I Met Her Today

Ever since the story broke, I have not been able to get this little girl off my mind and I have longed for the day I would meet her face to face. I read her story and could not imagine the pain, could not fathom the wickedness visited upon this young innocent child. The story is of 6 year old Shadia, from Kamuli, whose step mother, being annoyed that Shadia had not washed the dishes, decided, as a punishment, to stick a stick through Shadia’s vagina.

Words paint pictures and I kept trying to imagine how such a thought ever entered Shadia’s step mother’s mind , how she told the girl to lie down, got a stick, covered the stick with a polythene bag, spread the girl’s legs and then shoved the stick up her….. I get chills just thinking about the magnitude of cruelty we humans are capable of.

Shadia was taken to hospital three days after the incident. By this time she was vomiting blood and puss was oozing out of her private parts. Her rectum and bladder were ruptured. She had to undergo three operations before all the foreign bodies were removed. Shadia was in pain.

For about two weeks now, I have been communicating with Shadia’s mother, asking her how her daughter is doing. At some point Shadia’s wound turned septic and the mother had to rush her to hospital. As she narrated what the doctors had to do to treat the wound, I could feel the pain and hear the screams of a six year old girl. Every time I call Shadia’s mom, she asks me to pray for her for the strength to be strong for her daughter.

Today I get to meet Shadia. I wonder what she looks like. Will I be strong enough to look her in the eyes? Will I break down? I wonder what Shadia thinks about as she lies on her bed, waiting to heal. What was her life like before this? What does she think about her life now? All these questions float through my mind.

I have just met Shadia. She is a sweet little 6 year old- as any six year old is. Her front teeth are missing. She has “mapengo”. She is on the thin side though. I can tell she is either underfed or she was starved at some point. And my hunch is true. As her mother narrates the story, she says Shadia’s step mom used to deny her food, and overwork her at the same time. She would punish Shadia for any small mistake. She used to cut her with a knife from time to time. I saw some of the knife marks. While the mother narrated her story, Shadia sat quietly, looking at me, looking at her fingers, then  looking back at me. I wondered what she was thinking about. The story behind her story is too long and too painful to narrate. That Shadia is a live is a miracle. And I have been blessed to behold this miracle. I hug Shadia, I hug her mom.

The little girl is healing. She will survive. She will start school again next term. Hopefully. If her mom can get enough money to send her back to school. The mom digs for a living. The mother has two other children at 24 years of age. Their father abandoned them. The mom and her three children live with their grandmother.

Shadia’s step mother and her father were both apprehended last weekend. I pray justice will prevail. I pray that Shadia’s story ends well. I think about and pray for all the little girls and boys in Uganda who endure untold cruelty at the hands of the adults who are supposed to protect and care for them.

I hug Shadia  again before I leave. I hold back the tears. I try not to cry.

By Jacqueline Asiimwe


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