When Ester was a three month old baby she was caught in a fire and suffered severe burns to her face that left her scarred.
As a result, she had a very tough time growing up in Jinja, Uganda.
“I was not valued and was often ignored in my village because of the scars on my face. I was never given priority.“
When Ester got a bit older, she met a boy and at 18, fell pregnant, left home and moved in with her boyfriend.
They could barely afford enough food to eat, let alone her school fees, and so Ester dropped out of school.
“Neither of us had a stable income so it was difficult, if we didn’t get the money we would go hungry and wouldn’t eat.“
This was a dangerous time for Ester – as a pregnant mother, nutrition is everything. But her parents would not pay for her and she was now doubly stigmatised by her community for falling pregnant.
“If you get pregnant and are not married, society laughs at you and looks at you as a failure.”
Ester remained ostracised and lonely until one day she got a knock at her door. It was a Restless Development volunteer inviting her to join a women’s group. She signed up and has never looked back.
Ester, pictured with a Restless volunteer
“I have been given counselling and have been supported and encouraged so much. I know now that pregnancy isn’t the end of your life.The volunteers teach women in our community about family planning and sexual and maternal health and teach us business skills, such as how to plan for, manage and save for your business. “
Ester (left) and her friend Florence with her baby.
One of the ways that earning a living becomes feasible for young mothers like Ester is through the training they get from Restless Development volunteers to set up saving groups,
“We save together, so if someone’s business isn’t going well they can get support from others in the group. I am proud that I was selected as the treasurer of the group. It feels important that I was chosen as the leader of this group so we can tackle stigma that teen mothers like me face in our society.“
Ester would not be where she is today without the hard work and dedication of our Get Up Speak Out! (GUSO) project volunteers like Laura. They have already seen great results from their work,
Laura, a Restless GUSO Volunteer
“It is tough work, sexual health and rights is a very sensitive topic here in Uganda. But with the team we have built, and of course the support from Restless Development staff, we are able to see results. We have been able to reduce teen pregnancy and girls and young women are now able to get up and speak for their rights. It really impacts lives, not only us as volunteers but everyone in society.“
Ester is one of over 2,392 young people who have received vital support and training from young leaders on our Get Up Speak Out! project in Jinja this past year.
Ester and her friend Florence with Restless volunteers from our GUSO project.