Working with CEN refugees, I have come to regard them as my friends. So to read Sifa’s story, had me ready to jump on the next plane and go to her. To comfort her and tell her how courageous and brave she is.
Anger boiled over in your heart and mind. To know someone I respect and care about had been violated.
And, yes I admit I did want to kill this disgusting sexual predator… but fighting violence with more violence doesn’t solve anything.
Instead, I’ll use the power of words to fight against the violence… not my words, but words from innocent young boys and girls who live with violence every day. Boys and girls who don’t know the meaning of childhood or living in a country free of conflict.
And, if their words don’t help create social change and consciousness then there is no hope for humanity.
This is brave Sifa story, translated by Mwami Muhale Alfonce
For me, I know about domestic abuse violence, I didn’t learn it in a book, or hear a story from a neighbour’s experience, it happened to me. And I understand that being born with unschooled, illiterate mother, and whatever else the abusive man called her. To me, I only knew her as my mom.
Mother was always called a prostitute by my father. He would say she was an unschooled and stupid woman.
Father coming home late, finding mother fixing food, he start beating mother right in the kitchen with a child on her back, hot water was poured on her body by the so called father…
And when we would cry for our mother’s sake, hot water was poured on to us…
Mother talking to a neighbour was always considered bad and she would be beaten publicly, if the man caught her…
Me coming home with friends we were always insulted that we are prostitutes like our mothers.
Here Sifa talks about her friend who suffered at the hands of a sexual predator…
My dear close friend was raised in a family where her parents, had no means of income, so her parents couldn’t afford food or school materials. She gave up on school at level 6, and was enticed by a man who told her that he would improve her and her parent’s lives.
I am emotionally sad to talk about her, as the condition I saw her in the day before she passed away, was heartbreaking. And, describing a man who was the cause of her destruction and death. 20 minutes before she died, she pitifully said to me, Sifa, you are my friend, I have to tell you something related to the condition I am in as I may not see you. I said yes tell me.
She said, “The man stopped me on my way to tap-stand to draw water, appeared a little smart and a good looking man, in good life condition. He spoke Swahili mixing with some English and some French to me. I thought I got a man who could help me improve my life and that of my parents. I thought I was nothing. I thought one day I would speak like him and be like him.
Unfortunately, the man was a sexually notorious champion of the town and he destroys people households and particular girl’s educational development. She said that he wanted her to go to a bar, in the camp where she could have drinks and food that he parents couldn’t provide me with.
Sifa – That was the beginning of my friends life with this bad evil man. It is still hard for me to think and talk about.
The next day the man told me I had to go to live with him in town…I thought it was a good idea. And went with the man, he gave a pregnancy to my friend and took me into another region out of the refugee camp and left me stranded in a hotel room, in the area where she has never been before and went away…
How hard it is to repeat what the friend said, raising up her eyes like that and could not blink but difficultly speaking, she said it hard for me to speak, I had a lot to tell but I will tell you what I can. She looked at me and said…
The man took me on the 6th floor of hotel and told he, that any man who came into the room, I would do whatever they asked. After the man has sex with me, he said he would return later, then left and locked the door behind him.
At my age, imagine, I was 14 years… three men one after another, spending 2 hours with me, drunk, speaking a mixed Swahili–English would come and have forced sexual relation with me. I could not communicate with anyone in my family, not even with you Sifa. Only one man was bringing me little food, at 12pm and at 10pm before sleeping. It was one of the most difficult moments I passed in my entire early age.
A month later, I realized I was pregnant and I started bleeding and bleeding for a week, no one provided help. I managed to get out and I saw a businesswoman from the refugee camp, coming to buy food at the hotel. She knew me, she approached me. It took courage for her to talk to me, as I was bad person. I told her everything and she got me out of the hotel, that night.
I accepted to go with her and she paid the transport fees on a bus driving to a village next to the camp where there was a health post.
So sad to say how tears were streaming down my eyes, my friends head lying in my hands, as she looked at me for the last time she weakly said, “PEACE OF THE LORD REMAIN WITH YOU”, and she eventually passed away 5 minutes before even her parents arrived at the health post. My heart broke down.
Sifa now talks about how her friends death affected her emotionally.
I kept having nightmares about my friend and her dying for a long time. I told my mom who resolved to take me to a prayer house…and spent a year there without going to school…
Three months after I recovered, I received an opportunity that could allow me, to not only change my life but also, help my family.
It was in a refugee camp when white people, in a group of three people, looking a little smart compared to us refugees, came into our village looking for a translator. A girl who could work for them on a 3 months project translating English into Swahili, and be paid with a good salary, that could change the entire life of our family. I thought I could do this.
The next day on my way from school, in a sunny afternoon and I was hungry. No hope to find food at home, I sat down under a tree where we used to pick up fruits dropping from it.
When I noticed 10 meters away on the road, the same group of white people, walking with a woman from the nationals (a Tanzanian).
I knew then that they didn’t want someone to teach English. This was how they get girls to use as prositutes just like my friend.
Oh how disappointed I was but happy that I did not offer to do the work.
I can’t really know how much time I spent under that tree, asking myself many puzzling questions.
- Was this the reason why father went with other women who he thought were educated and left mother and us under this plight condition?
- How did my grandparents fail to educate mother? If they were alive I would go to see them and ask. Unfortunately they were murdered by Maji-maji because of their land.
- Is this the reason why my friend died? Was she right to go with that man?
- Is selling my body to bars and giving myself to prostitution in the streets the answer to solve my problems and my family’s?
- I thought why doesn’t society want to promote women?
- And if I commit suicide won’t mother go crazy? But who will remain with my dear mom, and our little children?
I finally thought God gave me a brave mother, no matter what! She is struggling a lot for me and my little brothers and sisters. I know God is merciful and something must be done.
For my education and my family’s broken pieces of life needs fixing and I said to myself, “If God is still God” and if the world will still be the world, wherever an English Centre will be –any English Centre in the camp, I will be the first girl to embrace the Centre.
And watch what happened! I love to tell this: it was on Saturday in the evening, an announcement was read, on our local radio called Umoja Radio, working in partnership with CEN, inviting the whole community to join the community English Centre and they said, “girls were particularly invited”, my heart flied off with joy…my faith was so inspired and I woke up early in the morning on Monday and got the Centre.
I thought God answered my prayer to get the English Centre no matter I can go hungry there and come back hungry. No matter how our classmates are sometimes bored with our school environment, as they say “we go hungry to school, and come back hungry to school, and get sick in the classroom because of hunger and dust in the classroom, I don’t care, and it has nothing to do with for me.
I have a dream to teach others girls to improve their lives and break down all barriers they are confronted with.
I pray that God answers my prayer for our school condition improvement and for our teachers who work hard voluntarily because of their sympathy and love for the needy community – girls in particular.