Making a Choice Where I Have None

I loved school so much. I grew up g and healthy.

I was a very active child, running from one hill to another, fetching water, collecting firewood, helping my mother with house chores of all kinds and helping my father with small feminine errands. My father was a bicycle mechanic. His workshop was just near our house. All bicycles in our village, and beyond, were brought to him.

My mother was a fulltime housewife, who tilled the land to provide food for the family. Being the first-born of nine children, I did almost everything, from cooking to feeding my brothers and sisters. I went to a nearby Church of Uganda school. My teachers loved me because I was very fast at doing anything they instructed me to do.

I was a g girl. In class, I was just average, because most of the time I would be thinking about how I left my mother without water, and wondering how she would manage. I cared about everyone, including the neighbours. One day my aunt, who is my namesake, came to visit. I was very happy because my aunt Nansamba is a very humorous woman.

My mother had always told me that I have the same healthy life like my aunt, and that I resembled her in everything. My aunt was a g, kind and loving woman, yet very strict on discipline. This time when she came, I thought it was the usual chatting and laughing. I was wrong. At 10pm, I was called.

“Nansamba!”

When Ssenga calls me by my surname, I sense danger.

“I am here, Ssenga”, I answer.

“Come let’s go out to the kitchen. I want to prepare a special dish,” Senga says.

We go out and make a little fire for warmth. I ask her about the food that we were going to prepare, and she tells me, “My brother’s daughter, I have found a man for you. He is a good man he comes from a good family. He is highly educated because he sat his Primary Leaving Examinations. He will look after you, my daughter. He is a hard-working farmer, and has a job at ‘Piida’ (Public Works Department – PWD). Be a good girl and accept him, after all, you don’t have a choice.”

I innocently ask: “Ssenga, why did you find him for me? Is he going to help pay my school fees?”

“He is going to marry you.”

Silence.

I start crying.

Ssenga wipes my tears. She says: “My daughter, you are a woman, and women get married.”

I am only fourteen, for God’s sake. I was in primary five. I had started school late, because my mother always needed me to be at home and help her with my younger brothers and sisters.

The words, “You have no choice,” start echoing…

“I will get married Ssenga,” I say.

My Ssenga is very happy. She does not even try to understand me. I say I will get married, but I have not accepted to get married to the man she has found for me. Ssenga should have read my facial expression, because from head to toe, I was not getting married to a village champion. My dreams were bigger than just getting married to some successful farmer. I wanted to be a nurse and I was going to achieve it.

It takes about six months to prepare for the wedding. Several visits are made to our home, by the farmer’s side. On the eve of the wedding, people are busy eating, drinking and dancing it is approaching midnight. I excuse myself, as if to go to the latrine. I walk past the women who are cooking.

I thank them for making my day a wonderful one I continue walking behind the kitchen, through the garden, to the road. I get into a panic, I run. I get to the Catholic parish, and I am received by Sister Josepha, who was expecting me.

I am driven to a girl’s school, where I excel in class.

I am now the nursing officer at the village health centre, and married to a teacher.

Source : The Observer

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