By Esther Namirimu
I had always heard of women who take their daughters to stay with their grandparents whenever they would plan to travel. These girls, I would hear, faced a number of difficulties while their mothers were away, and among which are unwanted pregnancies. So a recent trip to Wakisa Ministries, a local charity, gifted me with a whole new and enlightened experience about such girls.
Started in August 2005, Wakisa is an information and counseling facility for girls and their families facing unwanted pregnancies.
There, I met Vivian Wakisa Kityo, the founder of the facility, whose vision and passion has created such a huge impact on girls living through the trauma, confusion and rejection that comes with unwanted pregnancies.
She told me how it all started.
“One day I was attending a conference and I heard a lady talk about her daughter who had died after trying to abort. When she mentioned the name of the girl, I realized that it was the same girl I had nursed in Nsambya hospital. The medical team all tried all they could to save this girl’s life but we lost her to septicemia.”
Seven years later, the girl’s mother still mourned her loss.
“It was then that I realized that there were so many young girls out there who needed a home, love and care during a hard time. So I started Wakisa Ministries,” said Kityo.
Some of the girls were impregnated by their relatives and many were abandoned – driven out of home by their angry parents.
To-date, the Christian charity has helped over 600 pregnant girls by accommodating them, counseling and advising them not to abort.
Kityo shows a picture of some of the girls who have passed through Wakisa Ministries. PHOTO/Esther Namirimu
Sometimes, mothers get detached from their daughters, especially when the girls are going through a delicate period of their lives. Experts have, among other things, blamed this on the mothers’ tight schedules which afford them very little or no time to spend with their daughters.
And when adolescent girls experience this sense of vacuum, they are left with no one to confide in.
In some cases, their curiosity leads them to engaging in sexual activities, which at worst, leaves them pregnant. Consequently, many are sent out of home to “go and stay with their husbands”. While some will dare go for abortions, especially on the pressure of the males that impregnated them, others, out of fear of the potential dangers of abortions, will keep the child.
I talked to some girls at the facility about their personal experiences.
Dorcus (not real name)
The 16-year-old says meeting Kityo was the best thing that ever happened to her. Having come from Democratic Republic of Congo, pregnant and no one to take care of her, Kityo gave Dorcus new hope for the future. Since Dorcus has no home to return to after giving birth, she is now living with Kityo in her home.
“Mummy treats me well, as if I am her youngest daughter,” she says.
“I do not know what would have happened to me if I had not met mummy – every day I thank God for her.”
Kityo and Dorcus (not real name), one of the beneficiaries, show off the arts and crafts done by the girls.
Brenda (not real name)
Brenda was abused by her father for two years until she conceived and ran away from home. Wakisa Ministries rescued her but she had kept the secret of the paternity of her unborn baby.
This man continued coming to visit her. He wanted to take her home. That was when a bitter Brenda, now 13, confessed to Kityo that it was her father who had abused her sexually and that she did not want to go back home.
The Wakisa founder called the police and briefed them about the issue. So when the father came to pick the girl, the plain-clothed police handcuffed the man and took him away. He is now in Luzira.
Brenda gave birth to very tiny twins. To her, the babies were some form of dolls. She played with them and did not see them as children. Wakisa Ministries traced her relatives in Masaka and she is now living with them.
Sharon (not real name)
At 13, Sharon is expecting a baby. She was a victim of rape at the hands of her stepfather. One time, the man beat up his wife so bad that she had to be hospitalized. While the woman nursed her wounds away in hospital, the man used the opportunity to rape Sharon.
When the man’s relatives found out that the girl was pregnant and that the case had been reported to the police, they wanted to finish her off – kill her. That is when someone took her to Wakisa Ministries.
She is now eight months pregnant.
Well, these three humbling accounts are only a tip of a gigantic iceberg. More and more girls do share similar, and even worse, experiences.
What troubles me more is that the innocence of many of these girls is snatched right away from them by their very own relatives – fathers, brothers, uncles, step-fathers.
Wakisa Ministries is a library of so many of such sad stories.
‘Girls from as far as Rwanda, Somalia, DRC’
Vivian Kityo, through her brainchild, has come to the rescue of hundreds of teenagers, gifting them with a second chance at life by accommodating them throughout the difficult pregnancy stage.
She says: “These girls have been rejected by their parents, sent away from their homes and have nowhere to go just because they are pregnant and their parents are mad at them at the moment. Most of these girls have high anxiety and might be forced into abortions or committing suicide.
“We do not just sit still, but offer emotional and physical support to them. However a relative of each of the girls has to sign a consent form that allows us to look after their daughter.
Once a president of the Mothers Union of Namiriembe diocese, Kityo says they are looking after 21 girls and three are on the waiting list. The girls are aged from 13 to 19 years old.
Here, she shows the structure in which they rear the chicken. PHOTO/Esther Namirimu
“We have girls from as far as Kigali, Somalia, and DR Congo.
“We would love to help more at the same time but the problem is limited space. We are presently building an extension but need funds to finish the work. We get handouts from people – companies like DFCU gave us 45 bags of cement to advance the building. We use that support received to feed these girls and also foot their medical bills.”
A doctor visits Wakisa Ministries every Tuesday to check on the health of the girls. More importantly, the girls are not allowed to sit idly and worry about their problems.
“We have invented activities like music dance and drama, handcrafting, cookery classes, tailoring, urban agriculture and also bible study. We do not force any one to become Christian but since I am Christian, I need the children to have Christian values,” she says.
And adds: “Apart from giving them skills, we also care, counsel and show them that they are loved. We make sure that they eat a balanced diet – they eat chicken, eggs three times a week and we also have a small garden where we grow the greens.
“But unfortunately the policy states that we only stay with someone who is pregnant. Once one gives birth, we meet with her relatives, counsel them into accepting their daughter back. What is funny is that parents will always be happy at the news of the birth of the [their] grandchild.
Vivian shows members of Rotary Club of Gaba where the girls wash their clothes from. These sinks were donated by Danish people who realised that the girls found it hard to bend and wash because of their condition (pregnancy)
She says at that time, the relatives have already “forgiven” the girl and duly accept to them back home.
But for Wakisa, it does not just stop there – at giving back the child mother to her relatives.
“We raise some money and sponsor those clever girls back to school. 41 girls have not returned to school and four are already at the university,” she says, and adds that: “One studied nursing at Nsambya hospital. Every year we have an Open Day where all the girls come back with their children and give the current beneficiaries encouragement.”
Who is Vivian Kityo?
Born to Dr. Luumu Emanuel, Kityo was raised in a God-fearing family. She attended Namagunga Primary school, then Old Kampala secondary school. After her O’ Level she studied nursing at Nsambya Mission hospital.
In 1980 she got married to her husband of 10 years, the late Dr. George Kityo, who was a doctor-turned-priest. A decade into their marriage, he died.
She has a diploma in Health Administration and a Degree in Administrative Studies. She is currently pursuing a degree in Counseling.
Kityo was the president of the Mothers Union at Namiriembe diocese for three years. Then she became a trainer of trainees for two years and later was elected the Provincial President of Mothers Union in the whole of Uganda for three years. She was later elected trustee of Mothers Union at International level for six years.
She has a Presidential Award, in recognition of the outstanding ministry and dedication to the lost youth of Uganda.
In December 2006, she received a Girl Power Ministry Award; she also has an award from Rotary Club of Kampala West.
Kityo is also holds an award of honour given to her by the President of Youth for Christ, Jean Jacques Meile.
On top of that, she has a Vocational Award from Rotary Club of Kampala Central District 92000.
In December 2013, she received an award from the Rotary Club of Gaba.
Sarah Lubega, the president of Rotary Club of Gaba appreciated the good work done by Wakisa Ministries and promised to support the construction of the dormitory annex.
Giving child mothers a second chance at life