Published on The Hunger Project – Australia
Gladys came to the attention of The Hunger Project when our volunteers visited her school to talk to girls about the harmful impact of child marriage. She stood out from her friends because she was the only child amongst them who had been married, divorced, given birth to a baby and returned to school.
As a young girl, Gladys was told by her father that she was too old to go to school any longer and that she must marry. He brought home a male suitor, who brought food and gifts with him. Gladys was taken off to church to marry this man she had never before met. She was only a teenager.
“I really tried to live with that man, but it didn’t work. I didn’t even have soap to wash myself! After three months I walked back to my parents’ house and said: sorry, I can’t be his wife anymore.”
Gladys was breaking all the norms of the cultural practices within her Ugandan village. Still, her mother was able to convince her husband to welcome her back into their home – under the condition that she would provide food for herself. Although they discovered soon after that Gladys was pregnant, she stuck to their conditions and returned to school so that one day she would be able to make an independent living.
The school was close to her home, but it was very difficult for her to return, as there were no other pregnant girls there. She didn’t have enough money saved to pay for her schooling either, so she courageously sought the support of her principal. It was the first time in his career that he had been approached by a pregnant girl asking for help to finish school – he promised to help her.
Six months after her baby Samuel was born, Gladys returned to school again, where she came into contact with The Hunger Project for the first time. Our volunteers were giving a talk to empower the girls to understand the dangers of child marriage and to take a stand against the harmful practice. They soon learned about Gladys’ courageous and inspiring story and began to work with her to help other girls realise the possibilities available to them.
In the village where Gladys lives, arranged marriages for young girls are still very common and child brides are not usually given the opportunity to continue their education – especially after having children.
“It’s common that parents marry off their daughters at such a young age, but it shouldn’t be normal. That’s what I like to tell other girls. It is very difficult to deliver a baby and to go back to school afterwards. I have to walk a long distance and I don’t know what it will bring. But it is possible. That’s what I like to demonstrate.”
Gladys now shares her story with others and has become an inspiring example to the girls in her village.