The Gulu Project/Gloria

A tale on the aftermath of civil war in Northern Uganda and some of its protagonists. Supported by a grant of VG Bildkunst. 2012-2014

Gloria is a young sex worker in Gulu. In 1996 the LRA abducted 139 female students from the prestigious St. Mary’s College in Aboke, an event that drew international attention to the northern conflict. Gloria was one of the students.

“We were like chickens being taken” Gloria says. “Some abductees were killed when we were seeing it. They just cut off their neck. Others they just get some big sticks hitting them, killing really in a painful way. (…). You have no voice. You are just like a slave. You have to go with that.” When she eventually escaped from captivity she returned home to find that her mother had died and the sponsor who had been paying for her education had disappeared. Family members had taken over her land and Gloria was left alone with an unfinished education.

Both Gloria and Brenda, her best friend and a fellow abductee from the Aboke school, dream of finishing their education and starting a small business, perhaps selling clothes. The sex work is tough, with clients turning violent at times or refusing to pay.

Worries about this risky lifestyle plague them, especially fears of HIV and other diseases, and the memories of the past refuse to leave them. Sometimes when they’re walking the streets of Gulu they meet one of their former commanders, now serving as a government soldier. The girls say that they can see in his eyes shame and horror when he recognizes them.