What you need to know:
- Smiling again. Mariam Namukasa got married and along the way, experienced body size changes. Her husband said she was no longer attractive and left her for another woman.
And the second runner up for the Miss Curvy beauty pageant was Mariam Namukasa in 2019. She strutted the podium with a spring in her foot. The MC handed her the microphone and she said, “... this message goes to my ex husband an our husbands, I am beautiful, I am sexy... to men worldwide...we know sometimes you change your minds about us, you don’t have to break us [emotionally]....walk away....I am 132kg and I am a very flexible woman...!” Those were Namukasa’s words at the Miss Curvy competition aimed at ending the idea of ‘size zero’ beauty.
When a young Namukasa met Farouk*(not real name) she was still in school when her family had moved to his village. They became friends and would spend time together.
“The more time we spent time watching film series and other activities together , the closer we felt towards each other,” Namukasa recounts.
Meanwhile Namukasa had met someone else with whom they had a son but the relationship did not last. So, she was looking for a father figure for her son and Farouk had all the qualities. They knew each other a great deal as well and she was confident he was the one.
“I will always be grateful to him for raising my son to the humble man he is,” she says.
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Because he did not have money, Namukasa told her mother about Farouk’s issues and she accepted as long as Namukasa loved him. She believed they were going to make the money together.
“My mother catered for everything and told Farouk to come for kukyaala (visiting the fiancée’s parents). This, she did so that the family knew it was official and that I was with him,” she recalls.
After Namukasa’s second child, her mother paid for her to study for a diploma in Nursery teaching. Thus, she became the breadwinner since Farouk was jobless.
“A few years later, we had our third child and Farouk also got a job at a bank. Life got better and promising, and we got our own house too. However, the more promising life got, the further Farouk drifted away from me,” she says.
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Namukasa recalls that she kept becoming a size bigger every time she gave birth.
Things fall apart
Namukasa started seeing the ugly part of her then husband. She had started family planning but fell pregnant with their fourth child.
Farouk spent most of his weekends in the house on the phone chatting with a “workmate” asking about children, if they had eaten or not and all sorts of things.
He would barely touch her, saying she was no longer appealing. He would keep reminding her of how much weight she had put on.
“Whenever I asked him anything, he would say I was stressing him. He started telling me how he cannot even risk being seen with me in public. Statements like ‘when I see you, I see misery’ would always be thrown around,” she recalls.
He started calling her names depicting her size and every time he did that, the little self-confidence she had both in their 17-year-old marriage and in herself waned. The more he looked down on her, the more her self-esteem dwindled.
Hell broke loose when she landed on his diary where he journalled his feelings towards another woman and his praises of her.
Namukasa wondered if all the words he had told her in their bliss meant anything anymore. She knew she had lost her husband. But she did not want to lose her children’s father.
Four days after she had been discharged from hospital after a caesarian section birth of their fourth child, Farouk brought his clothes for her to wash.
No matter how much she begged Farouk saying she had not yet healed to do such chores, he insisted she washes the clothes. He asked her not to stress him.
“When you are married, you are supposed to be submissive. I bent to wash the clothes and developed a hole in my C-section scar. In that state, he refused to take me in his car to hospital. I settled for a boda boda,” she recalls.
The break up
Because her school had been closed due to Covid-19, Namukasa did not have any money and Farouk’s phones were off all day. It was Christmas Day. The children who had slept on an empty stomach the previous day could not stop crying because of hunger pangs.
“It was until 1pm when a friend sent me Shs50, 000 for Christmas that I dashed to get food for the children.
When he returned home later that evening, he took the children out, bought them toys and food and they returned home. It is then that Farouk told her to brace herself for the news he was going to break.
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“‘I fell in love’, were the four words he told me. He let me know that he did not want me to hear it from someone else and that he had found someone he loved and they were planning to get married,” she recalls.
Bearing in mind that he was Muslim, she wanted him to at least take her to the mosque and then marry his second love but his reply to that was he would forget about her and her children if she stood in his way.
“I did not want my children to miss their father, so even when his family tried to stop it and failed, I let go,” she says.
He sent her packing from the house they had bought and she had to find another home for herself yet she was unemployed at the time.
Then, friends told her about Miss Curvy pageant. Namukasa says joining Miss Curvy pageant was an opportunity she had to turn all her negativity into positive energy. It was a time she to reassure herself that she is beautiful and rebuild her self-esteem.
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Just before the bootcamp Namukasa was involved in an accident and people ridiculed her during the pageantry saying she would not make it. She did not back out.
“I wanted to do this for me, for my children and plus size people who are criticised for their weight,” she says.
One of her children also receives such insults at school and she says she is building her into a strong woman who loves all of her. Namukasa adds that her mother got her in touch with a therapist and slowly, she started falling in love with her body again. Even when a taxi conductor called her a pig, she would reply with positivity about the enormous love people have for pork. She says if you learn to love your body, no one can use it against you.
“Whenever I would go shopping for my children, there would be someone to remind me that they do not sell clothes my size. I want a world where -we can stop being discriminated against,” she says.
Her dream is to get capital and set up a boutique for plus size people right from clothes; under garments, and shoes that are classy fashion items.
• Weight gain is predominantly environmental and not so genetic. What one eats, how much one exercises, eating processed, fast and sweet foods can also lead to weight gain.
• Sedentary lifestyle of wake up, go to work, use lifts, use remote to adjust the air-conditioned, go home with not enough walking is one of the main cause of weight gain in the current generation. It therefore, turns out to be the imbalance between what the individual takes and their physical activity.
• There is a need to control one’s carbohydrate, calorie intake which demands maximum discipline and commitment to control weight gain. Persistence and peer support in this can help you in your
• Breastfeeding can cause a lot of appetite but that can be compensated for after.
• Lack of enough sleep is also one of the leading factors to obesity. For some people, they will get off work late and still want to do some extra work which leads to excessive weight gain.
Dr Martin Nsubuga, Endocrinologist