Re: Unforgiving Sexual gender based violence shaped me to speak out for the voiceless

Rape Hurts Foundation
Posted October 14, 2017 from Uganda
The struggles of an African Woman
Painful reminders

I was born and raised in a village where culture dictates the place of a girl or a woman. I have always stood tall and strong, to talk about rape, abuse and female genital mutilation truly knowing that I am risking it all. But I have to differ the odds and speak for the voiceless. I am proud for the human I have become.

Born on the 28th of July in 1984 to Mrs. Waiswa & Late Waiswa Bernard in a remote Village of Bukyerimba Namisambya Kamuli District, this is a community which offers few opportunities especially for the Women and girls. Since the nearest hospital is in 18miles, I was delivered in the absence of any qualified midwife or aiding nurse, my mother and I cheated death, were likely to be counted on the grotesque maternal and infant mortality death. As if a culture but yet not, every girl aged 14yrs is looked at as long overdue for marriage. Parents are looking at making a “killing” from bride-price paid to them would –be hubby or the parents of the boy. I grew up witnessing countless Child-marriages every weekend. I lived in a culture where a man can marry upto 20 wives to provide labor on his farmland. Yes, women were enslaved then and are still enslaved upto. Something has to be done to break this vindictive cycle. Someone has to stand up and say enough is enough!!

Polygamy has never been so far way from anybody born in Busoga Sub Region; it’s never in the backyard but just fronted in your face. My own father was a proud prince “wana-be” he had 8 wives and many mistresses. He fathered over 20 Children, though disease, poverty and poor feeding claimed some of them. As of today, I have 18 known siblings. My own mom gave birth to 10 Children, but only 7 of us are survived. Though my mother married dad when she was so young, she believed in the values of education, and she put up a dependable force to resist our father from marrying me off at a tender age. She did all she could do to make sure I attain a good education, yes she sacrificed a lot, stood the beating, abuse and rejection but she insisted I should finish my education and make my own choices. I loved and admired school from childhood; I guess that’s why I hanged on as well. I started school at the age of 5yrs and I have to walk bare foot to Kamuli Township which is 10miles away from our home here in Bukyerimba. One day I will write about this in a book “The unforgiving walk to School” How I survived, I really don’t know but I was kept alive maybe for this cardinal purpose at Rape Hurts Foundation. Despite the odds and challenges I know Rape Hurts Foundation is doing a pretty awesome job.

Am the 1st female graduate with a bachelors from a University (Makerere University Kampala - the most prestigious University in East Africa) in our Village, surprisingly when I graduate the entire village celebrated, the celebration went on for a whole week. I became a hero overnight and the villagers turned up in big numbers to touch my graduation gown. The village and the whole district has put a lot of hopes in me. I can’t say I have achieved a lot for them but little by little, by encouraging more young people to stay in school, openly speaking about things like rape and domestic gender based violence, advocating and lobbying …I can see there is some change.

Though a lot has to been done, 99.9% of all the households here depend on oil lamps for lighting at night, they use open stove/cooking stones to make their meals, over 85% of the youths don’t have any skill in life (apart from eating and causing pregnancy as if that’s a skill) women and girls are still kept in an inferior position and some men still look at them as sex toys, there is only one school (RHF – Community School), there is no access to Safe Clean water (the only well we have at RHF can’t serve the entire community) it should be noted that national grid-power lines are in 5KMs but still the locals can’t afford paying the hydro power bills, still the nearest health center is now in 10Km but not easily accessible because of lack of transport. Every year in and out, famine strikes killing people, there isn’t food security. The list of problems and challenges faced by the local people is endless.

I willingly share my story of the events which led me to this full-time commitment. I am a rape victim and survivor, born and raised in a polygamous family of rural poor villages of Kamuli. Fetching water is a primary cultural role of girls and women there. In most cases, open water wells are at a distance of 2-5miles. Most girls come back from school late in the evenings since they have to walk from the schools which are always a long distance away. On arrival home they are sent to go and fetch water.

This is how I met my ugly fate. I was raped by the very people who were supposed to protect me while coming from a water-well in the dark night at the age of 11. Here the culture protects the rapist, and I was blamed instead. I never got any justice. Update: my rapist behaves as if nothing happened, it hurts. But I have been able to replace hate with love. In my village, women and girls suffer all forms of rape; ritual rape, cultural rape, marriage rape, forced marriage and child marriages. This reality compels me towards advocacy and change. I am among the few lucky ones because I attained a bachelor’s degree at Makerere University Kampala from my Bukyerimba Kamuli village. This was a wake-up call for me to use my unfortunate past for the betterment of the girls & women in this sub-region. I came out and spoke about my experiences and became a voice for the voiceless. Over the years, I have connected rape to poverty, water, food, human rights, awareness, light, violence and gender inequality. I know RAPE HURTS.

Thanks

Hellen W. Lunkuse

Rape Hurts Foundation www.rapehurts.org

This story was submitted in response to I Am Thankful for You Because....

Comments 8

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Jill Langhus
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 14, 2017

Hi Hellen. Welcome to World Pulse:) Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing story, work and organization. You will love it on here. I think you will find a lot of sisters that will support and encourage you and that will help you to achieve your goals and mission. I can't believe some of the injustices that still happen for girls and women, but I'm so happy to hear stories such as yours' that are beacons of hope, love and light. You have overcome so much and you are so strong. I'm following you on FB and Twitter now. Good luck with your story submission:-) And, shine on!!!

Rape Hurts Foundation
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 14, 2017

Thanks so much Jlanghus

Jill Langhus
Oct 16, 2017
Oct 16, 2017

You're welcome. Oh, make sure that you click the "comment bubble" if you would like to respond to them otherwise they won't be alerted that you responded, i.e., it won't show up in their email boxes. I only just saw this because I went back to your story, FYI. Have a great day!

Ronnie.kpas
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 14, 2017

I can totally relate with all what u just expressed here, it really hurts and the story is similar for most rural communities in Africa, I have been dealing with rural women and young widows  in ikanekpo village in Kogi state Nigeria, and when u hear stories like this u feel sobsad as a woman, a situation where a woman as young as 18accepts to be 5th wife, and the men feel they are doing you a favor by marrying you. These women  really needs to be enlightened and empowered, unfortunately the presence  civil society in my country is not felt in most rural community. I love your story, because this is the story of the girl child in the most remote areas on the African continent. 

Rape Hurts Foundation
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 14, 2017

Thanks Ronnie, every rural African girl or woman has a story to tell

Jennifer Flaman
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 14, 2017

I am struck by your strength. You have endured so much and yet continue to raise your voice. Thank you for your courage. 

maeann
Nov 07, 2017
Nov 07, 2017

Hello Hellen,

Thank you for sharing your story. And being a woman who had unfortunate past, you did not lose hope and use it to be a blessing to other girls and women to be empowered.  Thank you for raising that voice.  May you find enough strength and support for your organization.

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 08, 2017
Nov 08, 2017

Dear Hellen,

You and sisters like you are the reason I am so grateful for our ability to connect now through World Pulse. The depth of your commitment to change for every girl and woman, your commitment to change in the system that underlies the current conditions "I have connected rape to poverty, water, food, human rights, awareness, light, violence and gender inequality" is exactly what we need to have thrive everywhere. You and the women and girls of your village are the reason I am committed for life to these changes.

With love in sisterhood,

Tam