A story of Sarah*, a young woman who works at Amani Uganda. This story was a collaborative effort between Sarah and Simprosa, the Uganda Country Director.
Sarah, who is now 26-years-old and mother to 5 children.
Nine-year-old Sarah went to the market with her older sister on June 20, 1995. On her way home, their step mum met them, warning the girls not to return home because the rebel soldiers were around. Sarah and sister went back to the market and spent the night there. At 6am the next morning, they returned home only to immediately to be caught by the soldiers. They began moving to Sudan, but arguing broke out among the soldiers. Some thought Sarah was too young, and they wanted to leave her. But others promised to carry her, so she was taken to a commander. They continued moving to Sudan.
When they reached a place to rest, they cooked and fetched water. Here some even younger girls were abducted. These six girls made a plan to escape, but it failed because the other soldier kept them in the main group. One night, Sarah and her sister tried to escape but they were caught and mistreated. Her sister’s ear was cut. Sarah was told to wipe the blood. As they continued on their way, a lady gave Sarah a gun to load. After the woman escaped, Sarah was accused of causing the escape, and threatened with death. The commander refused to kill her until they reached River Aswa. Sarah was able to cross the river with her heavy load, but government soldiers began shooting at them. Many were wounded by gunfire. The group continued moving and reached River Atembe, which was rushing far more quickly than River Aswa. When she tried to cross, her heavy load weighed her down, and she almost drowned. A solider rescued her, but she was full of water. They gave her mouth-to-mouth and continued moving.
Then, a vehicle came took them to Sudan. Once in Sudan, the soldiers started arguing because they each wanted her be their “wife”. But the co
mmander refused because she still very young. One commander kept her until she was a bit older. At that point, she was separated from her sister, Alice. She tried asking about her, but no one knew where she was. In August 1997, at 11-years-old, a sobbing Sarah was forced to become the commander’s wife. Shortly after their wedding, he left her for seven months. During this time she was forced to serve as a wife to old men. Then her husband came and took her back as a wife.
At this time, there was no rain and little water. They began drinking their own urine out of desperation. They crossed to Uganda to find food and seeds, but were caught in battle with government troops. Many other in her group died, but Sarah survived. After the battle, they were lost in the forest, enabled to find the direction of where they were, Sarah fell and injured her leg, which swelled, prevented her from moving. They were in a place called Nucito, and the injured people were left there for a year. They dug planted seeds, but there was no food. Then the government soldiers began chasing the rebels from Sudan to Uganda in 2003.
Around this time, 17-year-old Sarah realized she was pregnant. Sarah thanked God she didn’t yet have a child because the journey was difficult. They moved through forest and over hills, with little food, they picked maize from people’s gardens as they went. When they reached the border, the government troops and rebels fought. Many people died in the battle, because the government had the use of helicopters. During this battle, a very-pregnant Sarah began to feel the first pains of labor. She couldn’t move, so she stopped under a mango tree, surrendering to death. But soon, one of her co-wives arrived at her side. Sarah gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Immediately after giving birth; they began moving again. They did not stop to bathe until they reached River Agago. After crossing they stopped to rest, but were met by the government soldiers. They ran, each rebel trying to save his or her own life. The fighting lasted for eight hours, and only thirty rebel soldiers remained. Most were wounded, only ten healthy soldiers remained. Sarah’s husband had been killed in battle, but no one told her until she was given to another commander later. This commander cruelly mistreated her, and she began planning her escape.
After one failure to espace (for which she was severely beaten), Sarah was not able to try again until August 2004. Then, she and two other escaped, running all night. They crossed a river and came upon a center called Lacetocot. Civilians within the village took them to the barracks. Sarah’s brother came, bringing the news that their father had been murdered by the rebels. After this, Sarah’s was taken to a World Vision camp for three months.
Sarah with 3 of her 5 little ones during Amani Watoto, a peace camp for children of Amani employees.
She then went home to her mother and remaining relatives. Later, she was taken to tailoring school. After graduating from tailoring school she struggled to find work and was unable to support herself and her child. A friend told her about Simprosa and the Amani sewing center. Sarah became a member of Amani family in October 2013! Amani Uganda has been an empowering experience for Sarah. Since coming to Amani, she has attended attended group trauma therapy and participates in daily devotionals. Her life is changing gradually which makes her forget about the past. She is a leader at the Amani center and mentors some of the other women. She loves sharing the Word of God and encouraging the other ladies to work hard.
Amani has taught Sarah how to share devotions with others. he She frequently shared the Word of God with others. Before, Amani, she had no marketable skills, but now she is a self-suffient woman and accomplished tailor. Amani allows Sarah to be independent so she does not have to worry about basic needs. This allows her to provide her family with a good live.
The Amani Center has healed the wounds which was in her heart through sharing the Word of God and through the trauma rehabilitation. Through this job, she can afford to send her oldest son (who was born when she was in captivity) to school. Before working at Amani, she had no one to help her, not even her family.
Sarah (left) with Stella, another seamstress at Amani Uganda.
Sarah and her current husband have three children together. Sarah's husband is a business man in Gulu and helps to support his family as much as possible. However, her husband will not support her oldest son, who came back from the war with Sarah, because it is not his. But because of Amani, Sarah is able to pay for her oldest son's education herself.
*Some names have been changed for privacy.
To support Sarah and women like her, shop or donate at amanafrica.org!