My name is Aber Fiona Gladys, I am 20 years old now. I never met my father or any of his relatives while growing up. My mum told us that he was arrested by the Lord’s Resistance Army fighters when I was still a toddler and he never returned so we are not sure whether he is still alive or dead. My mother on the other hand left for South Sudan when I was only 8 years old and just returned recently with two other children from her second marriage. When she left for South Sudan, we remained under the care of her brother in Bardege. From that time, she never cared to return and check on us. In 2015, we left our uncle’s home and started living on our own in Layibi.
My uncle took us in with the expectation that our mother would send him financial support and when that did not happen, his attitude toward us changed. His wife mistreated us, she would send us to fetch water late in the night, we would do all house chores, and still be denied food at times and on days we are given, she would talk until we finish eating.
I never really went to school officially, the only time I was able to study was in 2013 when I joined Laliya primary school as an athlete moreover without any admission and I went straight away to primary three. I studied for one year and then dropped out since there was no one paying my school fees.
At 12 years, life at my uncle’s place was unbearable, the mistreatment from his wife had intensified and he said nothing about it. She would openly tell us that she is tired of raising girls who would become prostitutes like their mothers and that we should go and look for our father’s home or follow our mother in South Sudan. This was hard to take in, so my sister left home first and got a job as a house help, I later followed and started staying with some girls who were renting in the Layibi trading center. I was like their house help during the day and babysitter at night. I did this in return for food, shelter, and protection. In 2015, I tried looking for a job, so I can be independent, but no one was willing to employ a young girl. I had no choice but to start following my friends on their night escapades. After doing this for a year, I met a man who for the first time made me feel like I matter. He showed me so much love and care that I eloped and started cohabiting with him in Cwero. At 16, I became pregnant and when I told my husband, he changed from the caring and loving man I knew to an abusive one. Everything he did reminded me of my childhood experience, so I left him and returned to Layibi where I rejoined my colleagues and resumed doing whatever I could do to survive.
After I delivered my son who is now 4 years old, I decided to quit sex work and try doing other things to earn a living. I would do laundry and other domestic chores for people. I also started crushing stones at one of the quarry sites in Bardege. Due to the prolonged heavy lifting of stones at quarry sites, I develop severe chest pain and when I visited the Hashtag Gulu clinic, the nurse gave me some medication which helped to reduce the pain. I have also tried working in hotels, but it is not sustainable since I cannot even lift a 20-liter Jerrycan well.
Currently, I dig people’s gardens and at times do laundry for my neighbors. My son frequently falls sick, and this makes it hard for me to manage life by myself besides the usual challenge of feeding and rent that I face.
When my mother returned from South Sudan and was willing to tell us about our father, we agreed to go on this journey because the street life experience I have is not rosy, and knowing my father’s home and connecting with my paternal relatives would help have a place I can call home and a sense of belonging. I cannot tell how the reception will be, but at least not everyone will hate me, let alone remind me that I do not belong, that I am sure of. Besides, I am tired of renting, so knowing my father’s home will help me to resettle and construct my own hut hence reducing the cost of living because I am tired of street life and want to experience something new.