Women of Kireka

On this page you can learn a little more about the Women of Kireka. You can also see a photography slide show on their lives here.

Lamono, Grace.

Fluent in English, Grace attended secondary school in Pamolo village, Kitgum district, until she was 16 years old. Her father, a soldier in Obote’s army, was able to pay her school fees. When he was killed by Museveni’s incumbent government, her and her mother were left destitute.

Grace married in 1991 and lived as a peasant farmer for six years. During this time, she gave birth to three children – now 15, 13 and 9 – before fleeing the war in 1994. After arriving in Kampala and settling in, Grace’s husband returned to Pamolo to get some extra supplies. He was abducted by the LRA. She hasn’t heard from him since and does not know if he’s dead or alive.

When asked if she would return home, Grace says all of her family is dead. “There is nowhere to stay in Pamolo. My mother is gone, my husband’s mother and father are gone. When the LRA attacked, they would round up 100 people and put them in one hut. They would then light the hut on fire. There’s no one left.”

After her husband’s disappearance Grace started working at the quarry in order to feed her children. She had a boyfriend for a while and gave birth to another two children, now 6 and 7. She eventually chased him away saying he wouldn’t let her work and drank too much. She left the Acholi Quarter of Kireka – a large encampment up in the hillside of Kireka surrounded by rock quarries – and settled nearer the main road.

Grace’s salary totals 2500 Ugandan shillings a day, about $1.50. She cares for her five children alone. When sick, she can’t work. On these days, she can’t feed her children anything except watery porridge. For the past six years, her lower lip has been raw and infected. She says she feels it spreading to her tongue and throat. Her 9 year old daughter, Gloria, is a beautiful child. Skinny and stick-limbed, she’s a quiet and sweet girl with wide eyes, cloudy and itchy from infections.

Akec, Santa.

Santa is a loud and boisterous woman. Despite adverse conditions, she’s playful, attentive to others and clearly a leader. After working a long day at the quarry, she puts on a flowered dress and asks me to take pictures of her looking “smart”.

Yet, Santa suffers a similar history as Grace. She was never educated, but worked as a peasant farmer with her mother and then with her husband in Pamolo, Kitgum district.

In 1994, the rebels came to Palomo and started slaughtering people. Between 2 a.m. and dawn, they had killed over 60 villagers.

Grace escaped with her family to Kitgum town. Families left destitute – huts and land destroyed by the LRA – gathered under the town’s mango tree. They discussed various options of escape and eventually a message from Santa’s aunt arrived. She was given money for transportation and fled.

Santa and her family arrived in Kampala in 1994. Her husband returned immediately to Pamolo to pick up belongings they had left behind in the raid. Like Grace’s husband, he was abducted by the LRA.

Santa lived with her aunt for several years before she passed away. Grace was then forced to find a job to support her five children – 17, 14, 11, 9 and 6 – and started working at the quarry.

For the past seven years she has been crushing rocks, 12 hours a day, seven days a week. She suffers from intense back pains and some days she can’t work. She earns about 2,000 Ugandan shillings a day, around $1.

Her older children are in school. She says her second-born is very smart and passed into secondary school. However, she couldn’t pay school fees and the child was held back another year in primary 6, along with the first-born, now 17. The children crush rocks at the quarry on weekend or when they’re not in school.

Aniek, Ellen.

Ellen also grew up in Pamolo, Kitgum district. She was never educated and toiled as a peasant farmer. She married in the village and soon after escaped with her children – now 21, 16, 13, 10 – and Santa’s family. Ellen’s husband was abducted during the LRA raid. She says she’s being driven crazy by rumors that he’s alive.

Santa helped Ellen secure a job at the quarry. Since she started working there, she’s grown increasingly thinner and chest pains disturb her work. She has not tested for HIV. Despite hard labor and living conditions, Ellen says she does not miss home. Pamolo is a ghost town: her family and friends all dead or abducted over the past ten years.

Her eldest child is still in primary 7. At 21, he missed three years of school during the war. When she doesn’t have money to send him to school, he works at the quarry. Her younger children are not in school. Her last child – strapped around her bag in a ragged cloth – was born two years ago during a brief relationship with a boyfriend. He left her and now she lives and cares for her children alone.

Acan, Florence.

Florence is a straight-forward woman with a decent grasp of English. She went to school in a small village in Kitgum until Secondary 9. Three years after quitting school due to lack of money, she married. For several years during the war, she lived as a housewife with her husband and gave birth to six children – now 18, 14, 10, 8, 9, and 5.

She escaped to Kampala with her family in 1994. When her husband died of HIV, she started working at the quarry to support her three older children (the eldest stayed in Kitgum with relatives) and her newborn baby.

She is HIV positive, but gets free ARVs from a nearby hospital. Florence makes 4,000 Ugandan shillings on a good day, about $2, and therefore cannot afford the proper food and rest she needs for her ARVs to work. She cannot afford to send her children to school or have someone take care of them while she works long hours at the quarry.

Aromo, Molly.

In 1998, Molly fled the war in Kitgum to Kampala with her husband and children. Two years later, her husband died in a car accident and she was left alone to care for her five children, now 22, 18, 16, 13, and 11.

She started working at the rock quarry to feed her children. She make around 2,000 Ugandan shillings a day, about $1. Last year, she visited her mother in law who still lives in Pamolo, Kitgum. She also does some artwork with her free time, depicting Uganda.

When asked why she didn’t stay, she explained that there’s a lot more to moving home then just getting up and leaving. She would have to rent land, build a house, rent a house while building and start growing crops. This demanded a significant deposit that the government would not afford displaced persons and that she could not provide.

Ajok, Alice.

Alice grew up in another small village near Pamolo in Kitgum. She gave birth to eight children, but 4 died. One in childbirth, one in her womb, the third of measles, and the last of an unknown virus.

She is the only woman with a husband who survived the war. He was abducted by the LRA and shot in the leg while escaping. He occasionally works random jobs helping build houses, but the work is difficult and limited.

Aoma, Christine

You can tell from Aoma’s face that she is still young. Her skin and eyes are still bright and her face slightly plump. She just turned 24 years old. She works at the quarry to support her four children, 11, 7, 4 and the youngest – strapped to her back – 11 months.

During the war in Kitgum, she was working as a housewife and peasant farmer in a small town outside Kitgum. Her husband was abducted by the LRA and she fled in 2002 with her children.
Aciro, Jennifer

Jennifer is 25 years old and a single mother with three children aged 10, 3 and 7. She hawks sweet bananas on Kampala Street and makes beads for survival.

Arach, Scovia

Scovia is a single mother with one eye. Her husband ran away mad and left her with children children aged 10, 7, 5, 2, and 2. Her child of 5 was attacked by cerebral malaria at five months and has developed some complications. He can’t talk and he’s disabled. She brews local beer and make beads for survival. She used to work at the quarry before losing an eye.

Alwoch, Angela

Angela is 39-years-old with eight children, four of them hers and 4 other orphans she takes care of. She works at the stone quarry.
Anneno, Rose

Rose is 49 years old with six children 18, 16, 12, 10, 8 and 4. Her husband is unemployed and she makes bead to survive.
Auma, Milly

Milly is a single mother with three children aged 10, 8 and 5. She survives by working at the stone quarry

Aloyo, Esther

Esther is 38-years-old married with six children aged 15, 13, 11, 8 and 5. Her husband is a local security guard and she works at the quarry.


Laker, Beatrice

Beatrice is 25-years-old and a single mother with two children aged 10 and 6. She is an orphan and is also taking care of her brother who is 17 years old and in secondary school. She is unemployed, but occasionally sells beads and washes people’s clothing for survivald makes bead and washes peoples clothes for survival.

Akumu, Teresa
Teresa is 45-year-old and has seven children, aged 24, 22,21,19,16, and 6. They are all in secondary school except the last two, who stay at home. Her husband is unemployed, and she survives by making paper beads and selling local banana brew.

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One Response to “Women of Kireka”

  1. […] can find out more about grace by visiting the official Women of Kireka informational blog, maintained by Siena Anstis. […]

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