Eight months after she said her husband had forced her to breastfeed puppies, Ms Jennifer Alupo is living a new promising life after enrolling for a tailoring course to earn a living without the support of the father of her two children aged below 10, writes Flavia Lanyero:-
The course is expected to take at least eight months before Ms Alupo can grasp the art of tailoring. Her tutors say, however, that because she has never been to school, learning what will be her new trade has been made a little slow for her.
This does not prevent Ms Alupo from looking on the bright side.
Ms Alupo says that since she broke loose from her husband’s inhuman treatment, life has become much better.
“I am happy where I am now, people have been giving me support and my husband can no longer threaten me,” she adds.
In addition to the tailoring course, Ms Alupo has also been helped to construct a house by ActionAid Uganda where she will be living with her children once it is complete. The children are currently living with their father.
It is not so certain, however, whether Alupo actually breast-fed the said puppies. No one, including the police or her neighbours have been able to get to the bottom of the matter.
When Sunday Monitor visited Alupo’s husband, Mr Nathan Awoloyi, at his home in Pallisa, he said he was shocked to hear his wife accuse him of having forced her to breastfeed puppies. Mr Awoloyi pointed at a 10-year-old dog which he said he used to hunt, as being the only canine he owns.
He sarcastically questioned whether a 10-year-old dog could agree to the idea of suckling at a human breast. According to the acting Pallisa District Police Commander, Mr Ahmed Madiri, police has never got any evidence to prove that Ms Alupo fed the puppies, as she claimed, or that Mr Awoloyi kept puppies.
“We surveyed the area to see if puppies were buried but we did not find any evidence. Alupo’s physical appearance cannot tell you that she fed the puppies. The charge we now have against Awoloyi is one of child neglect,” Mr Madiri said.
He added that a test was carried out in Mbale Hospital but it also found no evidence of breastfeeding puppies. “The hospital results only indicated that Ms Alupo suffers from epilepsy illness,” Mr Madiri said.
Ms Alupo’s lawyer, however, expressed dissatisfaction at the way Ms Alupo’s file was handled. She says she has never been allowed to read the documents from the hospital to-date.
“Alupo was not taken for forensic examination immediately after the crime. After some time she was taken to Mbale Hospital for examination but I have not had a chance to look at the hospital evidence, the sheet was immediately sent to Kampala,” Ms Hope Icedu says.
In a separate interview with Mr Awoloyi, he said that his wife Alupo suffered a brain disorder caused by her epileptic condition which could explain the earlier injuries she had suffered on her body and her breasts.
“My wife sometimes gets attacks and becomes unconscious, she even some times falls in fire, when she says I forced her to breastfeed puppies, she does not know what she is talking about,” Mr Awoloyi said.
From Action Aid, the organisation where Ms Alupo first sought refuge, they say that her children testified to seeing their mother breast feed the puppies.
The Programmes Coordinator for Action Aid in Pallisa, Ms Caroline Odoi, says that Ms Alupo came to the centre with scars on her breasts.
“Even if you ask the children right now, they will tell you that they saw their mother breast feed the puppies, that is the evidence we have,” says Ms Odoi .
These are, however, five years and two years old children who not even of school going age. It might be good news for Ms Alupo that she is moving on, but her marriage to her husband seems to have come to an end.
Her husband says that he does not want her any more in his life. Ms Alupo says she at one time even attempted to go back home but her husband closed the door on her, which forced Alupo to seek assistance from ActionAid.
Mr Awoloyi, however, says that he will not let go of the two children who are currently with him adding that even the new house being constructed also belongs to him since he paid bride price when he married Ms Alupo.
“Everything my wife owns is mine because I paid my bride price of two cows and two goats. If she wants to be independent, she should pay back my bride price,” Awoloyi said.
This is the one thing likely to complicate the life of a woman who is placing all her bets on a future with a sewing machine.
It also brings to the fore the burdens that the unfulfilled promise places on rural women in a country where society is still heavily inclined to see the woman as being in a relationship of unequal partners when she gets involved with a man.