GIRL CHILD: Rising above vulnerability

African beauty no make upFrancesca always dreamt of being a nurse. It was her childhood dream. As a child she used to play a nurse with a toy stethoscope made of strings and bottle caps. She too was endowed with humane qualities such as gentleness, patience, tenderness and kind-heartedness that are expected of this noble profession. After her secondary education, without a second thought she straightaway went to a nursing school to pursue her path to become a nurse.

Francesca entered a church founded nursing school that offered her professional skills together with good ethical and social values. She learnt to love and show special attention to the poor and vulnerable people she met during her work. When the learning process takes place with love and keenness the result will be excellent. Francesca passed her nursing examinations with outstanding results.

With a good recommendation from her school, within few months of her graduation Francesca was offered a job by the local government of Mayuge district in eastern Uganda. She did not hesitate to take up the job of being an Assistant Nurse in a rural health centre at the shores of Lake Victoria. She reported to her work with enthusiasm and eagerness.

Being a nurse at a remote health facility brought to her lot of inconveniences such as transport, lack of electricity, poor accommodation and unavailability of basic necessities. But the love she had for her profession and the rapport she built with the rural poor helped her to overlook at the hurdles in executing her job. In her work station besides offering the expected standard of professional work she also showed them the importance of being ethical in medical practice. She would not do anything that would undermine the respect for life.

Though Francesca had heard about the rural poverty she was shocked to see the misery of the poor. Rural poverty is often worsened by ignorance and exploitation of the vulnerable. Being a young person herself, she began to pay attention to the health issues of young people especially the teenage girls. As she befriended number of young girls, they began to tell her share with her many issues besides health matters. One such case was Sarah.

Sarah dropped out of secondary school after Form II and now 17 years old. She was a student in a government sponsored school from which she did not acquire any serious education. Coupled with financial difficulties eventually she dropped out of school. Instead of being seated at home her mother invited her to work with her in the village market to sell fish which her father supplied from his fishing. When in weeks and months Sarah became a successful fish dealer. By now she was popular among other business counterparts most of whom were young men in their last 20s or early 30s.

But all the while she maintained her simplicity, humility and obliging nature, that are often typical of a girl from rural setting. Through her business dealings she became a close confident of a young business man Richard. He would lend her money, give her business contacts. After few weeks of business encounter Richard was ready to take his friendship to another level. He began to compliment Sarah’s polite nature, docility, and warm nature. He was ready to her ride in his motorcycle from home in the morning and was always available for any extra ride for shopping or any other errands.

During one of their happy moments Richard proposed to Sarah to accompany him to Kampala for a business trip to which she readily accepted. It gave her an opportunity to visit the city that she has never been to. Though they had planned to return to their village by evening various things kept them late in the city. They were forced to stay in a small lodge. Sarah did not give any serious thought to these events as they unfolded. Given to such a secluded moments and having confidence in their friendship they engaged in intimate sexual act.

This experience kindled curiosity in each other and they began to continue their affair in Richard’s lonely home sometimes using condoms. At this moment both of them began to worry about pregnancy that might occur. Richard revealed to Sarah that he prefers contraceptive injection or implantation methods rather than condoms that he finds messy. Not knowing the consequences or just being naïve Sarah accepts his proposal and begins to look for such family planning services.

Sarah “innocently” comes to Francesca in their village health centre asking her for contraceptive implant. Seeing a young girl asking for contraceptives she was annoyed and angry. But she controlled her personal feelings and began to talk to her with compassion and conscientiousness. Francesca asked following questions that opened Sarah’s mind. Are you aware of health consequences in taking such steps? Do you think your partner loves you when asking you to take such a contraceptive? Do you think he will marry you and be faithful to you after a few months of this practice? Do you think your man respect your feelings and concerned about your health? At this moment are you worried only about getting pregnant?

Francesca briefly spoke to Sarah encouraging her to take charge of her body and her life. She advised her not to give into such demands that are dehumanizing, immoral and exploitive. She explained to her adverse effect such a practice can bring on women’s health and psychological setback it can cause. She also warned her of putting her emotional health into risk and putting her future relationship into peril.

This little talk was a blessing to Sarah. She never thought of these matters. Her vulnerability, ignorance and unevaluated relationship made her blind to important ethical and personal life issues. She thanked her for her guidance and promised to take hold of her life and relationship.

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