My name is Faridah and I’m 20. I live in Kampala, a city of 3.2 million inhabitants, and for the last two years I’ve been part of Plan International’s Safer Cities programme.
It’s very dangerous to walk alone in Kampala – the biggest problem is street harassment whether we walk by ourselves or in a group. But it costs money to pay for a bodaboda [motorcycle taxi] and if you do, the drivers sometimes make you have an affair with them. If you reject them, they won’t help you when you have a problem.
Each year, one million women are exposed to sexual violence in Uganda.
I sell nuts and chips by the roadside and I work in the evenings, from 6pm till midnight. When it’s night here, girls are not safe. I’ve been assaulted several times and a year ago when I was pregnant I was walking in the street with a friend when she was raped and killed by a gang of drug dealers.
I was also robbed recently. My handbag was taken when I was leaving work.
To feel safe and be safe in this city, you need a man – your brother or father – to go out with you. But even then, other men shout out, “Give me your sister, give me your daughter,” and it’s embarrassing.
I’m a single mother with two children, aged four and 10 months. I decided to take part in Safer Cities because I used to be so ashamed of myself because I was a child mother and I dropped out of school. I couldn’t even walk down the street. When I joined the programme, I got empowered. I knew I could stop other girls from having to face what I went through when I became a child mother. I feel more courageous. I gained confidence because of what we’ve achieved.
Champion of change
My family now see me as valuable, because of my goal that I want to be a champion of change in our society. I’m trying to change my fellow girls’ mindsets now – how they see themselves. We’ve also spoken to bodaboda authorities and got a chance to present our asks to municipal councillors.
Every year more than one million women are exposed to sexual violence in Uganda.
We as girls asked the local authorities for street lights – because we couldn’t be seen or see where we are going. We asked for our city to be more clean and welcoming. We asked for more recreational activities like football so that girls could feel more included. All of these areas are now improving.
My biggest hope is that people who work in local transport will become aware of girls’ rights and their value and help to make our city safer for girls. If that happens, our city will be greater.
As part of Safer Cities, we did what we call the safety walk, where we identify the risks that make girls feel unsafe in Kampala. It helped us because even though we live here we didn’t know about certain areas which are very dangerous but now we know them, we know where to avoid.
Girls are no longer passive
In my community, most of us are child mothers. Before, we never knew our rights but this programme has taught us to stand up for ourselves. We girls are no longer passive – we now know how to speak, how to behave, how to keep ourselves safe.
Last year, when I was out in the city with other girls, a mechanic in a local garage started abusing me. He sprayed water at me and when I spoke to him, he slapped me and tried to treat me like a sex object. This time I fought back: I went to the police and got him arrested. As this kind of harassment of girls is so common in Kampala, we need to engage men in dialogue.
We also need to spread the word to more girls, so they realise they don’t have to put up with this kind of treatment. I’m now a Champion of Change trainer. I train my fellow girls. We want to do outreach to girls in areas where Plan International does not have reach and communicate how to keep themselves safe in school.
When some men change their mindsets, when abuse like carpet interviews [bosses who make love to girls before they will employ them], no longer takes place, when girls know their rights and are confident to stand up for themselves, we will transform our lives.
Unsafe in the City
In Plan International's brand new, ground-breaking research, thousands of girls and young women have shared their stories of harassment and violence for the first time, providing a never-before seen glimpse of what happens to them in their cities and the impact this has on their lives.
Based on research in Delhi, Kampala, Lima, Madrid and Sydney, Unsafe in the City reveals relentless sexist and sexual harassment and abuse – and calls for specific actions to allow girls and young women to live without experiencing fear or discrimination on our streets.