Below you will find the stories of several women included in this village project. Each of these women are originally from the Acholi villages in northern Uganda that were ravaged by rebel army attacks. These women have been through incredible atrocities during their lifetime yet still can speak with a sense of hope and faith that their futures will be brighter. These are their testimonies to the Kids Inspiring Kids organization, translated verbatim into these stories.
In 1988 I was 18 years old and got married to my husband Peter who was 29 years old. He was training in Gulu hospital to be a lab technician. My cousin was also in this program and I used to visit her. This is how we met. After we were married we moved to Lugazi hospital where my husband was working. My husband died of cancer in 1993 from Lacho Hospital in Northern Uganda and then was taken to be buried in Kitgum. Unbeknown to me at the time, he was also HIV positive. I headed back to my home in Gulu with a three year old boy and a one year old girl. Life was not easy and then when the LRA war started we were moved to an IDP camp called Koro. In the early part of 1994 I went to the village to see my father and decided to stay in the village. Little did I know that the rebels were already in place surrounding the village for the night. At 9:00 pm the rebels attacked. They killed my Mother and Father on the spot. My Dad was an electrician and the rebels had asked him to hook them up with something electrical. When he refused he was shot instantly. It was by God’s grace that I wasn’t also killed but they left me alone to mourn. I spent two years more in the IDP camp when a cousin called me to come to the Banda Acholi Quarters. I remember the day as clear as a bell, January 2, 1996. I traveled with a convoy from the North for safety to Kampala. Today my oldest child is in his second year of University and my daughter is in Senior 6. I’ve worked rolling beads out of paper to make jewelry to sell and any other odd jobs that could be found to support my children in school. In 2003 I got sick and I tested positive for HIV. Life continued as I tried dealing with my sickness but it wasn’t easy. In 2008 my sister was murdered by her husband and I took in her three children including a baby. Life was not easy but through the assistance of the Jeremiah Women’s Group and Kids Inspiring Kids the children were adopted to the United States of America in January 2010. I am currently a leader in the Jeremiah Women’s Group where I keep records, interpret and help wherever I’m needed. At the end of 2009 I was feeling good and decided to go get HIV tested again. The results were negative. I’ve had three more tests since then and all of the results are negative. I have two more tests before they declare me HIV negative with a clean bill of health. I give all the glory to God and I can look forward to a home to call my own in the village knowing that I can live a long and satisfying life.
I was 19 years old and I just had a baby with my husband. I went to the village to see my family in Lira when the rebels came and took my brother, my sister and me. They tied us all together with ropes as they started marching to where we didn’t know. It was raining hard and the going was not easy. One of the boys that were with us was commanded to go into a shop and bring out items for the rebels. He refused and was shot to death. The rebels used fear tactics and threats of death to keep us marching and to stay with them. We finally reached a place called Orumu where the rebels put us into groups to do certain jobs. I was given the job of cooking for the bosses. They demanded I cook for them even when food was not available. If there were any complaints then we were beaten and threatened with death. As we moved many people died and I lost hope for living. From Orumu we traveled to Karamoja district. It was here that they told us drink milk mixed with blood. When I refused I knew that it was the end of me but I was able to pretend that I drank it and was spared. One day an airplane flew overhead and started bombing where we were. Many were wounded and several died. We fled and crossed the Moroto River. Life was getting harder with nothing to eat and only dirty water to drink. We continued to march to the border of Sudan. The rebel group went back down into Uganda and continued to kill people. They cut mouths and ears off of people just because. People in the group became sicker and weaker. When they could no longer move the rebels asked them if they wanted to rest. If their answer was yes then they were shot and given a “permanent rest”. We reached Gulu and we had to look for food. They ambushed people taking food to sell at the market. Many people were killed and others captured. There was a pregnant woman that was captured and when the rebels found out they put her to death immediately. The rebels only like you to be pregnant by them. I got pregnant by one of the rebels and I was very sick. There was not enough food to sustain me and my legs were not working properly. I was left, because I couldn’t walk, which was a miracle that I wasn’t killed. I waited for four days when some people found me and took me to a place where I could rest. I buried my clothes as I didn’t want to remember the time in the bush. I gave birth to a baby boy who eventually died. I made my way to Kampala to stay with a sister and her husband. At first they didn’t believe that it was really me and that I was alive. I was taken to a hospital. I was told I have TB. I ended up in the Banda Acholi Quarters and have been working towards a life outside of the Bush. I have two children and am trying to help three others that belonged to my sister who died. One of my biggest problems is that I cannot go back to my village as people there think I am the one who caused the death of the boy who refused to get things out of the shop for the rebels. All I want now is a place to go where I have enough food, shelter and to make a better life for me and my children.
I never knew my father and my mother became sick when I was 13 years old. I’m still not sure what she had but she vomited blood all the time making her very weak and unable to take care of herself and certainly not me. At a tender age of 14 years old my Aunt died leaving me in charge of a six year old, three year old and a one year old. I took care of them by selling sugar cane and maize. I also put myself through school and finally received some help when I joined the Drama Group at my school in Gulu, P7 grade. There was an organization that supported us as we went to various IDP camps and did dramas on Land Mine Awareness and Epilepsy Awareness. At the end of 2004 I married. We were living in Gulu as my husband had work there as an electrician. He was then transferred to Banda where I stayed with him until my mother died at the end of 2005. I went back North to be with her until she died in Locho Hospital. I then came back and joined my husband who had since moved to the Banda Acholi Quarters. I had one child by then and I gave birth to my second child in December 2007. I’ve been in the Quarters ever since with my husband but like many here in Uganda the temptation to have multiple wives looms and he fell into this temptation about a year ago. I am due with our third child in September 2010 and all I can do is believe for a better life. I roll beads to earn money as I am still responsible for my nieces and nephews. I don’t know what the future holds for my husband and me but I continue to pray. Most importantly I believe for a better life.
I sometimes wonder at the world. What would it be like if I were born in a different time, a different place with a different skin color? I’m only 16 but I feel sometimes like I’ve lived long enough. My father died as a result of working in the rock quarry. One day there was a rockslide that fell on him. He fell sick and spent one month in the hospital. They said there was nothing more to do so we took him to the village in the North where he shortly died. This left my mom with seven children to look after including a cousin. My mom’s only means of support is rolling paper beads to sell. I was in Primary 6 and while not the best student I was still studying nonetheless. During one of my holiday times I was back in the Banda Acholi Quarters and started hanging around a boy who was in Senior 1, a few grades higher than me. We fooled around and I got pregnant as a result. I’m not proud of what I did but the facts were I was pregnant. I went full term only to deliver a still-born baby boy. They let me see him before they took him away and I named him Daniel Nicholas. He looked sweet but I’m glad he doesn’t have to live the hard life. I don’t want to go back to regular school. I’ve seen and done too much at this point and I don’t think it would benefit me. I instead would like to do a tailoring course but that too takes money. Money I don’t have. All I want at this point is to live a better life, a life of purpose and meaning because some days I don’t feel like there is any. Kids Inspiring Kids started a youth program and I feel that I am loved there. They talk about a village where we can live a life of purpose, go to school, get medical attention. I dream about that often and wonder if my life can make a difference. I believe it can but until then I am here living, the best I can, with a big hole in my heart.
I’m 61 years old and I feel like I’ve lived much longer. In my younger years I was considered quite a catch. I was part of a dance troupe that traveled all around—Kenya, Tanzania and even places as far off as Cairo, Egypt. My husband was a soldier and when he saw me he sent a go-between to see if I would be interested in marriage. After talking to my parents my “Bride Price” was 8 cows, 30 goats and 4 million shillings [over $2,000.00]. I was 16 years old. We lived in Lukung/Kitgum in the Northern part of Uganda. My husband fought in several wars starting in 1971 – Obote, Amin, Obote and finally Museveni. It was during Museveni’s reach for power that my husband died. By this time I had 7 children and now I was a widow at 30 years old. I stayed in Lukung until the start of the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] rebel insurgency with Kony. We were moved into an IDP [Internally Displaced Person’s] camp in Lukung. One day when my oldest child, my brother and some other people were going to the garden to dig for food the rebels came and killed them. I couldn’t stay so I walked 23 kilometers to Kitgum town with my 6 children, the youngest being 4 years old. Someone took pity on us and gave us free transport to Kampala where I connected with an Aunt whom I lived with. Shortly after arriving in Kampala my children died one by one of measles until I was left with none. My Aunt died but had told me about the Banda Acholi Quarters. 25 years ago there was free land available, this is where I went, and this is where I live today. Things weren’t bad until they discovered the stone quarry in the Quarters. Life got harder and harder. Currently I sell small foods like cakes, fried cassava and chapati to survive. I don’t always have food or enough money to live. I also am taking care of two relatives including a girl who has a hunch back and needs looking after. Life isn’t easy and I just want a place where I can live out my old age with enough food in my belly, a bed with a mosquito net and can live in dignity. I know that can happen, through the Jeremiah Women’s Group and Kids Inspiring Kids. Someone asked me why I’m still here when my husband, family members and my children are all gone. My answer is this, “God loves me and people pray for me, that is why I’m still here.”
1959 was the year I was born in Lacekocot, Northern Uganda, Kitgum District. I was the first born of the six children my parents had. My Mother was a housewife and my Father was a teacher. Life was good and we went to school and lived a peaceable life. That is until my Primary 7 year when war broke out. Because we had to take refuge here and there staying ahead of being killed or captured I was never able to finish my schooling. When I was 20 years old I married a man named John. He was a farmer. Life had been difficult but once I got married it was a bit easier as I had someone to share life with. We were married four years and I produced two children. My husband was killed by the Cilin rebels who preceded the LRA rebels. They thought he was a Government sympathizer and shot him on the spot. I went back home to my parents that lived fairly close by with my two children. At 24 years old I had already seen much. I did some farming to try and support myself and children but with the LRA in full-swing life was not easy. One day when I went to the garden to dig I stepped on a landmine. I don’t remember anything and woke up three days later in my parent’s home in much pain. Pieces of the mine hit my head near my eye, my leg and other parts of my head. I stayed at home for I don’t know how long while they bathed my wounds in a saltwater solution. I got a bit better and they decided they could move me and took me to Kitgum hospital. I had trouble talking and making myself understood and I was still in much pain. At Kitgum hospital they took the pieces of shrapnel out of my leg and removed my eye and stitched me back up. From there they took me to Locho Hospital in Gulu. There wasn’t the equipment to do what needed to be done to me so they took me to Mulago Hospital in Kampala. They performed a scan and found many pieces of shrapnel in my head. They sent me from there to Mengo Hospital still in Kampala. It was there that they gave me an artificial eye but said they couldn’t remove the other pieces of shrapnel embedded in my head. So, today I still have pieces of the shrapnel in my head. I get grand mal seizures and pus still oozes from my head causing me severe pain at times. That was many years ago. With the help of my parents and my brother my children have grown. My sister died and when we were attending her burial the rebels came and killed my brother and other family members. Now it is just me. I’m responsible for myself, my children and my sister’s children and my brother’s children. My sister and brother had younger children so there are five that still need assistance with school, food and shelter. I was able to live with a friend’s sister for a time but I am now on my own. I roll beads to make the paper bead jewelry. I used to make clothes but the machine broke and there just isn’t enough money to fix it. In spite of all of these hardships I have to believe in a better life. Someday, somewhere, somehow. Someone asked me what keeps me going. I responded “The Word of God keeps me going”.
I was the second born child of parents living in Pader. My elder brother died as an infant leaving only me. My mother and father separated and my mother remarried. My new step-father didn’t want a child from another man so I went to live with my Grandmother. While life was good with my Grandmother she never had enough money for school fees so I have never been to school. When I was 16 years old I married. My husband came from my hometown of Pader, he was 27 years old and I was the second wife. I didn’t mind so much. He was a businessman and took care of us. He had three children when I married him and I produced 5 children with him although one died as an infant. In ’92 he brought 2 more wives into the mix. When it was all said and done 16 children lived between the 4 of us. In 1994 the first wife got sick and died. We had no idea that she died of AIDS. That left three of us taking care of 16 children. In 2001 my husband found out he was HIV positive and in 2002 he died. At least my husband wrote out a will that directed the money he had accumulated as a businessman would be given to the children for assistance with school fees. The other wives died in 2004 which left me with all 16 children to care for. I found out in 2003 that I was also HIV positive and am currently living with it. It’s 2010 and the money is finished that my late husband left. My brother-in-law helps as he can but it is still hard. I roll beads to try and support the 16 children, ages 10-24 years old. Some days I don’t know what to do and what will happen to these children if I die also. These are the thoughts I live with daily. I’m asked why do you suppose you are the last one left, why do you suppose you are still here? I respond with, “Yes, I’ve seen all the others die but I believe God loves me and that is why I’m still here”.
57 years of life. Some days it seems longer, some days it seems like life is just going by so fast. I grew up in Gulu District in Northern Uganda. I was one of 13 children, 5 girls and 8 boys. I was somewhere in the middle. My Father had another wife and she had 8 children. He was a carpenter and a business man. Life was good when we were growing up. We all went to school and had enough food to eat and a house to sleep in. I finished Senior 4 and worked then went on to work in the veterinary field. That is where I met my husband who was also working in that same field. I was 18 years old and Clement was a bit older. After 2 years of working together we fell in love and got married. We had one child when Clement was offered a scholarship in Canada. He went and I followed 2 years later. We stayed another 2 years until the scholarship was finished. That was 1979. We came back right after Idi Amin was overthrown. We both got jobs. His job was in Gulu and mine was in Kampala. We saw each other during holidays and when we could get time off. In 1983 he finally was able to join me in Kampala. By this time we had three children. In 1985 his father died and we went back to Gulu for the burial. The rebels came where we were. My husband was able to escape with our two children but I had a baby of one year and I ran deep into the village with my baby. We were about 30 km in but the rebels were still following us. My brother was able to send the army to get us and they intervened and I was able to get back to Kampala where I reunited with my husband and children. At this time we were also keeping my brother and sister who were 15 and 17 years old. Life continued in Kampala and the brother who I had been caring for was shot during a trip to Kitgum. My sister married a policeman. Out of the 13 original children from my parents only 7 are left. Dying from war and diseases, this is Africa. In 1998 life got a bit more difficult when my husband decided to bring a second wife into our lives. I tolerated this for 2 years but in 2000 I decided to leave with my children. My husband paid my rent and gave me half of the children’s school fees so I had it better than most. I was laid off from my job and life got a bit harder. I joined the women of the Banda Acholi Quarters and learned how to make the paper bead jewelry. This is where I am today. Once during a dark time in my life I thought about suicide, but I was a Catholic and that was thought of as really bad in the church. A friend of mine took me to a Protestant church and I heard the Word of God. I started reading the Bible and things got better. I’ve learned that it’s important to have someone stand by me and encourage me. I live by these words, “I know God is with me always”. That gets me through any difficult times I may encounter. I’m a leader in the Jeremiah Women’s Group and if you see me today I have a smile on my face!
I am 33 years old and I came from Gulu, Northern Uganda. There were six of us children and things were ok growing up. I went to school until P5 when the rebels came when I was 20 years old. I was attending St. Martin School for girls at the time. 62 of us were taken and then scattered around the different rebel camps. Along with me, 4 of my sisters were also taken. We were marched northwards to Kitgum and around for the next two years. I had to carry heavy packages even across water where many of my friends drowned. Leg wounds were common with all the marching we did and I was no exception. I nursed others leg wounds and cooked for the camp. The Commander forced me into sex with him as he made me lie on the ground and held a panga [a large sword/knife], when he was done with me he allowed others to come and have sex with me at the same time. I just lied there wishing it could all be over. With that panga placed by my head I thought my life would be over. I survived this and many things and I’m here today to tell you my story. At one time I was forced to kill a man by beating him and in the middle of it all Joseph Kony came and said that the “girls” should not be killing this man but turned it over to someone else to finish the job. We just sat around with Kony around the campfire. I had no idea what exactly was going on but I knew that this man was a killer and I just waited to see what he would do next. I escaped when the NRA [government’s National Resistance Army] placed an ambush for the rebels. There was shooting all around but I ran saying to myself, “If I die then let me die”. I must have run over 3 km and was near nakedness as my clothes were being torn while I was running. I didn’t care and I just ran and ran and ran. I ended up at a home where I was able to tell my story. The people in the home were very kind and got me to Gulu town. While I was in Gulu town they made announcements on the radio about people that had come back from the bush. An Aunt heard and came and got me. I don’t know what happened to my sisters as I never saw them again. At 22 years old I can’t go back to school, not with all that has happened to me. I helped my Aunt take care of her child until she died of meningitis leaving me with her two children, including a 9 month old. I took the children to another Aunt’s home who could better care for them. I got married when I was 24 years old. We stayed in Gulu a short time and then came to the Banda Acholi Quarters. My husband, Yuba, crushes stones in the quarry and I roll beads and sometimes work also in the quarry. We have three children and I take care of my Aunt’s child also. I am one of the lucky ones; I’m alive and I’m HIV negative. I have problems sometimes carrying things because of the all the heavy carrying and marching I did during my life with the rebels. My biggest challenge is not seeing a way out. There isn’t enough sustainability in the Banda Acholi Quarters. My parents died in 1996 and I have no place to go back to in Gulu. I just want a place to call home where I can make a better life for my husband, my children and myself.
I’m 32 years old and I’ve lived the life that most can’t or won’t understand. I grew up in Pader District, Northern Ugandan. My dad died when I was 2 months old. He was killed by the rebels. My mom then was killed by them when I was 7 years old. I then went to live with my Grandmother. When I was 9 years old the rebels came to where my Grandmother lived and killed her. They captured me and my elder brother and took the other 3 children locked them in the house and set it on fire. I spent 2 years in the bush. My brother and I were separated and I heard that he was killed near the Sudan border. Since I was only 9 years old I wasn’t raped, they deemed me “too young”. We marched for days at a time with no food or water. My job was to kill the chickens when we raided people and villages to prepare them for food for the officers of the rebels. One time though they gave me a panga knife and I was told to kill and elderly lady because she refused to give the rebels her chickens. In that situation it is kill or be killed. I killed her and that memory will be with me forever. I was marched all around Northern Uganda and into the Sudan and one time I fell very sick. The Government troops had come and the rebels left me behind because I was sick, that is how I escaped. I had malaria and diarrhea when the Government troops took me back to Pader and then to Gulu for counseling. I was 11 years old by now. An Uncle came and took me to his home in the North for 1 year. Then an Aunt came and got me and took me to her home in Olube. I stayed with her 5 months until she died. Another Uncle came and took me to his home in Jinja. I had been bounced around so much and so much had happened in my young life that at 14 years old I thought it was a good idea to get married. Newton was a much older man and I thought he would take care of me. I had three children with him but we separated when I was 22 because he had mental problems and tried to kill the children by strangling them. It was by God’s grace that we all escaped with our lives. I took my children and came to the Banda Acholi Quarters. I worked in the stone quarry to support myself and my children. This is where I met my second husband in 2001, Albert. Albert and I have two children. I roll beads and my husband works as a security guard. As good as that may sound, and I’m thankful that he has a job, but it isn’t enough. To give you an idea Albert makes about $50.00 per month. Our rent is $30.00 per month, food another $20.00 per month. That leaves no money left for school fees for the three children in school. I am looking forward to a better life. One that we can have a home, we have food on our table every day and one where my children can be educated without fear of being sent away from school for lack of fees. People have asked me how I can live with all that has happened in my past. I just tell them, “When I met Jesus, all the bad thoughts went away; I now live a better life.”
I grew up in Gulu with my parents until I was seven years old. At that time my older sister asked for my help with her new baby. I had not been in school so I went and helped my sister and I ended up studying a bit from there. When I was 12 I wanted to go back to my parents but word came that the rebels came and had killed my father and brother and mother. My father had just sold a piece of beef and the rebels wanted the money. When my father refused they killed him and my brother. Two days later they came back demanding the money from my mother. When she refused they beat her so badly she was taken to Locho Hospital in Gulu where she died one week later. My sister went to attend the burial and during that time the rebels came and killed everyone in attendance as this was a favorite ambush of theirs. I had been left at a neighbor’s home and the rebels came there also. I escaped by jumping out the window. The neighbor and her whole family were killed, even the children. I ran into the bush and found a lady. The lady started asking me questions and the rebels heard her talking and shot into the bush. The shots killed the lady instantly and one of the bullets hit my leg and went straight through. I somehow limped out of the bush and ran into the NRA soldiers. They helped me and bandaged my leg to stop the bleeding. I stayed with them for one week and then I was taken back to the barracks in Koch. I told them my family was dead and they brought a vehicle and transported me to Gulu town. It was here they made an announcement to see if I had any relatives left. An Aunt came to claim me and took me to her place, that was 1986. I was 13 years old at this time and I stayed with this Aunt for about 2 years. The rebels came once again to where I was staying. They broke the door down and entered my Aunt’s house. They grabbed the two boys in the house and forced the rest of us out of the door into the compound. When we came out of the house we saw many rebels with all their belongings inside the compound. They ordered all of us to start carrying whatever they had. We all grabbed as much as we could and started walking to the bush. We marched for about 4 km when the rebels abruptly stopped us and said “Do you know we can kill you right now?” Then they ordered all the girls to start marching back to town and left us alone. I was accused of being “bad luck” and my Aunt blamed me for the capture of her two sons and she would not allow me to come back to her home with her. I had no idea where to go but I went to a place called Levline where I could sleep under a veranda. There was a certain lady that sympathized with me and let me sleep inside her home. Two days later the rebels came back and took me and another girl called Pamela. We started walking on the road towards Kitgum, 65 km away. We walked all that distance in two days with no rest. It was here that the rebels were blocked by the NRA soldiers. Fighting ensued between the NRA soldiers and the rebels. Bullets were flying and one of the bullets struck Pamela and she died instantly but again I was spared, why? One of the NRA soldiers recognized me from Koch and helped me to get back. He told me not to go on the main road but stay hidden. I walked and hid until I reached an old man’s house where he was repairing bicycles. He took me back to Levline. The lady I had been staying with before my capture took me back in and offered to keep me permanently. I cooked chapati [African tortillas] for people in the bus park to have enough money to buy clothes. I stayed with this lady until I was 17 years old and got married. Robert was much older than me but I didn’t care. I was looking for someone who would take care of me. Unfortunately in my quest I did not pick so well. Robert did not take care of me. I was his 3rd wife and unbeknown to me he was HIV positive. I had one child with him in the two years I was with him and then one day I packed up my child and we left. We came to the Banda Acholi Quarters and connected with an Aunt. My Aunt helped me and my daughter the best she could until she died in 2000. I was living in the Quarters rolling beads and selling small things to make a living. On days that I didn’t have anything to sell I went and crushed stones in the quarry. In 2009 a fire came and burned our house and we lost everything in it. Yesterday thieves came and stole things from my home when I went to go help a lady cook. There are days like that but I’m still alive and I’m still believing for a better future.
58 years young. Life was good growing up in Muciwni, 14k from Kitgum town. My father was a protestant priest and life was peaceful. I was the 3rd born of 8 children. My mother was a housewife and I went to school until P6. Back then it was called Junior 1. I could have gone further but I fell in love with John. We were married. He was from my hometown and we used to meet at church and out dancing. His father was also a priest. When we married my bride price was 7 cows and 200,000 UGS. That was a lot of money back then. We moved not to far away to a town called Akara. I produced 8 children and we were fairly happy. John was a soldier and fought with Obote to overthrow Idi Amin. The only problem was that the first 6 children I produced were girls which didn’t make John really happy. Life was hard and John and I separated. The NRA killed my father when he was old and had demanded that his sons be soldiers. The Government arrested my brother and accused him of being a paymaster for the rebels. They sent my brother to prison and they killed my other brothers. My sister was killed by the rebels and they brought me her 8 month old baby. By this time the rebels were many and attacking frequently. I paid some men to take me to Kitgum town. I stayed there for 1 ½ years but life was a struggle. I made my way to Kampala and stayed with a cousin, that was February 22, 1991. It was very tight with all of us. My cousin fried chapati and I started selling greens around Kampala for money to survive. I was trusting God and when I went to church I met a certain lady who gave me a small piece of land to put a one room structure on it. What a blessing, now I wasn’t so squeezed with my cousin. One of my sister’s died and I went to Kitgum for the burial. On the way, in the bus, we entered into an ambush. They shot at the bus and burned three other vehicles around us. I was hit in the leg by one of the bullets that was shot into the bus. The NRA came and a full on battle ensued. Then it was over, the NRA left and it was actually the rebels that came and took me to the Red Cross. They first took me to Kitgum hospital but I wasn’t able to receive any care so they transferred me to Gulu Hospital. I was in the hospital 3 months recovering. My oldest was taking care of the other children I left at home. When I came back I had to walk using a cane. I lost several of my children; one died as an infant, 1 died of measles, 1 was killed by rebels, 1 died of a heart attack and one died of witchcraft. I continued selling my greens, which I still do today. My son died last month and left his 7 children, my grandchildren, in my care. My hope is for my one son to finish university, get a job and help take some of the burden off of me. Until then, life is a struggle but I’m a survivor.
26 years of living a not so easy life. My father was the LC1 [Local Council] of our area. I was the only girl out of six children. I went to school until P5. That was the year the rebels came and killed my father. They took him from our home, tied his hands behind his back and marched him 2 km down the road before they killed him by cutting his head with a panga. We had to sleep in the bush to escape that night and we didn’t know what had happened to our father. We waited for him to return but around 2 pm the next day someone came and described a man that was dead a couple of kilometers up the road. We went and it was my father. We carried him home under the protection of the NRA. We did a quick burial and didn’t even have time to dig a very deep grave. My Uncle was a soldier and was preparing to go and fight and ended up being killed in an ambush. This left my Aunt to take care of us. We went to live with her in Namuwongo, near Kampala. That was ok but my Aunt was HIV positive and not in good health. Life wasn’t easy so I decided that getting married was a better way out. I was 17 years old and Santo was 24 years old. We stayed in Namuwongo until 2001 when we came to the Banda Acholi Quarters. I worked in the quarry and Santo packaged fish in a nearby company. In 2006 Santo became violent. I attribute this to the co-wife he brought into our family in 1997. He hit me, beat me and kicked me all the time. One time he beat me so badly I fell unconscious and woke up in a clinic. That was in 2003. In 2007 he finally left me. I struggled with my two children and thought of suicide. I didn’t want to live anymore and I didn’t see a way out. I thought I was worthless. I started attending a new Women’s Group in the Banda Acholi Quarters. During one of the Monday meetings, Rev. Tomi said, “There is someone here who is thinking of suicide”. I thought, “How does she know what I am thinking?”. I summoned my courage and spoke out. The group rallied behind me and for that next week made sure I was ok. I thought, “God really does love me”. Things didn’t get better immediately but I started developing some self-worth. I still struggled with my two children and I was still separated from my husband. I started praying for him and I started changing my attitude and life. My husband noticed the change and in 2008 he came back. We reconciled and in February 2010 baby Santo, Jr. was born. We are happy today. Don’t get me wrong, life is still hard, this is Africa. There is no sustainability in the Banda Acholi Quarters so my husband is currently working in the Sudan and sending money for us to live. We still look forward to a time that we can be together as a family. A permanent place to call home.
Currently I’m 34 years old. I was born from Locho Hospital in Gulu. There were 4 of us children, 2 boys, and 2 girls. I grew up in Gulu. My mother was a housewife and my father was a policeman. When my father was around life was ok and we attended school. My father died in Kololo during Idi Amin’s regime. When dad died we went deep into the village. An organization came that was helping widows so my mom decided to move back to Gulu town to do tailoring. My mother struggled with school for us which was 3 km away. I was in P4 the rebel and activity had started. During my P5 year rebels came to the school but an Aunt had come to warn us and we tried to get to the village. As my mom, my cousins and I made our way to get our things a rebel dropped out of the tree capturing us. The children started to cry as the rebels questioned my mom as to where she was going. They sent us kids back to town and then they pulled the shirt off my mom and tied her hands behind her back and marched her over 5 km without rest or water. The two rebels who had captured her were probably 16 or 17 years old. They reached an area where there were more rebels. They threatened to kill my mother all the time and one of the boys helped her escape but not before she had been severely beaten. When my mom made it back to town she was so weak from the beatings that she died within a week of coming back. I went to go live with a cousin and then moved to Ntinda (outside of Kampala). When my cousin’s husband died we took him back to the village to bury him. Now I was stuck with no place to stay and no place to go. I ended up in the Banda Acholi Quarters. I was 28 years old and had a 10 year old boy that was from a relationship with a boy when I was 18. The boy was in school and finished a course on teaching and married someone else. He doesn’t send support and help for his son or for me. In 2001 I met Mike in the Banda Acholi Quarters. He had a wife in the village but had separated from her. He wanted to be with me and my family consented. I was packing fish in a nearby company at night for work and Mike was working nights as a Security Guard and in the daytime in the stone quarry. I quit my job to be a housewife for him. His ex-wife came from the village one day with his children and just left them with us for a while. Mike’s family was putting a tremendous amount of pressure on him and he started to change. He fell sick during this time and this added to the pressure. In 2005 Mike was tested and found to be HIV positive. He started taking the news out on me. He threatened to kill me and one time he beat me to unconsciousness and tried to kill me by strangling me. Neighbors rescued me. Rev. Tomi came to pray for us and Mike accepted Jesus and really started making a change in his life. That was 2009. I wasn’t convinced and continued to live apart from him. In January 2010 Mike and I reunited. Our family is once again happy and together. Mike works as a security guard and repairs shoes in the quarters and I roll beads. We attend church together. Our biggest challenge is a place to live and school fees for our children. His relatives still put pressure on him but we are committed to staying together and making our lives work.
I am 39 years old and have four children. I also take care of my brother’s two children who are orphans. I grew up in Lira with my five brothers and sisters. My parents were farmers but life was not bad. It wasn’t bad that is until the rebels came. I was 18 years old and in Primary 6. They killed 3 of my brothers and sisters and abducted me right from school. I attended a “mixed” school of boys and girls but I didn’t know what happened to my friends. I spent one year in the bush. My job was to welcome new people that had been abducted and I was also used for “entertainment” purposes whenever the Commander told me. I tried to escape several time but failed. These resulted in beatings and starvings. They beat me and rolled me in the mud and beat me again on my wet skin. I was in so much pain. I was given the word at some point that my parents were dead and my sister was traumatized because she had witnessed their death. I waited and waited and then one day I pretended there was no water for drinking. When I reached the river, I dropped down to my stomach and inched my way over one kilometer to get away. After crawling for what seemed like hours I stood up and started running. I had cuts and scrapes all over my knees but I ran and ran. I met an old man and he helped hide me for two days. He then took me to the military barracks in Lira. Soldiers surrounded me and I wasn’t sure I was safe but they gave me clothes and things for bathing. After that I went to my Aunt’s in Lira. My Aunt did the best she could but since I had been in the bush with the rebels for over a year my Aunt and the people around thought I needed to go through a “purification” process. My mind was not stable during this time. The people put herbs in my mouth and ears. Crazy as it was I did get better and better as the weeks went by. Soon I was able to travel. I was brought to town where I met my husband. He was a roofer and we lived together as husband and wife even though we didn’t have a formal wedding ceremony. We had two children and then my husband got a contract for work in the capital city of Kampala. We moved to the Banda Acholi Quarters, that was four years ago. We still have land in the North but neither of us feel safe to go back to it. Our HIV status is unknown at this point and we live one day to the next. There is not enough food and school fees, especially for the children of my brother, are hard to come by. I’m excited about the new village, Place of Refuge. I pray in my heart to God, “If you made me, redeem me”. A new place to call home with enough sustainability and a better chance for my children is my redemption.
I’m 44 years old. I was born from Gulu in a village called Cwera about 15 km away. Life was easy, I had both of my parents and we were happy as a family. I only finished a P6 education because my Grandmother, who was paying school fees for me, said that paying school fees for girls was a waste. I stayed home for 2 years after finishing my education before getting married. I was 18 years old now. My husband, Robert and I moved after being married to a town about 25 km away. We dug in our garden until my husband decided to come and find work in Kampala. He went to Kampala and I stayed back in the North. They told us evacuate the town because of the rebel activity. I took my two children and went to Kampala to be with my husband. Unfortunately my husband sent me back so he could have a “freer” lifestyle. I had become pregnant when I visited my husband in Kampala so I sent back pregnant. I gave birth to my third child. One day we went to the garden to harvest some sesame with three other women. The rebels came and captured all 4 of us. I had left my baby at home with my young brother (he was 10 years old). We were marched around until we joined a larger group of rebels. That was 24 hours later. We finally were able to rest and cook food but then someone said we had to go so we just jumped up without eating and left. I had to carry 40 kg of groundnuts and 20 kg of salt while we were marching. One of the ladies was made to carry a lit charcoal stove on her head while we marched. During this time the lady stumbled and hot coals spilled out and burned my leg badly. The accused the lady of doing it on purpose so they just shot her on the spot. They gave me a choice, be killed or continue with a burned leg. I chose to continue. We reached the camp 24 hours later. The Commander asked about the new people coming in. They performed a ceremony to bring us into the “family”. I told them I had left a baby at home. They told me, “prove it”. I then took one of my breasts and squirted milk out of it. There were 3 other women that also had left babies. They separated us out and they gave us 2 rebels soldiers to take us to collect our babies. Meanwhile my brother had taken my baby to my Mother’s home so when we came back to the village I couldn’t find my baby. I escaped and made my way back to Gulu town and was reunited with my kids. My husband finally saw the light and brought us to Kampala. My husband died in 2004 for AIDS. That is when I found out that I was also HIV positive. I receive medication through an organization and I sell fruits and vegetables to help sustain myself and children. It is very hard to make enough money to feed, clothe and house us and school fees are very hard. Microfinance helped me expand my business a bit but life is still a struggle.
I grew up in Dokolo by Lira. My dad had two wives and my mother was the second. The first wife produced boys but my mother produced seven girls. My father was a policeman working far away in Mbarra District. A workmate got upset with my father and went to the witchdoctor and got some poison. The workmate took my father to a local pub where he poisoned him. My father started vomiting blood and died. They brought his body back to Dokolo with all of his things. Ironically it was the same workmate that arranged the transportation. When all of the things of my Father’s came back the first wife got everything and my mother got nothing. I was not able to go to school until I was 9 years old, that was in 1973. The first wife continued to treat our family badly. We literally had nothing to sleep on and when the first wife tried to chase us completely off the land, my mother took a stand and refused. This caused a lot of problems with the village elders and the clan so the clan found her another man to marry. My mother conceived and finally produced a boy then with 3 more following. My step-father was not a kind man and he made us wake early every morning and work out in the fields digging until school. We were so tired during school and slept during classes that we decided to just quit going. I had enough as this wasn’t much of a life so I got married. Elliott was about 25 years old and still in high school. He was boarding and far away. I was farming to keep food on the table. We lived apart for the 4 years of high school. I had not conceived during this time and his parents were upset and wanted us to be divorced. They wanted the dowry back (which had been cows) but the rebels had come by this time and had taken the cows so there was nothing to give back. We separated nonetheless. I went to my brother’s home in Kampala and stayed 1 year. I prayed to God during this time that I would find another man and be able to produce a child with him to let me know that I was still a woman. God answered my prayers with Tony. I told him my whole story and not being able to conceive. He still wanted to marry me. Within a month after getting married I conceived and produced a son who is now in S5. I only produced the one but God surely answered my prayers. We stayed in the Banda Acholi Quarters until my husband died in 1999. He died of AIDS. My son was 5 years old. This left me a widow and HIV positive. I went and to see Tony’s family and I was left with none of Tony’s possessions as his relatives said I wasn’t welcome because I was now HIV positive. I was stressed and weak and my brother put me on a boat across the river. I was told that there was an AIDS antivirus in Kampala so I determined to make my way there to check it out. I came direct to the BAQ and the local church helped me. I was even given a small plot of land by the church to build a shelter on. I am currently on ARV’s and I roll beads to sustain us. Even my son helps me roll beads when he can. I want what Jeremiah 29:11 says, a hope for the future. Being part of the Women’s Group has helped me get rid of a lot of stress and worries. I look forward to a day where I won’t have to struggle so much.