A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle, says James Keller in one of his famous quotes. And indeed, after Kitovu Mobile Aids Organisation lit a candle for Harriet Naluwuge, by equipping her with tailoring skills under the DREAMS project, she is now working closely with the same organization to impart the same skills to other teenage mothers.
DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-free, Mentored Safe Women.
Ms Naluwuge is the facilitator for stepping stone, a data entrant at one of Kitovu Mobile Aids Organisation model safe spaces, a tailor as well as a field officer for the organization’s Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC )groups in that Kalisizo Town council.
Stepping stone, is about sensitizing peers about life skills, how to avoid bad peers and the like, but the package depends on different age groups of beneficiaries. For example, those who fall under category one, aged between 15 and 19 years are taught about preventing HIV/ Aids, category two (15-19 years ) is for married couples who are taught how to avoid violence at home and avoiding friends who can mislead them.
Ms Naluwuge ’s life before joining DREAMS project was a nasty one, which involved losing her parents when she was barely five years old. She was later taken to her uncle who defiled her several times when she was just six years.
Her sister then picked her from their uncle’s home after learning about the regrettable life she was going through. Ms. Naluwuge shifted to her aunt, who also wanted to marry her off to a moneyed man –something she resisted vehemently. “This old man had children and a wife, besides, I was not ready for marriage because I wanted to study,” Naluwuge shares her story as sits at her desk in her office in Kalisizo Town.
This saw her aunt take her to her daughter and later got her another man, but Naluwuge still rejected this marriage proposal.
Whenever she needed school requirements, her cousin could shout at her , saying she refused to marry rich men who were ready to take care of her and thus she had to suffer the consequences.
While at her cousin’s home in Kalagala Village, Kalisizo Town Council , Naluwuge says she fell in love with a boy who she says was relatively her age.
Thus, her cousin could rebuke her for choosing a poor man yet she had chances of getting married to rich men.
When the period for sitting Primary Leaving Examinations came , Naluwuge wrote her papers and after finishing the exams, she went back to her aunt, who had already identified another man to take her, this time from Ddimo landing site in Kyotera District who came home and brought part of her dowry. “I heard them [aunt and the man] agreeing on the day he will officially come for me.
When the day come, the man’s entourage was heard whispering, ‘He has got himself a young beautiful girl’”
After getting this information, Naluwuge says she realized that her aunt was ready to force her into marriage, against her will. What followed, was her to disappear from the home and went back to Kalagala Village to stay with his boyfriend.Fortunately or unfortunately, she conceived.
This news annoyed her aunt because the man she wanted Naluwuge to marry, was coming back in three months. “She[Aunt] told me to tie the stomach such that it doesn’t swell to make the pregnancy visible, ”She says
However, Naluwuge refused to take her aunt’s advice.
When time came for the man from Ddimo landing site to take her , she says, she went to her half-brother who took her to another aunt in Mawogola, Sembabule District, from where she delivered her baby.
Agony of a young mother
Naluwuge had no support and worked as a house girl. Her aunt later told her to take the baby to her boyfriend .“But when I went to see him[boyfriend ], he already had a wife at home, and this forced me to start renting a house at 16 years , and later dropped the child at his home and I went Kampala,”
But she says the boyfriend later called her, informing her that the child was sick, but she later learnt that the latter was lying to her and simply wanted to stay with her after divorcing his wife.
But despite such psychological and history of abuse , Naluwugu is a living testimony that many school dropouts in rural Uganda, if they get a helping hand, the country can tap from their potential which sometimes remain untapped.
Joining Kitovu Mobile
In 2016, Naluwuge joined Kitovu Mobile Aids Organisation, from Rakai Health Science Programme where she was serving as a peer educator for teenage mothers.S he was trained for two weeks and started counseling fellow young mothers.“ This is how I joined Kitovu Mobile and they gave me skills in tailoring as I taught teenage mothers during stepping stone sessions, it is through these sessions that the organization started paying me some money ”
She says she used the money to buy a tailoring machine and put it at her home.
“I am now an expert in tailoring, I can design shirts, bitengi and bags. I’m grateful to Kitovu Mobile for giving me these skills. I no longer depend on my husband’s income, in fact, I even pay fees for my child as he handles other home expenses,” she says.
“The two years I have been with Kitovu Mobile are a great milestone in my life and I am so humbled,” she adds
Ms Naluwuge says, she wants to acquire a plot of land as well as getting a workshop where she can employ many tailors and grow her business.