A day in the field

Tomorrow at 9 AM i have a doctors appointment. 20 kilometers up in the mountain, in a hidden house with a women who claims to have discovered the cure for AIDS. She has promised to cure my asthma with a drink she’s preparing tonight. I said yes, because of course you have to “taste the field”. Perhaps she’s right, who knows.

After realizing how knowledgable the pokot (the tribe in this area) are about herbal medicine, we have been looking for a cure with bearable side effects. We found one yesterday, but the cure included vomiting every morning for a month when taking the medicine.

Right now I’m sad that tomorrow is the last day here, we had a very productive and fun day. We started at 8 and came back 18, traveling to three different villages. In the first village we participated in a church service, talked to a women with fistula, talked to the pastor about what the bible says about FGM/child marriages and danced a bit.

In the second village, where i was expecting to do many interviews and a focus group discussion, we had to rejected many girls because they were not married or to old (not in the target group). Finally we found one, but it later turned out that the dowery (bride price) had been payed back to her husband, and she even had a child with another man. Joseph the interpreter was delaying, as for the last two days, and everything seemed quite impossible. Suddenly, Joseph showed up and five girls were ready for a group discussion about health care, and it turned out to be very good. The rain was threatening us, but we finished and found chikomando, the food that the army eat: chapati and beans.

It was in the third village we found this fascinating woman with the medication. I have been there two times before, and its always an adventure. First of all, its steep and there is no proper road, the means of transportation is motorcycle, its far and i am impressed every time the drivers manages to transport us. I always think about the girls, who in a critical stage of labour travel to the health center down the steep hill. Its thought to be good for progress of the labour because the trip is bumpy…and i can imagine very painful!

The day ended with a focus group discussion with young girls, the age of the 5 girls ranged from 13 to 17 years old, 4 of them with a child in their arms, the fifth one in the final stages of pregnancy. When the topic turned to family planning one of the girls said: “The baby has just started crawling, and my husband is demanding another child. What do i do about that? He would never accept family planning, pokot men want many children in return for the dowery”.

Thats when you feel powerless, and don’t have any idea for what to answer and reply: “perhaps you could bring your husband to the clinic after explaining your issues to the midwife there” well aware that the chances for that happening is close to zero. Luckily Joseph is a part of a Action Male group, who addresses issues of FGM and early marriages in the villages, he rescued me with a suggestion about sensitization among village men about family planning. I hope that Joseph will carry out the sensitization before all the four girls are pregnant for the second time.

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Drama in Karamoja

Sunday morning i decided to leave Karita, the field site. The night before the pastor was shot twice in his arm while reading the bible in his home. Roomers state that one of the candidates for the election were the one hiring the killing. I met the pastor in the church last week, he was really nice, and he even talked about child marriages and health care during his service. The pastor has been working to end corruption in the area, which is most likely the reason to why they tried to kill him.

Saturday night the army was transporting the pastor and shooting in the streets to mark their presence for something that felt like hours. I was in my hut terrified, because i didn´t know what happened, this being the second time i ever heard gun shots. I was sure that the streets were filled by blood and dead bodies, so i turned off the light and had a long discussion with myself if perhaps it would be better to lie underneath the bed or in it.

During one of our interviews with the married girls, we met a girl who tried to escape twice, both times she was beaten by her husband and his friends, she was one of few who went to school for quite some time. She said “imagine that this will be the rest of my life..i dont know if i can handle it”. My translator gave her some advice about where she could escape.

In an interview the administrative center, Amudat i talket to an NGO about their services and mentioned that for some of the girls we talked to, lacked an exit out of marriage, he disagreed, because they have a boarding school where 200 girls have escaped to since 2012, due to early marriage of FGM. I was tempted to give the story about the girl, so that she could enjoy this program and get out of her situation. Luckily i called my supervisor before, and he just said: if you do that, you are in great danger of being killed. The issue in Karita is the power of the men in the villages, the police fear them. And there is corruption. The police station is the spot where the girls are supposed to escape to before being picked up by the NGO.

Saturday night i was terrified that this husband of the girl had somehow discovered that we talked with her about escaping, and that he was outside my hut with his gun. Luckily my supervisor called and informed me about the situation, and also told me that this girl didn´t run away from her husband.

Monday is election day. Mama Ana, the host of the guesthouse had arranged some transport for me with the lorry’s transporting beer to the villages. Mama Ana is a known supporter of the NRM, the ruling party. The last election 3 weeks ago, someone tried to destroy her tv, but luckily they failed to enter the compound where the houses are. Some huts were burned down in some of the villages.

There is also a measles vaccination campaign and the police were busy with investigation and preparing for election campaign riots, so everyone i wanted to interview were caught up with something. I decided to come back to finish after transcribing the interviews i have so far. There is a power issue in Karita, so i went back to Kampala.

Child marriage conference in Lusaka, Zambia.

When searching for literature and data about my topic, Child marriages, suddenly i came across a conference hosted my the African Union called «How to end child marriages and other harmful practices». I got SO excited, thats SO perfect. The conference was going to be in Addis Ababa in the beginning of September. I was like: it would not harm if i ask if i can join, but i´m not even expecting any reply. A week after I received an invitation from the African Union, and a recommendation to go to the Lusaka meeting in Zambia in stead of, because that would suit my topic better.

I love Africa sometimes. I bet that the EU wouldn’t even bother to answer my email. So now i´m in Zambia. Traveled for 12hours because i was late booking and suddenly in the taxi in Lusaka from the airport i realize that i don´t know anything about Zambia. Just that there is a nice place called Livingstone where you can see the Victoria falls from and that Zambia is a former British colony. Luckily the taxi driver was a cool guy called Derrick, who told me all about the politics of the country. They had 6 presidents since independence, from democratic elections, it´s seems like, but unfortunately two of them died. After finishing just half of their period. Due to something as undramatic as obesity, drinking, smoking – lifestyle diseases. Now i´v got a friend in Lusaka, Derrick is showing me the city next week.

Lusaka is really different from Kampala. Less chaotic, people drive more carefully, there is no boda bodas (motorcycle taxis). The city i´ v been told is quite big if you look at how far it stretches, but the city center does not really feel like a center. There is approximately 4 million people living here. The streets are wide and new, they have several HUGE fancy, modern shopping centers and its much dryer than east Africa. I kind of miss chaotic Kampala already. Though i do feel safer in traffic.

On monday the conference starts, it lasts for a week and i got it for free. Now i´ m at an overpriced backpacker place with a dirty pool and very nice staff. Tomorrow I’m traveling to  Livingstone, which is supposed to be a really nice small town 6 hours drive from Lusaka. This is actually the first time I’m traveling all by my self without knowing the place or any people. So far i really like it. Perhaps i will be SO lonely soon, but i guess there is always other people traveling alone who also (hopefully) wants company.

Fieldwork in Uganda

I´m a part of the international community health masters program at the institute for health and society, at the University of Oslo. This autumn all of us are somewhere in the world doing fieldwork, i am doing mine in Uganda. My topic is well-being, mental health and health care among child brides in Amudat district in Uganda.

After three days in Uganda everything changed. As i should have expected, i guess, but i didn´t. I met Chris, my supervisor, and Shirlee, a former co-student from Makerere University. She was supposed to be my research assistant/interpreter. The minute before Shirlee enters the restaurant Chris says: why don´t you just join me in Karamoja? And i´m like YES! That´s perfect. And then Shirlee enters, and i realize that she would not be able to join due to language. How to break it to her?

I have a thousand questions i want to ask Chris, but i can´t. Until we almost finished eating and Chris asks if i have any questions. And i´m just: I really want to go to Karamoja! And luckily Shirlee thinks its a good idea. Chris is carrying out an ethnographic fieldwork on female genital modification (his own concept) and reproductive health. After the girls are «cut» they are at the “market” for marriage i.e my target group.

I was supposed to go to the west, but changing area makes the age group younger and a more relevant study. FGM is not that prevalent in Uganda, but in this area almost every girl have to undergo FGM, so this will add another health and rights issue to my target group. The best thing is that now everything is kind of settled, finally. Chris will most likely make it easier to build trust with the girls i want to interview, and the practical issues have already been sorted out when we changed area; housing, interpreter and ethical clearance.

So now I’m going to Karamoja sub region, Amudat district in mid September. People have poor sanitary conditions, its a semi dessert and there is a lack of water and food due to poor crops/drought. The region is one of the worst of in Uganda to live in, and when telling people in Kampala that I’m going to Karamoja they respond: «those people don´t even put on clothes», «its the only place in Uganda that still like the real Africa», «EH! your going to become a real Ugandan», shaking their heads. Many NGO´s is doing projects so i´m really not the only one. Since 2010 it has been peaceful in the area, before there were some instability due to the fact that the tribes in the area fought over who owned the cattle.

I have never been in these kinds of conditions before, so i am very excited, and hope i can cope with the poor conditions and all the horrible stories these girls will tell me about.