A Ugandan Lesbian who was Left Homeless at the Tender Age of Sixteen Tells All about her Life on the Streets and Beating the Odds
By Our Correspondent
At first glance she comes off as your average girl trying to find herself and one would never guess the pain underneath her vibrant nature and confident stature. We meet up in one of the local bars around Ntinda and for two hours, I sit dumbfounded as her story unfolds.
Her name is Shivan Pavin Alongat and from the start of the interview she makes it known that she is a proud lesbian and has fully embraced her sexuality despite the homophobic environment she was raised in.
A professional cosmetologist, Shivan has taken the highroad and ventured into an area many regard as impractical (music) but says she earns a living from what she does and that is all that counts.
Born twenty three years ago, Shivan hails from Soroti. She first discovered and explored her sexuality when she was in Senior One. Like most LGBTI persons, she went through a stage typically characterized by confusion as she tried to suppress her attraction to girls but by her Senior Four, there was no more running away from the truth.
Soon her parents (who she later discovered were only her guardians as her parents had long passed on), threw her out of the only home she had ever known. She sought refuge at an uncle’s place but that too did not last long as he soon started raping her.
Being a virgin, the rough sex made her privates rot and before long, she had a repugnant smell. Her uncle’s wife accused her of having had an abortion before beating her severely and scorching her behind with fire.
She was thereafter taken to hospital where she received treatment for the burns and bad vaginal odor. At the hospital, Shivan confided in one of her maternal aunties about the rape but to her shock, they turned on her accusing her of trying to tear her uncle’s marriage apart. They cleared the bills and ordered her never to show face in any of their homes.
Shivan had earlier heard that casual laborers at Mukwano Group of companies were given shelter and decided to seek for employment as she had no place to go. As luck would have it, she was given the job. With a roof over her head and a somewhat stable income, things seemed to be brightening up. She also took on Karaoke to supplement her meager earnings.
Being a karaoke dancer by night, she opted for the day shift at Mukwano unlike all her room mates who worked the night shift. A few months down the road, she had made a few friends, particularly a boy from Gulu who had taken a special liking to her.
One night after her Karaoke sessions as she tried to catch a quick nap before day break, her ‘friend’ returned and once again, she became a victim of rape. She reported the matter to her superiors but nothing could be done as they argued that the accused had been with the company for a long time and no one would believe the story of a girl who had barely worked for a year. And just like that, Shivan was fired.
She was homeless once again and after a few weeks on the streets, she walked to one of her auntie’s residences where she begged to be taken on as a maid. Her auntie would not take the risk of associating with her and could only provide shelter for one night. However, before leaving, she begged to know about her parents with the hope that this information would lead her somewhere productive. Her auntie advised her to go to Tororo and search for her father (Apollo Omagoro).
Armed with only her father’s name and the six thousand shillings her auntie had given her, Shivan set off to search for her paternal relatives. At the park in Nakawa, she begged to be given a ride for a fare of 4000 and after a long day of being turned down, the last taxi finally agreed to take her.
By the time she arrived in Tororo, she had 500 and a black polythene bag that contained all her earthly belongings. With nowhere to spend the night, she begged the people she had travelled with to give her shelter but none would take the risk of housing someone they did not know.
That night, she slept in the bus park and to her horror, she found herself lying in a pool of blood the following morning. There was no question about what had happened as it was obvious she had been gang raped. Shivan remembers the incident vaguely and cannot point out how many men had their way with her that night. With a blood stained dress and prolific pain, she made her way to a nearby clinic but the attendant was not of much assistance; she was simply offered paracetamol to help with the pain and a few tests were done to ascertain the rape before being sent on her way. However, the results of the tests revealed something that would change the course of her life forever- she was about a month or so pregnant.
With the 500 she had left, Shivan made the decision to take her life as well as that of her unborn child; she bought rat poison, hid in a dark corner and hoped her dreadful life would soon be over.
Next thing she knew, she was being hurled onto a police vehicle and taken to Tororo hospital where she received first aid. After stabilizing a few days later, a police officer returned and questioned her about where she was from but Shivan fearing to be brought back to Kampala remained tight lipped. The Police ended up throwing her in a cell as they continued to make inquiries about where she could be from.
With no promising leads and an overpopulated cell, the Police was forced to refer her to Milikit Prison where she remained for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile her pregnancy continued to grow. As luck would have it, while returning from the daily prison chores, a friend to the aunt who raised her happened to be at the prison and instantly recognized her. After learning the details of her story, the kind lady decided to bring Shivan home with her.
In her own words, the lady gave her a new lease of life. She took Shivan in, enrolled her back in school for A level and treated her as her own daughter. After giving birth a few months later, she called an elderly lady she worked with while at Mukwano and asked her to stay with the baby. She promised to send weekly stipend but that was a promise she never kept.
Soon after school, the lady gave Shivan a sum of 150,000 to use as initial rent fare and also got her a job with Golf Course Hotel.
Shivan now had a source of income and was quickly getting back on her feet. Because she exhibited a very high level of competency at work, she quickly rose through the ranks at the hotel and was offered the front desk officer position. She also got back into Karoeke to increase her earnings and enrolled at YMCA for a Diploma in Cosmetology.
Bit by bit, her life’s pieces started falling back together. The once distraught Shivan is currently staying with her partner Kim Mukasa and is reconnecting with her son after tracking him down in April last year.
Asked why she chose to share her experience, Shivan explains that she hopes her story will encourage someone because she knows first-hand that hardships are not the end of the road and staying true to oneself is the key to emerging a victor.
Shivan is working on an album off of which she recently released a single titled This is me (I am Kuchu). She is also a vocal coach, dancer and a choreographer.