“My mother was ‘given’ to my father after capture at 14 years, a year before she gave birth to me. She did not tell me any of this, but I found out while reading her amnesty card. She returned from the bush for the first time in 2001. We stayed at World Vision and then later she rented a house in Kirombe, just out of town. I was only a year old.” Davina narrates.
“At 3 years, my mother met a man who took us in and looked after us well for a while until after my mother bore him children. He treated me poorly; did not provide the basic needs such as scholastic materials for school, and clothing. Something he did for his biological children.” Wa Tye Ki Gen paid my school fees while my mother provided additional requirements until Primary 7. Unfortunately, I did not proceed to secondary because of poor results. However, a year later, I joined Rakele Secondary School in Lira before dropping out in Senior 3.
Davina abandoned home because of the increasing mistreatment from her stepfather but particularly after being referred to as a ‘dwog cen paco’. ‘A dwog cen Paco’ referenced a person born in rebel captivity and subjected to cynical treatment. She received these sentiments at home as well, including from her father whose actions spelt nothing short of saying it.
My mother abandoned me in Kirombe, Gulu District at the time with three step-siblings while she moved with her husband to Kitgum District. Her husband, my stepfather had lived with us for a while before persuading her to move with him. After they moved, he brought another woman. Introducing another lover spelt endless mistreatment including physical violence until when I saved enough money to transport her back to Gulu.
A slight hope for Davina was when her youngest sister eloped with her lover. They hoped he would ease their burden. But when he got her pregnant, he abandoned them without help. Davina and her little sister worked the quarry site and slept with men for money to support themselves and their families. It was a tough choice as both were out of school, and homeless, and her little sister was pregnant and almost due.
Life on the street.
At 17, I worked a house-help job for a family in Tegwana in Pece, Gulu City. In the beginning, the family was kind to me. However, when the man of the house made sexual advances toward me, every changed. He hoped by sleeping with me, I would birth him a boy to complement the girls he and his wife had. He promised to improve my state of living and equally take care of my siblings if I bore him a son. He was HIV positive, and his wife was very supportive. I declined. He harassed me and accused me of stealing from his house. When it failed, he accused me of seducing him. I got fired.
In 2021, I moved to Lira to work for another family. Besides being subjected to an extreme load of work, I was never kind to by my immediate boss whereas her children and husband were extremely caring, and empathetic. I left without pay soon after she started death threats.
While in Gulu, they informed me that ‘Wa Tye Ki Gen Foundation’ was providing skills training to its beneficiaries. I signed up for a year-long tailoring course. They promised us tailoring machines and materials for our start-up upon completion. I met a boy training in construction in the same period and fell in love despite our similar backgrounds. After a while, I discovered I was pregnant. He advised me to abort, but I rejected it because of the experiences my friend went through trying to abort. One of them died, and another one barely survived. My mother encouraged me to keep the pregnancy.
When we visited the parents of my boyfriend in Pece Acoyo in Gulu District, my boyfriend outrightly denied the pregnancy in front of our parents. I had never felt so worthless before but with a new life growing inside of me; I braced up for that challenge.
Davina lives with her six-month-old daughter in a house built by ‘Wa Tye Ki Gen’. She has a small garden where she grows her own food. “I recall the trouble and pressure to move into the house with little to no money or else risk losing the house to another beneficiary”. She added. Beneficiaries of the same program had suggested to ‘Wa Tye Ki Gen’ that she would not handle life in the village because of her history of living on the street. “This house and the land it sits is my property, I couldn’t afford to lose it lest I encounter the prejudice and stigma I dealt with as a child. It also presents an opportunity to raise my child better.”
I am not sure of what to eat or where to find seedlings to plant in my new home. I have largely relied on neighbors to survive, I can’t thank them enough for their generosity. Food in the village is quite expensive, so it’s cheaper for one to grow their own. I borrowed UGX 50,000 from my colleagues on the streets to start a new life. I do not know where I will get the money to reimburse my colleagues but I am hopeful I will repay their kindness.