This week on Monday I was able to meet with Shiphrah Scotts the Project Coordinator for Wells of Hope Women safe home. This is a home that is being set up for women who are returning to their communities after incarceration. Most of these women have been on remand for over 5 years and have lost touch with their families, some have served their sentences for over twenty years and don't know where their relatives are. She gave us an example of a ninety old lady who was convicted of murder and was bound to be released in the next three months. The welfare officer informed them that this lady is very vulnerable because for the time that she has spent in prison she had not received any visitor. Her family and friends abandoned her when she was convicted.
She also told us of another lady aged 45 years who is bound to be released from prison but because she has been in prison for over 5 years she has lost hope in the outside world and so when she went to court so the case could be dismissed for lack of evidence she insisted that she killed the deceased and begged the judge to remain in prison. For her prison had become her home, she had sisters she could talk to and chores to do which kept her busy. She didn't know what the outside world had for her and didn't want to part of it simply because she was abandoned by those she loved. Her greatest fear was starting new relationships with the people she had left behind. For her these were strangers and didn't want anything to do with them. This lady represents so many women and men who fear to leave prison because the world out here has passed them by and they are afraid to start new lives, so they would rather stay in a system they have grown accustomed to.
This safe home for women will provide these women with counselling services and they will teach them a skill like baking and knitting so that they can have somewhere to start. After six months to a year these women will be expected to lead their own lives and also encourage others who come into the home to be strong and explain to them what to expect.
So far the home is expecting one lady with her child who has a neurological complication. This lady spent over 8 months in prison over a debt she gave birth in prison. However her story is different from the rest. She has been in touch with her family who agreed to pay the balance of the debt. Her family is in Masindi District which is quite far from Kampala. She will be staying in this home because she needs to seek medical assistance for her child. This project will link her to the medical partners who can assist her child and while at the home she will be trained in a skill that she can earn from when she goes back home.
This project also helps them to be integrated in to the system, like help them process their national identity cards and also inform them where they can get basic services like medical and NSSF if they had been saving while in employment. There is still a lot that needs to be done for this project they lack so many basics like sanitary pads and clothes for the women and children who will be staying here.
I was happy to talk to her about World Pulse and will go back when they women are around so I can introduce them to world pulse because am sure they have very inspirational and heart breaking stories of their time in prison and how their families abandoned them even when some were not guilty.