Unlike in America where the standard naming practice is the given name and then the surname, in Uganda, there is no surname rather the tribal name which comes before the given, so my new friend J. is known as Kideny J. which identifies her as J., a member of the Kideny tribe from Sudan. Her baby Nakira A. is a member of her father’s tribe of central Uganda. It is such an efficient way of conveying information – your name, where you are from, and your tribe all at hello. Everything in a name. This is the story of J. The photograph of her is from the back for her protection.
Last January when I first met the girls at Rahab’s Corner, J. attracted me instantly. Her dark beauty, cool aloofness coupled with her vulnerability were antithetical to anything I knew. I felt compelled to know more about her.
Magnificently statuesque, J. plans a career in fashion design. Her appearance certainly can’t but help in her chosen career path. Her body is sculpted in long high angles, all in the right places; her skin glows, the color of darkest eggplant; she moves with the elegance and grace of a runway model. And to top the whole package off, she is blessed with the voice of an angel. Take a listen:
I can so relate to the rage, frustration, and anger that took this talented young girl to places no one would want to visit. From four years of age, J. lived with her grandmother. Her mother for a number of reasons finds life challenging and expresses her frustrations by creating chaos. At nine shortly after her mother came to visit J.’s grandmother, the mayhem proved too much for the young girl. Angry that her mother made life so unbearable, called her terrible names and beat her she ran away from home, ending up in Kisenyi slum. On her own she says, “she supported herself as best she could.”
At 12, after living in Kisenyi for three years, Talitha Kum, a Catholic organization charged with helping young girls out of the slums and the sex trade, took in J. There she stayed until she was seventeen. A difference of opinion with a staff member caused the headstrong girl to want to leave. During the Christmas holiday, TK sent her to her mother’s place. Still unable to get along with her erratic parent, she left shortly after without money or any way to support herself. This time rather than going to the slums she moved in with her boyfriend for four months before TK found her. By this time, she was pregnant with her daughter A. She stayed two weeks at TK before she was moved to The Fortress a safe home in Kampala for at-risk pregnant girls who come from abusive environments. For seven months, until she gave birth to baby A., she stayed at The Fortress.
No longer pregnant, she had to move back to Talitha Kum and from there to her grandmother’s. Three weeks later with her tiny baby and younger sister, she ran into her mother in the market where they quarreled. The mother threw the girls things to the ground and struck out at J.’s younger sister who was forced to run away taking the baby A. with her. After this incident, it was clear that there was no consistent healthy place for the young mother to live. J. was recommended to Rahab’s Corner where she has lived for the last nine months.
When I asked what it was about Rahab’s Corner that she liked she said, “The trauma healing classes,” conducted by Uncle Jumah, “has helped make me good. I have peace and no one abuses me.”
Stay tuned there is more to J.’s story and the rest of the girls at Rahab’s Corner.