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Ugandan girl dreams big this International Women’s Day

Editor’s Note: This is a part of a collection of stories SDNN will publish throughout the month of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. Join us as we recognize Women’s History Month by sending in your stories too and checking SDNN every day for stories from other women in our region. Happy Women’s History Month!

Jenni Prisk is the founder of Voices of Women. She visited Uganda last month and met Harriet who has now been accepted at a school and can begin her studies.

Hi! My name is Harriet. I’m 14 years old and I live in Nansana, just outside Kampala, the capital of Uganda. I live with my mother and twin brothers who are almost five. Our house…well, its not actually a house, is a packing box that measures about 8 feet by 8 feet. It is up some steps behind a church. We have to keep our house very tidy with four of us living and sleeping in it, and at night it gets very hot because we don’t have any windows, and we have to keep the door closed.

We live in a row of packing boxes that are homes to other poor people like us. They are nice people and we help each other out whenever we can. My mother cooks mostly bananas for all our meals as we don’t have any money to buy other food. We are lucky that the church pays our rent, otherwise we would be on the streets again.

Our pastor rescued us from the streets. We were in very bad shape and had to be looked after until we were well again. I have a father somewhere, but I don’t know him. And I think the twins have a different father. I heard the word “rape” when some grownups were talking about my mother, but I don’t want to know about that. She is a very good mother and I don’t want to think that anything bad happened to her.

The church gives us clothes too, although sometimes they are very strange. The boys sometimes have to wear dresses which makes me laugh, but they are too young to be embarrassed.

I can’t go to school because school costs money, but I really love to study. I have some very old exercise books that belonged to someone else and I read those every day. I really want to go to school, because I want to be a doctor one day. I want to be able to help people and make sick ones well again.

One night I had a dream. In the dream I saw two white people and they came to our church. They were nice people and I felt good when I saw them. I really hoped that they might be able to help us. I only told my mother about the dream, noone else.

Well, in February this year, two white people did arrive at our church. I couldn’t believe it. Our pastor told us that they had come to help us. Why would they do that, they don’t even know us? But they came with a lovely lady called Esther, who was born in my country but who now lives in San Diego. The white people told us that they had heard all about us from Esther and that they wanted to see if they could help us with things we needed.

The woman gave me lots of hugs and she seemed really happy to see me each day. When she told me that she wanted to sponsor me, I didn’t know what that meant. But when she explained that she would pay for me to go to school, I couldn’t believe my ears. I cried and cried, not because I was sad, but because I was so happy. She would help me to become a doctor!

The white lady has gone back to San Diego now. I miss her and I think she misses me. She told me about International Women’s Day which I had never heard of before, but now I understand that it is a day to celebrate women all around the world. I’m not quite a woman yet, but I think I can be part of this celebration, because I soon will be. Apparently on this day, March 8, we all get to think about all the women around the world no matter where they live. I hope my lady in San Diego is thinking about me, because I sure am thinking about her. And I hope she comes back to see me one day. Or maybe, when I am a doctor, I can visit her in America.

In the meantime, I’ll go back to reading my book, and dreaming about my future because I can have one now.