As a Ugandan woman I’m expected to have sex with men to climb the career ladder

I left school at 15, when I fell pregnant with my daughter. I wanted to go back after she was born, but I couldn’t afford the school fees, so I had to take on different jobs.

Now, I work in a stall on the side of a road in Kampala, frying chips and selling cold drinks. Working as a woman in Uganda is difficult.

In bars, you are often expected to have sex with the boss before you get the job and made to sleep with customers to keep it. You are helpless – when a customer doesn’t pay, it’s your fault. If a bottle is broken, it is your fault (and you’ll get punished for it). If a customer gets annoyed, it’s your fault and you’ll have to cool him down – and by cooling him down, you have to sleep with him. Then you have to beg your boss to let you keep your job, because there are no other jobs. You are working full-time but you are paid as if you are working part-time.

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Every week girls are looking for jobs, but the jobs are nowhere to be found. And the jobs we do have, the employers for those only hire girls they consider to be good-looking – so you have to be beautiful enough to compete with others.

Men say things to me like ‘can I taste you before I taste your chips’ and ‘are your chips as sweet as you?’.

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It’s not right. I started experiencing harassment when I was around 13, working as a hawker selling maize and was harassed all the time on different levels. I could be out walking with my dad and a group of boys would start shouting ‘ah mzha’ (old person) ‘where are you taking that young woman, are you going into a lodge? Are you going to slaughter her? (have sex)’.

From that moment, I stopped feeling like a child. Even now I have my own stall, I still get harassed. Continue reading

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