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“Now I can start a salon and raise money for my child”

December 15th, 2021

Ronah, 18, lost her parents when she was just two years old, prompting her to be in the care of her grandmother. At a tender age, Ronah was responsible for paying her own school fees. She got the money from doing menial jobs such as making bricks, digging in people's gardens and even fetching water for the constructors. Unfortunately, when she was just 15, Ronah was sent away from school due to fee arrears, which led to her subsequent dropout.

Bait and switch

Around August 2020, one of their neighbour’s sisters promised to pay for Ronah´s fees if she moved with her to Tororo, a town in the Eastern Region of Uganda. However, when they reached their destination, to Ronah´s surprise, she was instead assigned tasks as a domestic worker. She was to take care of three children, prepare food for the family, clean, do laundry and iron clothes. When she tried to talk to her employer about her promise of taking her to school, she responded in an unpleasant way and said she would take her next year.  ¨I remained patient hoping that I will be taken back to school the next year.” Ronah recalls. For 8 months, Ronah worked with the hope of rejoining school, a desire she soon came to learn would never be. 

When January 2021 came, the promise of still taking Ronah back to school was not fulfilled. When she asked her employer again, she was yelled at. Her employer responded rudely saying that she was still looking for school fees. All this time, Ronah´s grandmother had no idea of the events that were unfolding in her granddaughter´s life. When she called to find out how if she was in school, she was surprised when the lady said she wasn’t.  Soon, Ronah´s grandmother fell ill and requested Ronah´s employer to help settle the hospital bill. The lady said if she did so, then she would not take Ronah to school.

Walking home

Ronah revealed to her grandmother on the phone that she was being mistreated and sometimes even being denied food. Her employer find out,  disclosed it to her husband who physically abused Ronah. That night, she escaped and went to a friend’s home and stayed for that night. She called her grandmother the next day but sadly, she had no money to send her fare to Ronah, who then opted to walk back home. She rested at a trading centre and a girl going home from school alerted her that the area was not safe and instead welcomed her to spend the night at her mother´s home. 

The following day, Betty, the mother of the girl, who welcomed Ronah to their home, went to the Local Council Chairperson 1 (LC1) chairperson to report the case. Ronah´s grandmother was still admitted in the hospital, so Ronah stayed at Betty´s for 10 months, where she occasionally learnt to sell boiled cassava. From the profit she had made from selling cassava and the little money her grandmother sent her,  she was able to travel back home. Two months later, Ronah, who was still out of school, was referred to work in Entebbe for a lady. 

Exploited sexually

She took care of her poultry-rearing business as well as supplying polythene bags, mostly to male customers.  Soon, the men began making sexual advances towards her. 

One day, Ronah´s grandmother sent her white aunts, locally known as enswa which she had to pick from the bus park and her employer accompanied her. The employer put Ronah in a taxi to go back home alone. On the way home, the taxi driver asked Ronah for her phone contact, which she gave out. After communicating for some time, the taxi driver told Ronah that he was looking for a person he could stay with and thought she was a perfect fit. He then asked to meet Ronah and at first, she was hesitant. After noticing this hesitancy, the man used his sister to convince Ronah to meet up with him. When the day came, the man sexually abused Ronah and promised to marry her. A month later she discovered that she was pregnant.

Lending hand

¨I felt like killing myself when I got pregnant because when I tried to reach out to the taxi driver who impregnated me, he did not receive my calls and when I went to where they were staying, I was told that they shifted from that side. I tried tracing him in the taxi park but I didn’t find him there.¨ Ronah explains. A health worker based where Ronah went for antenatal clinic identified her and referred her to our partner UYDEL. At the centre, she was enrolled for a hairdressing course and connected with the child protection committee members who are tracing the man who sexually abused her. Ronah is also getting counselling from the social workers, as well as guidance on how she can manage her pregnancy.

Hopeful

From her hairdressing skills, she is now able to get income. ¨I can now make money from hairdressing and this has made me happy,¨ She says excitedly. ¨I hope to start working in a salon where I can save money and start up my small business so that I can raise money to take care of my child.¨ As for now, Ronah lives with a peer support worker. In her free time, Ronah loves playing football, engaging in athletics, singing and dancing.

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