Every child’s dream is to have a caring and loving family that will stand with them at all costs. And when they grow, they would love to get married to a respected and responsible man.
This was not for Joan Kabuye, 19 (not real name) who found herself on the street at the age of 10. She shares her story:
I used to stay in Nansana with my step mother, dad and two siblings. Life was normal until my father was involved in a fatal accident and died.
He was buried in a cemetery in Nkowe ( a village after Nansana) the following day. I didn’t get a chance to know his people (my relatives) apart from his close friend called Kanyankole. Though my step mother said he was a Rwandan.
After the burial, my stepmother concentrated on the well-being of her two children and neglected me. She would give them food from her room as I went hungry the entire day or would sometimes steal from neighbours to have something to eat.
The day I left home was when she prepared chicken for her visitors and I stole some because I knew she wouldn’t give me some. She beat me so much and locked me out the entire night.
Hitting the street
That very night, I decided to leave home and look for a place to stay but since it was too dark and scary, I walked a little distance and slept on someone’s veranda.
I woke up so early the next day and continued walking to an unknown destination. Along the way, I was lucky to meet a friend called Jackline who was hiding from her aunt but had plans of going back.
She changed her mind when I told her I had run away from home and was looking for a place to stay. Jackline said she had been to Kampala and had seen so many children living on the street.
” People give them free money, no one beats them and they do whatever they want,” she told me.
Though we all didn’t know the road leading to Kampala, we decided to walk until we reach. On our way, we stole some clothes from someone’s wire because non of us had carried any.
After a whole day of walking, Jackline told me we had reached . It was fun in the city, a lot of cars and just like my friend had said. There were a lot of children on the street though most of them were boys.
The most difficult thing was getting what to eat. People had their bins and picking food there would give you some beating. But as time went on, we learnt that you can go to hotels in Owino Market to wash dishes and get something to eat in return.
We would also stand on streets and get money though this was sometimes useless as older boys and girls took the money from us.
We at some point became slaves as everybody would order you to do things with no one defending you. On the street, its your strength that fights for you.
I remember we would sometimes collect our boxes to sleep on and after you have laid them so well, someone tells you to get some where else to sleep.
The hardest time for a street girl is when night falls. Every one uses you as they please regardless of your age. No one asks for your consent.
We were sometimes sold to old men by old street boys and girls, and they wouldn’t give you on the money they have earned. This is the reason we kept relocating to different places.
At times the only way to get something to eat is through sleeping with a man.
When I was 17 years-old, I realised my body was changing. My belly started growing big. I thought I had a stomach complication but I didn’t feel any pain.
Around that time, Jackline had gotten a job as a housemaid. So I was all alone. And on my own.
As the belly grew bigger, people started noticing and mama Lati (an old woman who also lived on the street) told me I was pregnant and I had to start working as I needed to look after the child myself.
The problem is I didn’t know who the father was as I had been with so many men. I visited my friend Jackline who luckily connected me to her neighbour in Namuwongo and advised me to settle down for the sake of the child I was carrying.
The lady I was working for badly needed a maid but didn’t trust me being that I was off the street.
She took me to police and made me write a statement saying “in case anything happens in her home I am responsible.”
Jackline was one of the witnesses.
Settling in was hard. I found it hard to ask for things and would steal instead which my boss hated. She, however, constantly told me I had to learn to live as a normal human being.
She took me for antenatal and my HIV results showed positive. This was another blow as I didn’t know what to do.
She later took me to a counselor who helped me get back to normal and accept whoever I had become.
I gave birth to a healthy baby girl who I adore. I will never give her a chance to go to the street. I even never want her to know I ever lived there.
I tried going back to look for my siblings but they had relocated and no one knew where they went. My child, my boss and Jackline are my only family now.
Living on the street is the hardest thing a person can ever go through, sometimes you are forced to steal since its the only option.
No one ever stands to defend you even when you are wronged. People judge you easily without understanding who you really are or what took you there.
My advice to all street children is that it’s never too late to leave a normal life.
In case you get an opportunity, embrace it. I also advise people who take in these children to be patient with them as these are two different worlds.
Lastly I advise children who still have a chance to live a normal life to use it well. Living on the street is the most cruel choice you can ever make.