What it means to be 10 years old and pregnant

She was raped twice by their neighbour. Probably, 10-year-old Irene would have continued to suffer in silence had it not been for her grandmother who noticed her bulge. She shares her story with Zurah Karungi

The first thing people notice about me is my bulging tummy. The stares I get when I go for antenatal classes are many. Most expectant mothers are eager to hear my story but I am not too keen to share it.

My name is*Irene Namagambe, I am 10 years old and pregnant. I would not be like this (pregnant) if our parents had not split.

How it all began
My parents separated when I was two. We remained with our dad who could not ably take care of us. He sent me and my younger sister to live with our grandmother in Namaliga, Kisoga-Kyaggwe, Mukono District. Here, we stayed with our cousins.

I later attended Bunyama Primary School in Kyaggwe but dropped out in Primary One after my father had threatened to kill my mum if she continued sending money for school fees.

Life at grandmother’s
I had to stay home because grandmother did not have money for us to continue in school. Instead, we stayed home digging in the garden and doing other house chores.

This did not bother me because our cousins were not at school also. Our grandmother did her best to make sure that our lives were comfortable. She gave us food and shared with us everything she had. She loved us equally.

She constantly blamed my father for not caring about us and sometimes cursed God for giving him such a son. The one thing she could not give me was my mum.

My parents were constantly fighting and because of this, dad stopped her from seeing us. We somehow adjusted to this. Every morning we would wake up, take the goats for grazing, take tea and go to the garden. My grandmother taught all of us how to dig and no one missed.

Danger strikes
One day, I went to the garden alone to dig the portion that had been allocated to me.

While there, Benja, our immediate neighbour, came. He was grandmother’s friend and frequented our home even though he always wore torn clothes.

When he saw me, he sat under a tree and we talked while I continued digging. He asked me where grandmother was and when I told him she was not coming he stood up almost immediately.
He walked towards me and threw me on the ground. Before I could do anything else, he was sitting on my thighs. I was so scared because my grandmother had told me never to allow boys to do such things to me.

I tried shouting but he held my mouth as he pulled off his trouser with another hand. He pulled up my dress and forced me to have sex with him. He was like a possessed man and was breathing heavily.

Even when I started bleeding, he did not stop until he finished. My tears could not stop him yet I was feeling a lot of pain.

The aftermath
When he finished, he got up, put on his trousers and told me he would kill me if I dared to tell anyone about what had happened.

I sat up with great difficulty with tears flowing down my cheeks not sure what to do next.
Walking back home was the hardest thing to do that day. When I got home I just went to bed, scared of telling grandmother because I did not want to die. I was devastated.

Benja continued to come home and behaved as if nothing had happened. I thought that was the end of it but a month later, he raped me again while on my way to the well.

This time I didn’t lose blood at all and the pain was bearable. I even walked normally to the well and fetched water before returning home.

Still, I never said anything to grandmother. Life somehow returned to normal but I took a decision not to leave home alone. But this decision was rather late.

I think it was four months later when grandmother called me aside and asked, “Irene are you pregnant?” I wasn’t feeling anything inside me and I thought only old people can give birth.

“How can I be pregnant at 10” I thought to myself. She looked at my eyes and sternly asked if I had slept with anyone. I told her Benja had raped me twice.

She immediately threw the cane she had picked to beat me and put her hands on the head. It was my first time to see my strong grandmother weep, it was as if she had lost someone.
She cried stamping her feet on the ground. She continuously repeated these words; “Irene you have killed me, Irene I would rather have died than see this.”

The help
I could not help but cry as well. Still I did not feel any different. Grandmother then called my aunties. However, they could not agree on whether to tell my mum or not to. But one of my aunties, Julie, insisted and they called her.

When mum came, she reported the matter to Police in Kyaggwe Sub-county, Mukono District. Someone, however, tipped Benja that he was going to be arrested and he escaped.

It is the Sub-county chief who took me to Wakisa Ministries (an organisation that looks after teenage expectant mothers).
This has become my home and I am now into my seventh month. The chief has promised to take me back to school after giving birth. That excites me.

I have not had many challenges because everyone here loves me especially Mama Vivian.
I am the youngest girl at the centre. Many times I get scared especially about giving birth.

Very many people have told me it is painful. But I pray to God that everything goes well. I hope I give birth to a girl who I will name Mukisa (because she is blessed).

My father does not care about what happens to me. He has never even checked on me. I have a strong hatred for men.

Teenage pregnancy rates
According to the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), sexual exploitation among children is responsible for the increase in teenage pregnancies. A survey conducted by ANPPCAN in Orom Sub-county, Kitgum District in January indicated that 25 per cent of households were headed by child mothers.

The survey also showed that teenage mothers were among the poorest of the poor. Another survey conducted in Mukono Municipality by Child Care and Youth Empowerment Foundation, revealed an increase in the number of teenagers delivering in health centres.

Out of the 4,860 deliveries in the three main Government aided health centres between July 2009 and June 2010, 505 of them were by girls below 18 years of age.

**The name of the victim has been changed to protect her identity

By Zurah Karungi

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Source: Daily Monitor

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