She has become a mother to the motherless
By Hope Mafaranga
When I arrived at Martha Twesigye’s home in Kayonja village, Rubindi Sub-County in Mbarara district, I was welcomed by a girl who looked like 17 years old with a big smile. I later got to know her as Ritah Tushabe one of the many girls that Twesigye takes care of.
Tushabe portrays pictures of a child that has grown in a very happy and loving family. Despite the fact that she is not Twesigye’s biologically daughter, you can hardly tell. She calmly told me to have a sit as she calls her mother. “Mummy in the banana plantation, please take a sit and I call her,” she warmly said.
The mother of 10 children, five girls and five boys, Twesigye says that she opened her home for the needy and homeless girls because she did not want to see a girl child being subjected to any kind of abuse.
Her starting point was about 20 years ago, when of the girls approached her home and told her that she was chased away from home and had nowhere to stay.
“I looked at her and I could not chase her away. I knew God had a reason to why He brought this girl to my doorsteps. I took her inside and waited for my husband to tell him about her. I was scared that he will chase her away but to my shock, he became a father to this girl and more than 20 that followed. My first girl is now a graduate and working in bank,” she said.
She however did not want to disclose her name for fear of her being stigmatized. That was the beginning of seeing her house congested with needy girls including those that are mentally disturbed.
A former secondary school teacher, Twesigye hated seeing men and other people taking advantage of the disadvantaged girls and she vowed to dedicate herself in counselling them and paying school fees to those that could not afford.
After seeing what girls were going through, she could go to the villages to offer free counselling ranging from their body changes, relationships, dangers of schools dropping out and early pregnancies.
This earned her the name of Mama in the area and also parents who are having difficulties to talk to their girls openly send them to her for counselling.
“Most of our girls find themselves in trouble because they do not know what to do and they are not guided. Because they lack that guidance, they succumb to peer pressure and other temptations,” she said.
Source of funding
Twesigye gets money from her farming activities to cater for the needy girls. “I sell my eggs, matooke, milk and pay for their fees and other requirements. They are part of my family and children that God has blessed me with,” she says.
She is happy that most of the girls that have passed through her hands are stable and responsible. Eleven of them are now graduates; others are business women, while others are happily married.
“As a mother what other joy do I what apart from seeing that I have made a difference in people’s lives. You need to visit me on Christmas to see the joy in this house,” she proudly says.
What sets her apart from the rest?
Twesigye takes care of girls including those with a mental problem. One wonders why she keeps them in her instead of taking them mental clinic buts she defenses her decision that some of them are abused.
“At clinics, when these mentally disturbed girls are taken there, they are sexually abused. I am sure you have seen mad women on the streets with pregnancies; they get there from clinics while others are raped if they are left to roam around. I am trying to save them from all these challenges so I bring a doctor who treats them from here until they are healed,” she said.
Twesigye’s biggest problem is finding school fees for all the children she looks after. “Sometimes it’s get tough with finances when I have less money. I can’t send my own children to school leave these ones at home,” she said.
She also says that the girls, who are mentally sick, also stay in her home but the susu in the house which makes it hard to clean every day.
She also disclosed that sometimes she gets girls who have a habit of stealing but with a lot of counselling; they change and become better people.
I want to see a world without girls suffering and I will always open my doors for the girls who need help despite their background. “ A part from helping more girls and give me skills and courage to be good citizens and work hard to sustain themselves, there is no future plan I have because that’s what God has kept me alive for,” she says.
Royce Nakalema said that she has never seen a woman with a golden heart like Twesigye.
Other people get financial help from donors to do the things Martha is doing. But for she welcomes these girls, take them as her own and it is hard to know her real children and those that are not because she treats them the same. She has a big heart,” Nakalema says.
Maria Francis Kabarungi, the 80 year old woman who lost all her children and was chased away from her land is speechless on how Twesigye has given her shelter.
I was homeless but Twesigye gave me one. I now childless but Twesigye and her family have been my children,” she says.
Ritah Tushabe who is in S.3 at Kashaka girls says that this is only home she has grown up knowing. “I was brought here when I was in a nursery school and this is my home,” she said.