EMPOWERED TO EMPOWER “Growing up as a young girl in the custody of my grandmother didn’t provide me with the best childhood experience” Says Lilian Akinyi Odingo a 24year old girl from Bumala ward Butula subcounty in Busia County.

I am married with two children, my first born child is 3 years old. I was born an only child of my parents, my father died and my mother is alive but in another marriage. My grandmother has been taking care of me since I was a child. I went to school at Bumala primary school and finished my O level at kagonya secondary school in 2013. Growing up was a challenge because my grandmother could not provide everything for me. There are times I regret and say to myself if I lived with my parents, life would be different and I would study and go to the university.

Going to school was a challenge because I had to work to get school fees and buy school uniform for me, my grandmother was old and it would be unfair to tell her anything to do with school considering she was also uneducated and knew no benefits of going to school. After successfully completing me secondary school education, I had various needs as a young girl. I needed to look good, dress well and have money to buy a few things for myself. And since I was jobless I could not afford.

I made friends with a man who would provide for me all these things. In the end I got pregnant and got my first born child and the man was nowhere to be seen. Life was tough with a baby, I needed to feed the baby and medicate the baby when he was sick and being jobless it was difficult. I even contemplated killing the baby because there was no one to help me take care of the baby. After contemplating for a long time I set out and began looking for a job. I now work as an ECD teacher. My husband is jobless and for this reason I am forced to take care of the family. While In the process of looking for a job, I heard about dreams, that was about a year ago and it’s also the same time I joined the dreams program.

I got news from people that I was needed by people from dreams who would to meet at Sega safe space on certain days of the week. I went and met them at the safe space and I was enrolled as a dreams girl. In the safe space I was taught a lot of things that I never knew.

I was taught on how to save money and even opened my own account, I was also introduced to table banking, family planning, prep and cash transfer services to start my business with. I now have a farm which I plant vegetables using the money I am given by dreams. The vegetables are for sale and for home consumption. Since I joined dreams my life has changed drastically, I know about family planning methods and so personally I am able to plan for my family and avoid unwanted pregnancies.

I am also a beneficiary of prep because, I don’t know who my husband is with when he’s away or when I am away. So I use prep to protect myself because I don’t know the day. I receive prep free of charge at our safe space here in sega. I also know how to go about various issues that initially used to cause me problems. I am happy to be a dream girl and I thank Impact Research And Development Organization for the support they have given me and other dreams girls in the society.

In future I would also like to change other girl’s lives. I would like to tell girls out there that, diseases are many out there they should take care of themselves, and should visit the safe space and get services such as prep and family planning so that they can take care of their lives.