The Mbarara Epicentre was our next stop on our tour with The Hunger Project (THP.)
Set in lush green hills flanked by towering mountains, it’s a spectacular backdrop for the centre.
Daisy, the Country Director of THP told us that this was where God sat when he made the rest of the earth. I’m inclined to agree.
After a winding walk through magnificent country not far from the Epicentre, we found the home of Rosette (now 34) and her husband Christoph (41.)
Rosette was 15 when she was married to the handsome businessman, then 21. She is a strikingly attractive woman, dressed in a matching blue top and skirt and was obviously quite house proud and not shy to share her story with us. A dowry of 750, 000 shillings changed hands (about USD$250, or the value of a cow.). Her first child Edith, was born when she was 16 followed the next year by Victor. Asked if she was afraid of marriage so young, she said that she wasn’t really as she viewed it as the end of her childhood and the start of life as a married woman.
The legal age for marriage in Uganda is 18, but child marriages are still common, especially in rural areas.
They now have 6 children, having added Darius, Owen, Jonan and another to the family. Edith is now 16 in P7. She likes maths and wants to be an accountant. Victor wants to be a Doctor.
When asked if she’d like Edith to be married young, she replied that no, she wants her to wait til she’s finished her schooling at 28!
Happily for Rosette, things have turned out well. Christoph sells coffee beans to a factory and can provide a basic lifestyle for his large family. They have a modest but clean home and raise poultry amongst the banana and coffee plantations lining the hills. When asked if Christoph loves his wife, he replied ‘too much’ leaving us to all awwww at his admission.
Another woman seated in the crowd there to welcome our arrival was Caroline. She too was a child bride, married at 14 and is now 24. Her husband is four years older than her. Her first child was born when she was 15 and she was nursing baby Henry, her 4th child, while we spoke. Like Rosette, she too was excited to be a married woman.
These concepts that seem so foreign to us are ‘just another day’ stories here.
Thankfully THP is in the area now, and providing Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes, a health centre, food bank and Microfinance for those also looking to improve their lot. Rosette and Christoph are thinking of joining soon.