Lost in thought, Dorcas is seated on a bench at the health center waiting for the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) service provider. She appears to have a lot on in her mind, as she waits to be attended to, along with other youths. The 18-year-old comes to the health center to seek reproductive health and counselling services.
Dorcas is a teenage mother and she has two siblings, her twin sister, and a brother. Dorcas’s parents separated when she was just a few months old. She had never met her father and her mother disliked her questions about her father's identity, his whereabouts and whether he was alive.
“At the age of 12, I started asking my mother who my father was but she would just rebuke me, says Dorcas.
She never gave up on wanting to know more about her father and his whereabouts. She persuaded her mother to tell her about him. Seeing that she was determined to know her father, the mother directed her to her grandparents, where she thought the father was. Dorcas went to the grandparents but unfortunately, her father had relocated to Uganda.
“I stayed at my grandparents’ home for a few months, hoping that he would come back. Then my uncle took me to Uganda where my father was,” says Dorcas.
She thought that her problems would be solved but instead, the struggle had just begun. Living in Uganda was not easy for Dorcas. She could not speak the local language, she had no friends due to the language barrier, and everything was new to her.
One fateful day as she was going to fetch water with other children, she met a man on her way. He talked to her but Dorcas did not understand what the man was saying due of the language barrier. The other children left her behind.
When the man noticed that the other children had left Dorcas behind, he pulled her to the side of the road and raped her. Dorcas tried to cry out for help but no one came to her rescue, even the other children got very scared and ran away.
“I was helpless and was very scared to look at the person who had raped me.” she says.
She went back home and told her father what had happened to her. She was then taken to hospital and indeed, the Doctor confirmed that she had been raped.
After a month, Dorcas realised she was pregnant.
“I stayed with my father, at some point I wanted to terminate the pregnancy because I did not know the person who had made me pregnant, and that alone was killing me,” says Dorcas.
At 13, Dorcas had no idea about being pregnant and giving birth. Her step-mother helped her with everything from taking her for antenatal care to buying clothes for the baby.
Two weeks to delivery, Dorcas was told that because she was still young, she had to go through a caesarean section (C-section).
“I couldn’t imagine having a C-Section. I didn’t think I would come out alive. I was very worried. I asked my father to allow me to go back to my grandparents and give birth from there,” says Dorcas.
“I returned to my grandparents’ house and after two weeks, I gave birth normally. “I was scared of going to my mother— I thought she would kill me. I know how tough she can be. So, I decided to go to my grandparents,” says Dorcas.
Her grandparents were very supportive of her. They helped her in everything she needed for both herself and her child.
After two years, she went back to school—today she is in her second year of high school and determined to pursue her education.
“One thing that worries me is not knowing my child's father. I hope that when I tell my child what happened to me, she will understand because I know one day she will need to know her father,” Says Dorcas.
Stigma among Dorcas’s peers was so much that she dropped out of school during her pregnancy.
Through advocacy by the Citizen’s Voice Action (CVA) group members, Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health services were brought to Kibondo health center near Dorcas. She was able to get counselling at the health center and reproductive health advice to avoid unplanned pregnancy.
“I thank Ingobyi Project for the CVA interventions, youth like me get counselling and guidance on their reproductive health here at our health center,” says Dorcas.
Dorcas is determined to continue her education. She plans to go to a Technical school after her third year of high school to study culinary arts. She believes, with a vocational skill, she will be able to take care of herself and her child.