Walking out of a popular night club in Kampala, my friends and I could not help but notice a young lady on top of a car, clearly drunk, dancing away with a beer bottle in her hand. She was having the time of her life shouting and screaming without a care in the world as a group of girls cheered her on.
As we headed to our next destination we wondered, could we Ugandan women be turning into wild party animals? But we were just out having a few drinks, nothing wild. It is all just a bit of fun, going out and having a good time but what happens when the fun gets out of hand?
Over the years we have heard numerous stories about Hollywood party girls like Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Baines, Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson constantly checking in and out of rehab as a result of their extremely wild party lifestyles. The stars of Hollywood are a world apart from us, but are our very own Ugandan women on this destructive trail?
Many women have confessed to being taken up by the party lifestyle to the extent where they feel that their lives have literally passed them by. Their peers of the same age are now married, have families, built careers and stable businesses, yet they are still at square all in the name of having fun.
"In any nightspot in Uganda, the ratio of women going out is higher than men. When we organize events, we are guaranteed that there are going to be some familiar female faces that seem to have access and information about almost every single party or event taking place," said an events manager with Silk Events.
But what does it really mean to be addicted to this lifestyle and simply going out once in a while. Denis Karungi, a psychology lecturer says, "The party lifestyle takes one up slowly and they feel that they want to be noticed and have a bit of fun. But the truth is that there is a big difference between being addicted to partying and going out once in a awhile or on weekends,"
Karungi emphasizes that nobody wakes up one morning and decides that they are going to become an addict. The energy rush that one gets from going out and enjoying themselves becomes like a drug, without it, she feels unable to function, if they miss a party, they feel it is the end of the world.
But, when do the alarm bells start ringing? James Onen aka Fat Boy, a radio presenter at Sanyu FM noted that the addiction to partying in women might be caused by a search for purpose that comes from a lack of self-esteem while others feel the need to remain relevant.
With every party, there is the alcohol, drugs and big spending. Nightlife in Uganda costs money and anyone wanting to have a good time needs to have quite a bit of it. The realties and dangers of binge drinking haunt Ugandan women. As many have confessed to drinking absurd amounts of alcohol with high alcoholic content. But that is not their only worry, drink driving, date rape and reckless behavior are all common with the party life.
Catherine (not real name) who was once a hard party girl recalls that she would drink large amounts of alcohol. She says that there were times when she even tried drugs with friends and she became a heavy smoker. Because of her lifestyle, her spending spiraled out of control and she was always often left with little or no money to live off.
Karungi explains that to fuel any addiction, one needs money and time. "This lifestyle needs a lot of money. There is always going to be a point when the money runs out and desperation sets in. the need to get money will lead one on a path that can be very destructive."
Maintaining a steady job when one is out until the wee hours of the morning every night is virtually impossible. The vibrant night life in our society gives women options whether it is a cocktail party or an album launch for a popular artist, the parties are constantly flowing.
But the dangers that this life has on the health and well-being of women are more than devastating. According toYedidah Birbonwa, the principal of Butabika School of Psychiatric Nursing, Uganda has a serious problem with substance abuse whether it is alcohol or drugs. "The problem is affecting the mental health of many young people. There is need to warn people about the dangers of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. It is important to young people especially to know the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse as the risk of addiction is very high. Anyone who feels that they have a problem should seek help before the problem spirals out of control," she said.
A book Binge Britain written by Moira Plant, says that many young women drink because it gives them a sense of power, and they will often see drinking and even hangovers as a 'badge of honour'. The risks of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies are increased when women are drunk, people become very vulnerable when under the influence of alcohol and safe sex is not discussed.
Sophie, 26 years old recalls, "I was out all the time, there was no party that I was never at. For six years, I was trapped but my reality check came when I became pregnant and went to the hospital, only to be told I was HIV positive. At that point, all the partying and fun seemed to mean nothing. I had taken my life for granted and now I was losing it. My family had warned me, but, I never listened."
Fat Boy believes that as time goes by there are some things that make one leave the party scene such as marriage, child-birth or family pressure. But not everyone is so lucky to just walk away without a scratch. This lifestyle has it's dangers and once sucked in, it is very difficult to just walk away.