Once the victim of a forced, failed, marriage, Stella has turned her life around and is just about the most entrepreneurial person you’ll find in a Ugandan village!
At the age of 18 Stella was forced into marriage by her family: ‘I was told I had to marry a man who was in the army, a total stranger. I was very scared because I’d seen army men in our village sleeping around with women and giving them HIV/AIDS,’ explains Stella. ‘I watched as these women were abandoned by the men and left to suffer and die alone.’
Stella tried to explain to her family why she was so afraid, but she says: ‘They refused to listen to me, they only cared about the dowry of two goats the 600,000 shillings (£130) the man was willing to pay. It made me feel so unloved and cheap. This man couldn’t even afford the dowry, but my family were willing to give me away on the agreement that he would pay later.’
Stella’s family were desperate for money because her father had been killed in the war and all they had left was a small mud hut. After his death his family re-claimed the land the devastated family had been living on, making it very difficult for them to grow crops to eat.
Cheap and worthless
Stella had no choice and was forced into marriage. ‘The marriage was a nightmare, I was always terrified of catching HIV and whenever my family asked my husband for the dowry he would get angry and abuse me when he got home,’ recalls Stella.
Eventually Stella fell pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, Immaculate. When it became apparent her husband would never pay the dowry Stella’s brothers brought her home. ‘This made me look even more cheap and worthless,’ she says.
Back home Stella was scared her family might give her away to another man. ‘Thank God at that time I was accepted into Kira Farm and when I arrived I knew I was in a safe place where I felt protected and loved,’ explains Stella.
‘Through the discipleship training we received at Kira, and the training in restorative justice, I have learnt how to forgive and how to handle complicated situations. I was able to talk to my family about the pain caused by the forced marriage and tell them about the person I have become since attending Kira Farm, as well as share my plans for the future. Being able to forgive them gave me a lot of peace.
Stella didn’t wait long to put everything she had learnt at Kira Farm into practice. ‘With my new business skills I decided to take my cassava harvest up to Sudan where I made a profit of 600,000 shillings (£130),’ she explains. ‘I was so happy because I’d never done anything for myself before, or earnt that much money. My family was very proud of what I’d achieved.
‘Unfortunately this money was stolen from me through a mobile phone scam. I was heartbroken and went to the police but they haven’t been able to help so far. Remembering the discipleship training we’d received at Kira I believed that God could still provide so I decided to pick myself up and keep going.
‘I started a business selling pancakes and made a profit of 200,000 shillings (£45). Using this money I invested in selling second hand clothes. With two businesses my life was getting better every day. My savings increased and with two friends I opened up a hair dressing salon and I now make enough to pay my daughter’s school fees. I have also bought several pigs and I have moved out of home and am renting a place closer to my salon.
‘My family is very happy that I’ve been able to help them, even without marrying me off. They no longer lack sugar or soap and I have bought them solar lamps so they’ve stopped using gasoline-powered traditional lamps which are very dangerous in mud huts.
‘I have a good amount of savings and I am planning to buy a plot of land that I can farm. I am also looking to buy a grinding machine to make flour – this will provide employment for young people in my village.
‘My relationship with God is much stronger, I’m actively involved in church and a part of the choir. I spread the gospel to all my customers in the salon. Thank you Amigos for building me up spiritually and blessing me with skills that have transformed my life forever.’
Amigos Worldwide is a registered Charity/NGO both in the UK and Uganda.
Amigos Worldwide, Registered in England, Company Number 6122350, Registered Charity Number 1119450
Registered Office 7A Beech Grove, Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon. EX31 1PZ
(Amigos International and Amigos are working names of Amigos Worldwide)