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Early marriage, teenage pregnancy shutter girl’s future

At only 17 years, Nalule is already a mother, having delivered her first child at 14 years only.

Born and raised from the slums of Bwaise in Kampala, Nalule is one of the many young girls that have been affected by child marriage and teenage pregnancies, shuttering her future. According to the Demographic Health Survey 2011, 15 per cent (around 900,000 women) were married by the age of 15 years.

The first born from a family of three, Nalule dropped out of school in the first term of Senior One after the death of her father. Unfortunately her mother could not afford to keep her in school, so her education journey had to stop!

Disappointed and clueless about her future, Nalule hit the streets to look for employment. After several declines due to lack of an education, she got a job at a boutique where she worked for a few months. However this did not last! She abandoned the job because she was not paid her salary for several months despite sales made.

“Life was so hard,” she mentions as she tries to fight back tears while narrating her ordeal.

Left with no other option, she decided to leave home and stay with a friend who promised to help her find another job. The new job was prostitution! Young and naive, Nalule joined sex trade. With limited or no information about family planning, safe sex, HIV/AIDS, she conceived her first child at the age of 13. At that point, her friend abandoned her, threw her out of the house when she learnt of her pregnancy.

At that moment, Nalule decided to return home, but her family did not take her back. Instead she was told to return to the father of the child.

This was the beginning of Nalule’s marriage as a child bride with her 19 year old partner. “I had no idea about antenatal visits,” she narrates. Child marriage and teenage pregnancies expose young girls to profound health risks like difficult child births.

Gladly when she was eight months pregnant a friend dragged her to a hospital for checkup, and while here she was given all the information about pregnancies and the benefits of giving birth in a hospital. She adhered to the advice given and when the time came, Nalule gave birth in a hospital, supported by health workers. Unfortunately, the child died at the age of two.

As a young former sex worker, child mother and child bride, Nalule’s life has not been easy. “I was sexually abused, molested, raped, harassed and stigmatized.” I contracted sexually transmitted diseases with no medical support,” she adds.

Fortunately, Nalule has since been enrolled and supported by a Community Based Organisation that identified her during one of their community outreach sessions. She is receiving counselling, guidance and medical services and is on the road to recovery. Feedback from the peer educators indicates that Nalule is also reaching out to fellow peers with sexual reproductive health information and urging them to stay in school.

Nalule wants to go back to school and has future dreams of becoming a successful business lady.

“I urge all young girls who have an opportunity to go to school to jealously utilize this opportunity.” “They should do all it takes to stay longer in school and finish their education,” she concludes.

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