Engaged Duty Bearers a bridge to Justice
A crouching figure approached her home in the dim evening light. She had just travelled 300 kilometres from Masaka, leaving thehospital bed where she was admitted. Justine Badaru had come to mourn the death of her husband and find out the fate of two of their sons aged eight and ten who had been under his care.
A few months earlier Badaru was attacked by herpes zoster which made her lose eye sight. She was too sick to care for herself that her husband took her with their one month old baby to Masaka to be looked after by her mother. A trip to the hospital confirmed Badaru and her mother’s fears. She was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Her weight had dropped to 10 kilograms and her CD4 count was only 3.
She was admitted in hospital and put on ARV treatment. She partially recovered her eyesight and noticed that the medication she had been given was similar to what her husband had taken for years.“He never told me that he was HIV positive. He would keep his medicine at school and bring only one tablet home. Hewould lie that he was taking the medicine was for goiter,”she recalls.
By keeping her in the dark about his HIV status, he not only exposed herto HIV but their two younger children were born with HIV yet it could have been prevented. “When my two children tested HIV positive I sank into a depression,” she narrates from a verandah of tenement where she lives.
During her time away, Badaru’s husband fell sick and died in 2014. She got the news about her husband’s demise while admitted in the hospital. Mustering whatever energy she could, she endured a 300 kilometer journey to Masindi to check on her children and find out about the burial. Her husband had already been transported by relatives and buried in his home village in Arua. Immediately after the burial, her mother-in-law and younger sons, headed to Masindi to lay claim to whatever their son had bought with his teacher’s salary. When Badaru arrived at her home barely supporting herself, her in-laws chased her with stones and spears into the bush.
For two nights she huddled with her two children, then infested with jiggers in the chilling cold.She begged her in-laws to at least not chase the children who are their blood relatives.“They told me thatI and my children are useless, since we were going to die from AIDS anyway,” she recalls,tears freely streaming freely down her face.
The local council members eventually intervened and forced Badaru’s in-laws to open the door to her hut. “Nothing had been spared. The hut had been emptied of everything, a sofa set, a motorcycle, a solar power system, beds and mattresses and even my cooking utensils,” she narrates. She reported the case to the police, but was too weak to make regular trips to the police station to follow up.She was left stuck in an empty hut.
After a few trips to Masindi town, Badaru was advised by a Resident District Commisionesr one of the duty bearers trainedby UGANET to report the case to UGANET. “UGANET started by giving me legal counseling, then they helped me to get letters of administration for my husband’s estate,” she says. The estate includes land, a house under construction, a motorcycle, a solar power system and other household items.
Badaru’s is back on her feet. She has got a job teaching at a nursery school near her home. Her energy and vibrancy in front of toddlers is astounding. “I went to UGANET leaning on a walking stick, now I am strong,” she told us, “I know my rights, I have recovered my children’s property,” she beams proudly,on our way from the school where she teaches.