Jackeline Biira is a resident of Kakindo village in Maliba Sub-county in Kasese District. She got pregnant five years ago after her Primary Seven.
“When my parents realised that I was pregnant, I was told to go to the home of the boy who was responsible. But when I got there, life was not easy I had to return to my parents immediately after giving birth,” Biira recounts.
Biira who got pregnant at 13 years, was considered an outcast in her home. “I had passion for education but the early pregnancy made my life miserable. My parents told me that there was no more money for further studies even when I was ready to continue. I had wanted to become a nurse so that I care for the sick. My dreams were cut short by a chapatti man who ruined my life,” Biira says.
She adds, “In 2012, my mother told me to starting selling tomatoes with her at Maliba trading centre in order to earn a living which was not easy at all.”
“I have lost the love from my parents because of producing at an early age and yet it was my first time to sleep with a man,” Biira regrets, adding, “My major problem is looking after the child since I do not get any help from her father. He also impregnated another girl whom he was forced to marry and he has no job.”
“My hope was restored this year when Reach the Youth (RTY), a non governmental organisation came to Kakindo village looking for youths out of school to be given practical skills,” Biira says.
“I was the first person to register because it was a way to get my life back and I could work to make ends meet,” Biira explains. She came to Rukooki District Council to receive a sweater weaving machine from Reach the Youth.
Biira, reveals that, her specialisation in sweater weaving will enable her earn a living and sustain herself and her child. She hopes to get the market from the nearby schools.
Much as 18-year-old Biira has entered into another relationship, she says that she has learnt how to plan for pregnancy in order not to conceive again as it was her worst experience.
Biira warns young girls to resist temptation in order to avoid early pregnancy.
Biira is not the only girl who has faced such challenges. There are others such as 18-year-old Sewiya Ithungu, a resident of Nyabisusi village Maliba Sub-county in Kasese.
Ithungu got pregnant at 14, after Primary Seven when she met a boda boda rider in Maliba trading centre. She was forced to marry him.
“I have a three-year-old child but I amhappily married. I have not got any challenges in my marriage even when I was forced into his home,” Ithungu says.
Ithungu was also brought on board by Reach the Youth that has trained her in tailoring skills that would enable her supplement the income of her husband.
“It is not easy to cope with the family demands at that tender age but one has to persist,” Ithungu says.
She advises other young girls to abstain from sex until they are adults because it ruins one’s education.
“This five year project is focusing on skilling the youths who did not get a chance to continue with the formal education. We managed to train 500 youths but we have only been able to equip 102 with tools to start a new life, ” says Abel Mwebembezi, the Executive Director, Reach the Youth.
“We believe that once the youth are economically empowered with tailoring, construction, motorcycle repair and bakery skills among others, they will not easily be lured into acts such as prostitution and theft,” the executive director says.
The assistant chief administrative officer, Johnson Muthungwanda says the major challenge the district is facing is insecurity and early marriages.
“We have come in to intervene and stop such marriages but the major challenge is connivance between the parents and the perpetrators,” says Faisal Babigumira, a community development officer at the district.
According to records at the district, early marriages, pregnancies stand at 60 per cent , which is alarming.
The Officer in charge of criminal investigations, Peter Tindyebwa says police receives scores of defilement cases but that police is frustrated by parents who conceal information about the affected persons but rather opt for negotiations with the suspects to settle matters privately.
“We have come to believe that many parents come to police to report defilement cases after failing to agree with the perpetrators,” Tindyebwa says.