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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 67 / 125





67 / 125


A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

In Acholi culture the boy is the heir and considered to be the ‘backbone’ of the family, expected to take care of his mother and younger siblings when he grows up. Boys are closely attached to their natal families, even after they have grown up and married, and the family especially mothers, play a crucial role in choosing good wives for them. Even though extended family relations have tended to become eroded by life in the displaced camps, boys still do not normally get separated from their mothers, and most tensions that exist within the family are between women and their mothers-in-law. Since the formerly abducted young mothers are considered ‘unclean’ and having cen, they normally have difficulty gaining their in-laws’ acceptance. Any misfortune that occurs in the man’s family will be put down as being the result of cen, and blamed on the young mother. Moreover, misfortunes like sickness are seen as draining the boy’s resources, thus justifying the concern of in-laws who have to depend on this same income for their support.

Some illustrations from the testimonies

‘Those child mothers who are not formerly abducted have a brighter future, because even when you separate from each other the child knows the father and even their home, which is very important in Acholi culture.’

‘My in-laws are provoking, insulting, and abusive, and they instigate my husband to drop me and bring another woman.’

‘She (my mother-in-law) goes around telling people that she cannot waste time looking after my son, because in future the boy will start looking for the whereabouts of his father if the father is alive.’

‘My mother-in-law said if I don’t leave her son, she will poison me.’

‘My mother in-law is so bad. She hates me so much that she cannot even eat the food that I have cooked.’

‘My mother-in-law chased me away, saying I cannot be a wife to her son, because I am mad, a killer, and I will kill her son. Secondly, I have children whose clan is unknown.’

The relationship between child mothers and their husbands is generally not bad. However, like Doreen and Monica, whose testimonies appear below, the girls often feel obliged to accept undesirable conditions in a marriage, since to be married at all provides some form of security. Doreen’s testimony, for example, shows how accusations flow easily if the girl does wrong. Moreover, problems often arise in

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