Brenda's story, Uganda
Brenda, 16, is from one of the biggest slums in Kampala, called Katanga. When I met her at the beginning of this year, she lived with her mother and younger sister. Brenda’s father had abandoned the family and they didn’t know his whereabouts – this happens a lot in the slums.
Brenda’s mother is a street vendor, selling bananas, simple things just to make a living. At the beginning of this year she didn’t have any money to take care of Brenda or her younger sister. So, with little money, Brenda’s mother felt that all she could do was to ask Brenda to seduce men. Her intention was for Brenda to start selling her body.
Luckily, Brenda had just started visiting our Kids Club Kampala clubs and she told us what was happening in the home.
My mum has proposed I marry this boy and he will provide money for the education, will pay the dowry, and help to support my family.Brenda
Brenda cared deeply for her mother and wanted to earn money for her family, but she wasn’t sure that she wanted to marry the boy her mother had proposed. Brenda felt torn: “My mum has proposed I marry this boy and he will provide money for the education, will pay the dowry, and help to support my family.”
It was very stressful, for Brenda and we were keen to help her. My colleague, a lovely Canadian lady called Kim, listened to Brenda and counseled her and I counselled her mother.
When Brenda’s mother saw me, she was frightened, because she knew that she could be reported to the police or the authorities. She was shaking but calmed down as we spoke. I told her that Brenda had shared her story and that I was there to help.
I talked to her; she cried. I told her we would do what we can, and I helped her to see that what she was doing was wrong. She was tempted because life was very hard for her – she told me that she had thought of committing suicide.
My colleagues and I were determined to support Brenda and her mother. We have since met her children regularly, helping them with school and providing Brenda’s mother with some basic requirements when we can. We also encouraged Brenda's mother to pursue some income generating projects.
Brenda is in school now – she wants to be a nurse! She told me: “Uncle Sam you don’t know how happy I am to continue my education and commit to a bright future”.
In the time it has taken to read this article 26 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds