I was stunned by this picture on so many levels. Her raw, pure, innocent beauty is staggering to behold. It tells a story of a little girl who daily stands at the fence yelling “Ow’re you,” completely oblivious to steel that divides us. When I answer in Ateso, she and her two siblings laugh like there is no tomorrow. She does not realize some day in the near future, her gaiety will be replaced by cold reality. She will stand behind an imaginary blockade, that will ultimately confine–even dictate her life. Innocence.
In so many ways, the barrier will most likely typify her life, and after running into cultural roadblocks a number of times, she will probably succumb. Oh, she will most likely attend school when she is in primary grades. She may soar to the top of her class with her academic giftedness, but this is not enough to keep her in the scholastic system. When money, younger siblings, a growing family, harder times surface, school fees are out of the question, and the new school term begins without her.
She will be ridiculed by her family members until she secures some way of earning her keep to substantiate her lodging, and her meager meals. Otherwise, at the tender age of 13 or so, she may lose her small space on the dirt floor where she lies at night, and will be likely to wander the streets looking for work. Employment is nearly impossible for a young girl, unless she is willing to sell her body, which unfortunately, is probable.
For the equivalent of a dollar or so, she is left alone, unattached, and hollow. Her neediness drives her to seek one who can give her a place to sleep, and perhaps even the promise of daily sustenance.
She is indifferent to her underdeveloped womb that is quickly inhabited by yet another life–born into the web of poverty. And the babies come. She is eventually crushed under the weight of too many mouths to feed.
Her heart races when she hears him stumble into the hovel. His rank breath permeates the hut, and she lays in wait of his wrath.
And the cycle continues.