Lenny’s baby made 7!
I spoke with her on April 2nd when I was visiting my family in Mubende, Uganda. She said, “I had a very handsome boy. He is turning 7 today.” Her eyes were bright with love, mine with unshed tears and admiration.
Lenny Kebirungi was sitting in her office in Mubende’s Gender-Based Violence Shelter. I asked her why she did what she did and she said “because I am a survivor. I know exactly how women feel, what happens to their minds, souls and bodies.” That was seventeen years ago. Now she tells the story with shiny eyes and I worry that I am making her remember a sad time. She draws lines on a piece of paper on the table, and I worry. That’s what I do when I am anxious. I draw lines on a paper. She then looks up, with bright eyes- bright with unshed tears and love- and says, “They were wrong. I have a very handsome boy. He is turning 7 today.”
As a victim, Lenny had endured abuse from her husband and from her in-laws because she did not produce a child. A woman in society cannot be let to not have a child. That is what she is there for, they think. They called her barren. They called her useless. It could not have been easy for her because she had no idea either why she could not have the child. Many women are punished for reasons that remain a mystery to them too. Where a male partner could be a source of comfort and a companion to the hospital, he instead offers more pain in place of the support he pledged. “There are many reasons one fails to produce a child,” she tells me and launches into a lecture about poverty limiting the woman in a patriarchal society.
This kind of society already dictates that “a man is a man, and a woman must be a woman.” With such power relations in the home where a man determines the fate of the woman, there is need for the woman to be in a position to support herself. She needs to access justice through the usual channels- government and police, and if she must go for a health check-up, she needs money to access medical resources as well. This is why Lenny started, alongside 29 other women, WIDCCOM- Women In Developmental Concerns Coalition Mubende. WIDCCOM now has a program called Income Generating Activity (IGA) where women are given loans to start businesses. They are also invited to a workshop where they are trained in business management and accounting. She proudly says, “There have been reports that there are fewer quarrels in homes.” The woman with money is more respected in the home. She helps with bills and is therefore important.
It is amazing what Lenny is doing in the community, with what she knows- from experience, education and networking. She stood up for herself and now she stands up for the other women in the community. That she walked away from an abusive relationship alone is a sign of bravery. That she healed and returned to help other women, now that, that is what a s-hero is.
(Lenny's story was first shared at WorldPulse by Grace Ikirimat here http://worldpulse.com/node/47436 Read Grace's post for more information on Lenny.)