Abandoned Girl raped – village in Mbale turns hostile

Lily is a 13-years-old girl from Mbale. You would describe her as a definite entrepreneur if you heard that she took her parents bicycle and gave it to a man to do boda-boda business for her. However, when she went to demand for the money the boda-boda had made, he raped her. Now you’re not thinking of Lily as an entrepreneur. Now you realise she is just a child being exploited and punished for being assertive. What would a thirteen-year-old be doing setting up a business with her father’s bicycle anyway? Well, you would do the same if your parents abandoned you and your two brothers. Said parents went off to Kenya to look for work leaving the three children behind, in a two-roomed semi-finished structure, a grandfather too old and ill to even look after himself. The children survived on casual labour, digging and washing clothes for others. Schooling was on-off.

Lily reported the rape to the Police and the culprit is now in prison. You would have thought justice had at least been done, but actually this was just the beginning of problems for Lily and her brothers. The community turned hostile, accusing Lily of getting their relative imprisoned. Lily had become a criminal for reporting a crime. How can children who suffer crime be treated as criminals? The place they called home turned into an insecure environment overnight. They had to leave. That’s how they ended up being brought by the Probation Officer to the Haven, MIFUMI’s Shelter in Tororo. If it was fiction, you would say they were key witnesses in a crime being sent to a safe house under a witness protection scheme. But this isn’t fiction, it’s real life. It’s the dramas of life being played out in the lives of these young children. Have they no one else who could look after them? There is an Aunty, but she wants nothing to do with them. Their parents left two small pieces of land but for some reason it was left in the names of a Councillor of the area. Why this was done is not clear.

Foremost on Lily’s mind now is assistance for her and her siblings. Justice is not something she even gives a thought to. Justice is a luxury she cannot afford to dream of when she has two younger siblings to look after. Her biggest fear is that they might be separated. No one wants to take in three children. A Local Councillor from their area wanted to foster only Lily but she refused to leave her brothers. They are still together, united in bad times. At MIFUMI we see many cases of abandoned children like Lily. How can we, as a community, begin to pay attention to the lives and needs of such children? How does Lily see herself? An entrepreneur? A survivor of rape? Or a fugitive on the run?

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