When Culture Gets You Down

I’ve been traveling to Uganda for a long time — 13 years now. And I’ve spent a lot (a LOT) of time in the slum. So I’m pretty used to the culture, the difficulties, the injustices.

But this week…

We have just had an emergency admission of a pregnant 16 year old who was raped by her father.

I’ll pause while you throw something… I know I wanted to.

Of course, most of us are immediately screaming things like, “LOCK HIM UP!” But no. He isn’t going to be locked up. He isn’t even going to be arrested.

Why? Because the GIRL is the one who will be blamed. The GIRL is the one whose life will be ruined if it is made public. We aren’t even telling more than a few people in our own staff because we have to protect her.

She and her sister are terrified. Of the father beating or even killing them. Of others if they find out.

The mother is leaving them in the slum — to the mercy of their father — and going back to the village.

I’ll pause again for you to throw something else…

So we’re doing our best to protect both girls, deal with the extreme trauma through counseling, and find a safe way forward for them.

We’d all appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

Webele nyo,


PS We’ll have a project up for this once we can figure out how to do it and create a safe situation and protect anonymity. Meanwhile, you can become a monthly donor or make a one-time donation to help us with this and similar situations. We’d really appreciate your support!

I want to donate!

Teen Moms and the Culture Problem

I’ve been working in the Namuwongo slum for a long time — since 2009. One of the most ubiquitous things that you see when walking through the slum is men drinking moonshine, smoking, and playing pool and cards in speakeasy, while women are hawking goods on the street, carrying jerrycans on their heads, and managing a bunch of children.

And yet, it’s the girls who get sold off for brides, who get denied schooling if funds are limited, who aren’t given sanitary pads to manage their periods with dignity, who are told as (often young) teens that “it’s time to find someone to take care of you.” Meaning a man.

Culture is a hard thing to change.

A man can find a desperate girl to live with him in exchange for food and a roof over her head. She’ll call him her “husband,” but as soon as she’s pregnant he’ll kick her out and likely disappear. No one takes responsibility for the babies except for the girls.

Culture is a hard thing to change.

But we are doing it, slowly by slowly. (Mpolo mpola in Luganda.)

We have young men volunteering with us who have sisters who got pregnant because of desperate circumstances. They have seen the desperation and downward spiral that starts with a pregnancy, and they have begun to see that their sisters, their mother, their female friends have VALUE. They are worth protecting and respecting.

Culture is a hard thing to change, but we can do it. Mpolo mpola.