By Grace Nakaggwe, Wizarts, Uganda
Grace leads the Wizarts DREAMS Innovation Challenge Project, which focuses on preventing HIV and AIDS by helping to ensure that adolescent girls stay in school.
I was born last, out of ten children. Despite my parents being educated, they lived at odds with each other. My father’s people had no consideration for my mother -- she suffered at the hands of her in laws for giving birth to more girls than boys.
My father had many relationships outside their marriage. He wanted to have sons in order to validate his status as a man. It felt very disgracing as a daughter, to be de-valued -- it never seemed fair to me, that somehow we girls were not enough for him. For years, my mother was lost in bitterness, anger, and quarrels, and our home was a war zone.
So it was my elder sister who raised me. She was my best friend, mentor, and the only mother I ever knew. She gave me a good education, encouraged me to believe in myself, and made me determined to achieve. She always said, “Beauty is embracing who we are.” I won’t forget all the sacrifices she made. She held the family together, after my father finally departed for a new marriage with a young woman, and she relieved our mother of financial stress by getting a job.
When my sister passed away suddenly, I was shocked, broken. All my dreams and hopes crumbled. Worst of all, her burial was rushed, and I wasn’t allowed time to mourn her death because she had neither married nor had a child. I wondered, “Was she less of a person for not having done these things? Was she not a mother to me?”
In our Baganda culture, women who haven’t married or had children also have no inheritance rights, unless there is a legal will that specifies so. It didn’t matter that I was her next of kin -- within just two weeks of her passing, all her household property was distributed among male relatives. I was very depressed.
But slowly, I recovered, and I became determined to help other girls access their rights. I believe that girls should treated the same as boys. Gender should have nothing to do with someone’s value and opportunities in life.