I chuckle every time that statement comes through my radio after a heated political debate. Those that make up the largest percent of the Uganda’s population probably scantily remember or not at all the ebimeeza.

This same generation that was brought up by a bunch of cautious individuals.

I was watching a Jesus movie with my father recently when he told me that the Kiboko they gave Jesus reminded him of his own by the Obote 11 army at Makekenke barracks in 1980.

“Can I write your story dad?”

“No, please don’t.”

“But it is an amazing story.”

“No.” He sternly said.

The topic closed and our eyes were glued back to the movie we were watching but I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want me to write the story.

So, we were brought up by a generation that didn’t sleep. The trauma of constant coups and conflict lives with them. They will do anything to have that good night sleep. A thing that millennials cannot comprehend.

When the Ebimeeza were banned, life moved on like normal.  But After the walk to work protests, and the Buganda riots, the 9th parliament passed the Public Management Order Act passed with ease in 2013. For public interest was the reason, this law gives power to the Inspector General of Police to use his discretion to allow a public gathering. What if the IGP is in a bad mood?

That meant that Ugandans could no-longer access the city square without permission. You know this is the only green area in the Kampala central business district. The city has no parks where lovers hold hands to muse over their new love on a bench in the evening as they gaze at the stunning Kampala sunsets.  When the Kampala afternoon sun is fierce and you want to catch a breath on a park bench, this green area is no place for you. We quickly got used to the fact that the square doesn’t belong to us but rather to the Kalolis and the police guys.

Who needs the green grass and the sunset over Mapeera house when this is the digital age? We can make as much noise as we want nn our phones, after all, the digital age had dawned on us. We convinced ourselves that we would tweet, Facebook, WhatsApp all we wanted only to realize that can only happen on other days apart from days like the election day.

Ugandans are dull, Ugandans are terrible at active citizenship, why are Ugandans docile? are some of the harsh indictments that I hear from people of other nationalities and Ugandans alike. Before you judge us, understand us. We are on a leash. Our locks cut like Samson, our fangs removed, our will stripped like the Asian elephant.

 

 

“I have a plan”

“I have a plan”

” I have ever made 100 dollars. You know how? Someone hooked me up with a white man at the Sheraton that wanted my services, he was going to pay me well. I was 19 and I was hot. I thought 20,000 shillings maybe. So I put on my best clothes and there I was at the Sheraton. When I was done giving him the service, he told me to pick from a bundle of money in his coat pocket. I had never seen such money before.  So, I went to that forex bureau at the casino that operates all night. When I exchanged the money, it was about two hundred something thousand shillings. Well, I don’t remember exactly but all I know is it was a lot of money. I was happy. I rented a new place, bought a plastic carpet, bought new covers for my 2-inch mattress and a kerosene stove. But rumor moves quickly around here. One of the popular guys Hamza said that he wanted to talk to me in private. He took me to that other side of Bwaise where there is a boxing club. He took me to a room. I thought he wanted sex. No, he wanted my money. He said that someone told him that I keep money in my knickers. That I cut my knickers, sew an extra cloth on top and hide money inside. Yeah its true but I had told one friend so clearly she didn’t keep the secret. We know each other around here so word goes around.

“Where is the money?” He asked.

“Which money?”

“They told me you made a lot of money.”

“I don’t have any money.”

I wanted to run, his one hand gripped my arm and the other reached for my knickers, he wanted to pull them off. He threw me down. He was on top of me. His one hand tugging at my knickers. He held my mouth, every time he released my mouth, I screamed. I was trying to tell him that I didn’t have the money. I had hidden the remaining money in the new stove that I had bought. He instead grabbed my mouth and my nose, I could feel life leaving me. I surrendered. I knew that was it. He suddenly released me and rushed out of the room. I didn’t tell anyone about what had just happened. I didn’t see Hamza for a long time. Years later, he came back, he asked to see me, he said that he wanted to apologize to me. I accepted to see him. He was splashing money around. I guess when he was away, he was robbing people, he was known here for terrorizing people in those rich neighborhoods. I hated him but I was scared that If I don’t go to see him, he might kill me. You know what? Hamza was killed last year while breaking into a woman’s house in Kazo.  The woman hit him with a metallic object on his head.  I sometimes dream about him and yet that was 2004.

I was 17 I when I came here. I deliberately refused to go to school. My mother wasn’t rich, but she could afford to take me to school. I wish I had an opportunity to tell the girls that deliberately refuse to go to school. I would tell them my story. But I guess the tears of my mother have cursed me. In the 13 years I have been here, I have never had peace. I have a man that I stay with, I stay with him because he protects me from rapists and people like Hamza. When I was pregnant with this baby, he used to beat me every night. Three days before giving birth, he threw me in that sewage stream. Everyone here knows me as  that woman who they beat every night. Our home was also a bar, he brought women, gave them beer from my bar and refused to pay. He went away with them and come back that following morning. When I gave birth, he played very loud music and continued to beat me.

I thank God that he lost his job. He had a job with KCCA to excavate rubbish stuck in sewage channels. When he lost the job, the beatings stopped and he doesn’t play loud music anymore. He sold the music system. Now he takes care of the baby when I have gone to work. Yeah, he knows the kind of work I do. When I come back home in the morning, he asks “Have you brought me something to eat?” Its OK I feed him, I feed the child too. I hope he doesn’t get a job soon because “esente zimuwaga” (money disturbs him).

I have plans, I am 32 but I tell everyone here that I am 30, please don’t tell them. Yeah, I have plans. I picture myself owning a salon, with big mirrors on the wall, two dyers in one corner, those nice white plastic chairs, two ladies helping me. A man washing the customer’s feet and painting the nails, a black and white carpet and those curtains in salons – you know them. So one day maybe one day.”

“I am the mama of the prostitutes here”

“I am the mama of the prostitutes here”

 

“Everyone knows me as the mama of the prostitutes in this area. I came here in 2000 after the death of my husband. He loved me. He pampered me. We had property together. I lost him to sickness in 1999 shortly after the birth of my son. My Husband’s elder brother had been hitting on me even when his brother was alive. This was his chance to inherit me as his wife. I refused. I thought that was shameful. He waged a war, took all my property threw me and my children out of the house” She said as I listened intently.

“I came to Kimombasa.


At first, I was embarrassed to sleep with men, but after months, I got used. I got my first child when I was 15. From my marriage I had four children, from here I got two more. So I have seven kids in total. My first two girls are married. I have a son that I gave birth to in 1990  dropped out of school recently, he was pursuing a law degree at Makerere university. We’ve completely failed to raise the school fees. So he is now working as mechanic and renting his own room away from here.  He is trying to save up money so that he can go back to school. His dream of being a lawyer is still alive.

My son, that one you see there is in Senior 4, he is hardworking, he goes to church, he loves the Lord, I was worried for him when he joined a boxing club. My friends had told me that those boys in that boxing club are hooligans that all they do is smoke drugs, yet whenever he came back from practice, he was a better boy, he was cleaner, he respected me even more. He now has 4 medals from the boxing competitions. He makes me proud. I just hope that he can finish school. There is an organization that is taking care of his school fees.

Whichever girl stumbles onto this area, comes looking for the mama of the prostitutes (mama wa bayaye ). I take them in but I have rules –  if you drink all the money that you make, I will can’t work with you, if you are not using protection-  look, this box here is full of condoms an organization brings it to us every month and I ensure that they are on family planning.

Whatever organization comes in to help, I receive them. I get for them lawyers when they have been arrested on charges of ‘Rogue and Vagabond’. Yeah, police arrests them, charges them, so we have to get them out of jail. Sometimes there is a rapist lurking in the area. Last year there was one I reported him to police. I made sure that I got the girls to testify he was charged 25 years in prison. When they are sick, I assign one of the girls to go to Mulago to take care of them. When they die, we bury them. We buried one at the end of last year, she was trying to abort on her own. She died.  Those who we don’t have families, we collect money and they take them to a cemetery. But sometimes when we have no money and they die, we abandon them in the hospital, we know that they will be taken to the mortuary and end up in the cemetery anyway. Now that there are national IDs, I am working towards seeing that each of them gets an ID because when they are arrested, it is easy get them out when they have IDs. I keep their deepest secrets, some of them are HIV+, when it is time to take their ARVs, I remind them. I solve their cases, sometimes they are fighting over men. Sometimes a man likes one particular girl and when he is tired of her, he goes to another. I try to explain to them that that is normal. Oh by the way, I have married off three girls so far, I attended their wedding ceremonies as their Senga. The men got them from here.

I have rooms in this area, they have double décor beds. You pay 1000 for a night. Some girls choose to sleep two on the bed so they pay 1000 shillings each. When they use my beds for business, the pay me 500 shillings for each session.

I am 48 now, I want to leave this business, but who will take care of these girls? As you can see, when I cook a meal, we share it. We are family. They keep coming, since 2005 when I started this small bar, I have had over 200 girls go through my hands, some stay for years, others for months, others get married and others die. Most of these women as you can see them are the forsaken of society, 90% have no families, those that have families can’t turn back. Their families don’t want them back, a lot of water has gone down the bridge. They feel like outcasts. You should be here when their children have been chased from school for school fees, this place is full of children, we let the kids sleep inside and we sleep on the verandas. However, I am worried, at 12, the girls want to join the trade. I tell the women that we have to fight to keep our children in school.

So when I leave, who will take care of them? Maybe that is my life’s mission. ”

 

Visiting the Dentist

Visiting the Dentist

Think of a Vitz car owner, every three months they will service their car at 100,000 Ugx.  A new Pirelli tyre (65/70R14) is about 250,000 Ugx, they will pay without questioning but the same car owner will frown when a dentist tells him that a dental checkup is at 35,000 Shillings.

Priorities anyone?

Many Ugandans like me dread the idea of visiting a dentist, the last time I was at dentist’s, I was hoping he would say,

“let us cement the tooth,” he instead said, “I am sorry you will have to lose that tooth.”

I wanted to run out of the clinic, but the pain from the previous night had been unbearable.

“Check again,” I asked him.

“That is it ma’am there is nothing we can do about it.”

“If I start to remove teeth now, won’t my mouth be empty by 50?”

He went quiet.

“Is this tooth beyond a root canal or something?”

“Yeah it is, because, it is broken from all corners, and it has a deep cavity there is nothing we can do to save it ma’am.”

“How about an implant?” I asked

“an implant?” He chuckled.

“That will cost you 5.5 million shillings ma’am.”

“I am a blogger sir; bloggers don’t usually have that kind of money lying idle on their accounts.”

The hope of saving my tooth was waning.

“When you make up your mind, I will be here.”

I strode in the corridors, the thought of not having teeth at 50 bothered me.

Without invitation, I entered the room, removed my shoes and mounted that chair like a lamb ready for slaughter. The dentists room reminds me of a construction site, cement,  pliers, screws, nails, screwdrivers, chisels and those wielding machine-like things. The difference here is the size – they were probably picked from Lilliput. Anyway, The dentist enters with a mask covering his nose and mouth.  He injects me twice, now I feel like my mouth is larger than life. The excavation starts, I can almost see wielder’s sparks as the dentist mercilessly pulls. In my mind, I see my mouth tearing into two pieces.

“Wider” he says, “open wider.”

That is the widest my mouth can open.” I think to myself.

Surely if this tooth was this hard to remove. It could have been saved. A-not-so comforting thought crosses my mind, I picture my 50-year-old self at a barbecue as the pork platter passes by.

“Do you want a piece ma’am?” the waiter would say.

“I am fine.”

‘I am done.’ The dentist announced.

He placed a large blood-spattered molar on one of those silver plates in his room.

I put my molar in my bag. And waved him goodbye.

This week on Monday was the world oral health day, Code Clinic hosted a blogger’s meet and greet and of all places in the dentist’s room. I narrated my ordeal to Dr. Steven Mugabe, in response, he said. 

“You know you don’t have to go through this torment again. You will have to practice better oral care. Eat meals on time so that you don’t have to snack and if you must snack, eat fruits. Stay away from soda, ice-cream, cake, alcohol, parked juice instead go for fresh juice, water and plain yoghurt, brush your teeth twice and use toothpaste with fluoride, and visit your dentist every six months”