A Story Is Just A Story...
My name is Neema David. I was born in DRC Congo and lived in Uganda for 3 years as a Refugee in a Refugee camp. When I was in Congo I had both my parents but my mom was the one struggling the most so she can pay for my Education! My dad cared less. He always said women's education finished in the kitchen. Why should even girls go further and get an education? Isn’t it enough education as long as girls know how to read? Going to school and missing some days wasn’t great for me because I'm one of the people that really enjoyed going to school and not stay home. Once I walked into an exam room, my teacher told me that I couldn't take the exam because my parents haven’t paid for your fees yet. Tears started dropping out of my eyes. I begged the teacher to let me take the exam and hopefully, my mom will pay for my school fees tomorrow. They explained they will not allow that because that isn’t the rule of the school and he sent me to the office. I tried to explain to the principal but it didn’t help. He told me to go home and come back when I have the money to pay for my school.
Mind you, my mom is the only person who cares about my education. My dad doesn’t care because my mom has to provide food for us and pay for my fees because at this time I was the only child in the house but things were still hard. Especially my education. My mom had a slow business of selling vegetables and through this business, we have to eat, purchase clothing, my uniform and also pay for my school fees. My dad kept discouraging my mom to pay for my school fees. He kept saying a woman's job and responsibility is to be a mother. My dad believed only men can go to school. But my mom was raised differently. She believed education is for both boys and girls. She was raised to be a strong independent woman. She also raised me to be a confident woman and an amazing lady.
My mom stopped going to school when she became married to my dad. She loved school and she wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up. But since she couldn't become what she wanted to be, she always encouraged me to become a better woman and tried her best to pay for my school fees even though life was not that easy. Most women from my country when they get married and give birth, they stop going to school. Because they think they have more of a responsibility to be a mom and also to take care of the family. My Mom tried to go back to school because she wanted to set a good example for us even though it was hard and impossible.
My mom always told me there will always be someone who has a different life from yours. There will always be someone richer than you, there is always someone smarter than you but that doesn’t mean you’re not smart. You can also be rich and smart by using your words, your actions, and by having hope that you can do anything especially when it comes to what girls should do and shouldn’t do. I felt like for a long time men were the only ones treated better than women like men are the only ones that need education and that needs to stop. Why does one gender have control over the other? Why can’t both genders work together? Little boys shouldn’t be in control of everything. When something goes wrong they feel like they have lost control. Women and men should be treated equally.
They both deserve equal rights.
At the moment, the only thing that was going on in my mind is wishing that one day I will watch the news and don’t hear she is the first female to do this or she is the first female to do that. I would like to hear that women are also achieving their dreams and be so successful.
Once life keeps getting harder, my family decided to go live in Bukavu, on the southern side of Congo to go live with my grandparents. My grandma used to tell a story about when she was 16 years old. How soldiers used to kill babies. Rape women and kill every man that wouldn’t join them and still doing it till now to this day. At the end of her stories, she always said, "I hope one day we will have peace in Africa that will last forever".
I was so young and didn’t believe anything like that will happen in real life. Because a story is only a story ...
...... Until you have your own story to tell
I Once Loved, Now I Fear
We decided to go back to Congo because life was not any better in the village. When we reached in the Congo, my mom gave birth to my brother Moses in 2010. Life was still not better in Congo, she then again gave birth to my other brother Barack in 2012. When my little brother Barack was 5 months, my dad had a successful store that we didn’t struggle anymore with paying bills or worrying about what we were going to eat. Our life was great at this point and we spent so much time together.
But one night came and we heard gunshots, people screaming and crying. I was 8 years old sleeping in my mom’s room. She tapped me on my shoulder to wake me up and I remember being terrified. That was the first time seeing my mom crying. At 2 am, when it was totally quiet, my mom told us to go pack our bags. Take only the things you will need and stay quiet, don’t turn on the lights, she said. We packed very little clothing and shoes. The only thing we couldn’t pack and carry was our best memories and the country that we love so much. My parents hated that we had to leave the country before we did.
We never got to say goodbye to anyone. Soldiers were in my street and my mom was outside they were shooting and the bullets passed by my mom’s head. She almost got shot but because it wasn’t her day yet God didn’t want her to leave by that moment. That same night soldiers were going house by house and killing innocent people.
The country that I love most with all my heart quickly became the country that I feared the most. Outside it was so dark and we had to stop in the forest because my little brother started crying. We had to make him quiet. As we landed in the forest we kept hearing the gunshots getting closer. One bullet came from nowhere and hit my dad. Sadly, that was the last time we saw him as my mom was running to save our lives. I almost screamed but my mom closed my mouth to keep me quiet.
We made it to the bus station on the border of Uganda and Congo, far away from my neighborhood. The place was very quiet with people holding babies and their belongings. They looked hungry, cold, and heartbroken. My mom’s friend who lived at the border helped us cross the border. We crossed with no shoes on, some ugly clothes, and got on the bus that was going to Uganda. Eight hours later we were in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. We met my mom's step-sister and gave her a big hug. She took us to the hotel and bought us food.
I thought we had reached our destination but we hadn't. We slept in Kampala only one day and the next day we started our trip to Kyangwali. Kyangwali is a Refugees camp that is in the district of Hoima in Uganda. I met my step-grandma and I was very happy to meet her and the rest of the family.
In that refugee camp, women were cooking outside, and children running around. There were a lot of houses built with soil and stick. The houses were very small for a family of 3 or more people to sleep in it. The houses were like this small.
My eyes couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It was insane. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I asked my mom if this is where we are moving to. "It looks scary mom", I said tears started dripping down my face. Are we going to live here for the rest of our lives? She said, "yes just for a moment as life getting better in Congo".
Life in Uganda turned out to not be that bad because I was able to free education. My mom only had to buy my books and uniforms. They gave us a farm for each family and they showed us where to get water from a well, where you have to pump it to get water.
When my mom and I were getting used to Uganda, we grew our own crops and my mom told me to help her to go and sell them so we can get new clothes, shoes, good food to eat, like fish. Sometimes I still had to miss some days at school so that I can help my mom to plant our crops. I was okay with this although I missed school, I will not let her suffer alone to provide everything for me and my siblings. It was sad. It was too much for one person. I even wished I was old enough so that I can help my mom more. The only thing I could help my mom with is to respect and listen to her because what she was doing, wasn’t easy. Sometimes you will plant your crops and they may die but sometimes they will survive.
And that is all because of the grace of God.
Author- Neema David