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This is My Life. You Can’t Have It.

What if—in one instant—your dreams were stolen from you? Could you be as strong as Clara, a young woman from Uganda, and take them back?

In a village where few girls are allowed to continue their education, 17-year-old Clara got her father’s permission to go to high school. “I was at Kasese High, studying for my exams,” she says. Clara’s story sent a message—change is coming. Girls finally have a chance where they never had one before. That makes what happened next especially devastating.

“One night, I went to a club with my group of girls. A man called me over. He said, ‘I have something to ask you.’ Then he held me down. He raped me.”

Clara is one of the more than 45% of African women who experience sexual and/or physical violence in their lifetime. Not only did Clara feel unable to cope with the trauma of her assault, she had no idea of its consequence. “I never knew I could get pregnant,” she says. No one taught her about her body.

In Uganda, women face tremendous barriers to preventing unintended pregnancy. They don’t have the information and health services they need. Many women who want contraception can’t get it (Even 34% of married women have an unmet need for contraception). So what choice do they have about their futures.

Clara was not willing to give up on her dream. “I stayed in school for seven months. I finished my exams.” But eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore. “I couldn’t stand it alone. I called my father, and he…took me home.”

Imagine Clara’s trip back to her village. Imagine everything unraveling. “I locked myself in my room. I couldn’t fit in with my fellow sisters. I’d hide.” In the month that followed, Clara never visited a doctor. She never learned how to protect her health or got prenatal care for her baby. Until one day, someone knocked on her door.

A nurse named Annette, trained through the STRIDES for Family Health project, visited Clara in her home. Clara remembers—“Annette came to me and said, ‘Everything is going to be OK. I’m going to go with you to the clinic right now. After that, we will see what to do together.’”

Every girl deserves the same choice.

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