At only 30 years of age, Kyomuhendo’s face is riddled with wrinkles, every crease a tale of a life of hardship and pain. With no place to call home, three fatherless children and no source of income, she struggles to make a life for herself and her children. She smiles with her teeth but her teary eyes mirror the depth of pain in her heart. Kyomuhendo is a survivor of domestic violence and intends to raise her children by any means possible.
“My mother married my father when they both were young. When I was younger, my father died. My mother married another man. But as you know, her husband didn’t like me and my step sisters and brothers have grown old but they do not consider me as their sister.” She says.
As a result, Kyomuhendo had to learn to take care of herself at an early age until she married her husband.
I came to Kampala when I was young. I started working in the market to raise money for myself. At 26, I met a man. He loved me and I thought that that would be the end of my trouble. At first he was a really handsome and amazing man.” She narrates as her hands fidget with a little black Nokia phone. “After my first baby, Kirabo. (Kirabo means gift in rukiga/runyakore), he started chewing mairungi (Khat, a drug that is known for having extreme side effects such as aggressiveness, mood swings, violence and malaise). He told me that this was to enable him work at his job that needed lots of energy. But After my second child, this time he was smoking drugs and drinking alcohol. He started to beat me.”
Domestic violence for Kyomuhendo became a reality as she watched the kind man that she had married not too long ago turn into her worst nightmare.
“He beat me up when found that there was no food; he beat me because of just looking at him. He beat me when our babies cried at night. He called me names; he said that he had married a useless old woman. He resented my very existence,” she narrates.
She never considered taking him to Police or bringing him to the law because she did not feel it would solve anything but only make him angrier. For years she endured this abuse and hoped it would get better, that he would stop using alcohol and drugs. But he never did and the violence grew worse until a friend intervened.
“My friend Hajat told me that this man would kill me if I did not leave. She took me away and gave me this place to stay.” She points at the house behind her.
For survival, she sells onions on the streets in the evenings when shops have closed. Her capital fund is UGX 15,000 (close to 4 dollars).
“It is running battles with Kampala City Council Authority. When I sell, I make sure that I have enough profit to buy food for my children. Then I walk to Kalerwe market to restock. It is tough but God is still holding us,” She says.
With a boost of UGX 50,000, she would be able to increase her stock and make some more profit. She would like to get her own place and save some money.
“Now that Kirabo is about to start school, I might be able to raise some money for books in a UPE school.” She says.
Kyomuhendo, like a large number of women is a survivor of domestic violence and gender based violence.