At last we are in Busia County, North Teso Sub County, Angorai Division, Katakwa Location. This is home to the Teso. They have very fertile land and are a very hard working people. They are farmers and their main cash crop presently is Tobacco. Majority of the Teso people are found in Uganda and they have a king who is referred to as Emormor. As mentioned earlier they are still very in touch with their African ways. This has led to very serious violation of the children and women rights in this community.
My visit to this community was very humbling as I found very friendly people but was also shocked by the information I was getting. I was here to launch the girl power program with assistance from the director of H- WAY (Heal the Women and Youth) a community based organization that we partnered with on the ground. They use sports as a tool for change and development.
Several issues emerged from this visit. First, there are very many cases of rape, incest and sexual harassment. Girls as young as the age 7 are being defiled by their relatives who should be protecting them. Most of these cases are not reported and for the few that are reported only one is completed and the offender persecuted. The parents and government administrators are highly compromised.
Secondly there are several girls, who have gone back to school and are performing despite the predicaments that faced them. We have girls who have given birth. We applaud these young mothers who have a strong will to make a change in their lives. They really need a lot of guidance, support, and encouragement. We also have victims of rape and incest who are in school bravely dealing with stigma, are working hard in school despite all this.
Thirdly is that most girls in secondary schools are sexually active. This has resulted in very many severe cases of sexually transmitted infections. These girls are ignorant and are not practicing safe sex. There are also cases of HIV positive children who need proper care and medication. The number of HIV positive students is not big.
Fourth is high poverty levels have resulted in young girls falling for bodaboda riders (Motorbike riders) who cheat and have sex with them then leave them. This has greatly contributed to these girls dropping out of school due to early pregnancy. On the other hand young boys are also dropping out of school to be bodaboda riders and make quick easy money.
Fifth is a high rate of girls dropping out of school due to lack of school fee, early pregnancies, early marriages, and poverty. In some cases the parents prefer to educate the boys and not the girls.
The other issue is a high rate of absenteeism for girls in school especially when they are on their menstrual period. This is because they do not have sanitary towels.
There are also several child headed households and this affect their education. There are several causes for this, one the parents are diseased, secondly the parents have moved to town to look for jobs, on the other hand its grandparents who are left in the home and they are too old to fend for the children.
The girls of this community are very talented and they play sports. This is home to both handball and football national teams. The community also actively participates in sports as noted by the CBO H-WAY.
There is need for us to come up with a boys program in this area that will support the girls directly. We cannot address some of these problems successfully if we do not involve our brothers.
Lastly is that in order for us to make a change in this community we need to address the community as a whole. We need to talk to the mothers, fathers, girls and the leadership. We need to see change in women by women for women. Just as we say you can silence one girl but a nation of girls can’t be silenced. We have a platform to voice out and we surely will till change happens.