At the age of 9, her step mother called her into the house and handed her a kerosene-reeked dress which she ordered her to put on. Aisha Nabukeera’s efforts to act contrary to the said order were fruitless. A few moments later, Aisha received further instructions from her step mother to light a paraffin lamp. “I remember the flames that licked my dress and my body started to burn,”
This dreadful incident changed Aisha Nabukeera – and left internal and external scars to remind her of every bit of pain that she experienced that day. While many thought self-pity would become her song, Aisha has turned out to be an icon of hope and encouragement for many vulnerable children and adults. The 24-year-old recently graduated much to the amazement of every Ugandan.
Here are 4 lessons (illustrated with quotes) from her recent interviews with various media houses that can help you get past self-pity.
Challenge the negative mindset
“For a long time I was angry at my stepmother for trying to ruin my life. Now I believe her act of malice became the greatest gift of my life. Looking at the circumstances I was born in, I believe I am one of the luckiest people living now.”
“I was angry, afraid and feeling hopeless but now that my way of thinking has changed, I realise that the incident hurt me a lot but it opened doors for me. I have met a lot of interesting people, experienced things I would not otherwise have been able to.”
“Once you realise how easy it is for everything to come to an end you appreciate life more never taking any moment for granted.”
Strangers can be more helpful
“My biggest lesson has been inner strength. Throughout my life, I have had to understand the importance of overcoming adversity and continue to be strong on the inside. I have learned that strangers can be more helpful than family. I remember after the arson attempt, my close family just abandoned me, it was a stranger who took pity on me and built me into the person I am today.
“I also believe that there is good in everyone and in every situation if you are wise and patient enough to see it. Help people even when you know they will not help you back.”
Your mess can turn into a message
“My dream is to help improve the lives of other children in my circumstances. I want to fight child abuse using the passion and experience of my life. Stop telling abused children that their pain is not a big deal that there are people worse off than they are. No one should ever belittle someone else’s suffering,”
“I now move and talk with confidence because I believe I have a right to be heard and have something worthy to add to every situation.”
“I love being part of society but I am a private person, I would rather enjoy my life than get lost in creating the idea of the perfect life I am not living on social media.”
“My motivation is to make sure that no child ever gets to feel the pain, frustration and anger I felt as a child.”
It is not always all about you
“Joining the Miss Uganda pageant in 2015/16 was not about me; it was about showing every young girl out there who feels overwhelmed by the uncontrollable circumstances in their lives, that all is not finished. I wanted them to learn from my experience that life has many twists and turns; some may not be easy to navigate but they will get a break, things will get better. And I wanted that young girl who is ashamed of her scars whether physical or emotional to know that those scars make them stronger, more interesting people. It was also a rewarding experience for me; I met amazing young women and learned valuable life lessons.”
Healing is a process
“My uncle (Frank Gashumba) always told me that my scars must never determine how, far my life goes; a lesson I had learned by (the time I joined the Miss Uganda Pageant). I even took pride in my scars as they were proof of what I had overcome, but I was still battling with those moments of self-doubt. I would have episodes where something triggered those moments of hopeless and abandonment; I would withdrew into myself and start treating people with suspicion.”