Growth and its challenges to the girl child.

Bernadette Ojao during the Karamoja Cultural Event in Napak District 2023

No one told me life would be easy for a young girl who has just hit puberty and is all excited to experience life independently with no much supervision.

In 2002 , my life changed forever with all of the the challenges I faced growing up in a slum setting. Before then everything was brought on a silver platter and I didn’t have much to worry about.

However, no one warned me about all the challenges I was going to face while I transitioned to my adulthood phase. From needing personal basic needs like knickers , sanitary pads, Vaseline to cloths , Oh GOD… no one warned me that adulthood was a Scam that I looked so forward to in my early teen years.

Growing up from a broken family even made it worse as I found solace in running off with other young people who were going through similar situations as mine. I was warned about peer pressure but in that moment of life the peers were my run to gang and I always somehow felt more loved and seen around the youngsters who were finding solace in smoking weed to forget all of their troubles. Did I learn their vices?? Yes! Did I have control over my decisions ? No!

Somehow, it felt as though I was happy doing all that made me happy with no parental supervision anyway. I can’t remember the number of days I missed school because I was rather better off chilling with the gang then being chased back home because my parents hadn’t paid the fees. There were no excuses to as why I would even sit in a class that would see mine name called out in the next hour in the list of fees defaulters.

I was frustrated, hopeless and found no purpose in education. Everything seemed as though it was meaningless. I had no career guidance but deep inside me I had dreams, dreams of changing the lives of my patents and siblings , dreams of being a CEO one day, dreams of building my own house and being successful. But, I couldn’t bring myself to understanding how I was going to get there until something life changing happened.

This was my turning point , the day I discovered I was pregnant and was asked by the person whom I thought was in love with me to abort the pregnancy. I remember walking 5km to Kamwokya with tears flowing from my eyes, feeling lost and disappointed in myself and thinking to myself what I was going to do for another life that was being knit inside my womb but mostly what I was gonna tell my parents.

Boldly , i went home with red eyes , hiding from my mother pretending that I was in so much period pain that I couldn’t stand it . Innocently the sweet lady of my life asks me to go to bed and rest while she made me a cup of tea. My best friend stayed next door to us , the message notification I sent her saw her running to our house and immediately she gave me a solution to trigger back my periods . The plan was to get 5 sachets of tea leaves and mixing them in freshly boiled water. So as mother brought me the tea she made , my best friend brought the tea leaves hidden in an envelope of documents for mother not to see.

Three gallops down the throat and I was already throwing out my lungs. Three months down the road , the pregnancy was still there, three months down the road I was packing my bags out of my parents house to go hustle life in the ghettos of Kamwokya. Luckily I got a job to help me manage my house bills and self while sending mother some money for food as well. Things weren’t as easy as they came and years later I am glad life took me through that path because today I can use my voice to educate, mentor and coach young people into making right decisions to responsible living.

Years later I am a CEO, I have a decent home and a good impact traction in my country Uganda. How I changed my story wasn’t by might not wasn’t it my power. I am a believer and God fearing young woman . I used all of my challenges to make a great story and I refused to be defined by what I went through. I used all the lemons to make lemonade and I am still here to creare and share my story to change the lives of the many youth who feel lost and downcast. One of the greatest books I read that helped me direct my life were the books in the Bible . I used other people’s experiences to better my own plus I worked and still work real hard to change the narrative that nothing good comes out of the ghetto.

I am proud of my scares because the wounds healed very well . My son whom I almost foolishly hurt is now 11years and has a brilliant brain like mine. His coming changed my life and I don’t or will never ever take that for granted . And yet , we still have very many young people making hard life decisions, I am glad I allowed myself to face these changes that years later have pushed me into the strong and supportive lady that I am .

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