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.