Defiled, impregnated by her dad, Grace** wants to write another story

Her voice cracking and hands trembling, Grace sorrowfully narrates her journey through the valley of depression. But she says meeting RICH through the Claiming Social Reproductive Health project shall help her to write a new story for her life.

Fathers are known to be role models and good examples to their descendants. They are expected to protect and provide for them. However, a man in Huye district, southern part of Rwanda went contrary to these, defiling her own daughter when she was only 11, in primary school.

And that’s what makes it hard for Grace to come to terms with the fact that she was defiled and impregnated by her own father.

"I lived with my father and my stepmother after my mother died. One day, he came and forced himself on me. It was an unspeakable shock. He threatened to kill me if I dared report the incident to anyone,” Grace recalls. “I lived with fear for a certain time but the psychological shock was too high to bear. I opened up to my aunt in order to relieve myself,” she adds.

Grace says her stepmother fainted when she heard that could have happened. “She shouted a loud cry, said ‘why this is happening to us, I hope he didn’t infect you with HIV’ and she fainted,” Grace says. The couple had been living with HIV.

She says it’s beyond human understanding that a mature man defiled his own daughter. “It is beyond shocking. I contemplated committing suicide,” the teen mother says.

“I always told myself I couldn’t get pregnant with my father. Even when pregnancy signs arrived, I tried to convince myself that I was having digestive problems or some intestine worms. I always cried and prayed that God prevented it from being true,” she recalls. “I would look to my dad and wish him all evil things. I wanted to kill him myself, but I was just a kid,” she laments.

The young girl who was in primary six then, started high school the following year. But before she could even make it to two terms, time arrived to give birth. Two weeks after delivery, my stepmother decided to report the case to the Police, who directed the young victim to Isange One Stop Center. The father was arrested and charged with defilement and sentenced by the courts of law.

Isange One Stop Center connected us with Grace. She joined our cohort we were accompanying and through the program/project she and the other teenage mothers were equipped with knowledge in reproductive health, counseling in behavior change and mindset change and also life-changing skills aimed to creating opportunities in vocational work mainly in tailoring.

 “RICH helped me to gain skills and they gave me a starting kit and some capital money. I can now cater for myself and my daughter. I pay for her nursery school fees, I can afford good clothes for us and pay the medical bills if she falls sick,” Grace says.

“When that incident happened, I lost hope in life. I wanted to die. I thought about killing myself. But the counseling RICH provided me with has helped me coming to terms with what happened to me, and now I want to write another story for my life. They have brought me hope and a new perspective to life,” adds the youthful young mother.

When asked about what her future will be looking like, Grace says “Equipped with these skills and a determination to make life meaningful for me, my ambition is to set up and run a fashion boutique and a tailoring workshop of my own. I’ll turn that dark page, my daughter and I shall be known for something better. We’ll make a name in the fashion industry.”

The future fashionista appeals to young girls to report cases of abuse because she thinks there are so many such cases that go unreported. “Women and girls should be empowered to be responsible for their body and know their rights. It should be everyone’s challenge to ensure girls know their rights and that their parents protect those rights,” she adds.

Claiming Social Reproductive Health in Rwanda (CSRHR), is a 4-year project aimed at creating awareness at local and national levels on GBV prevention and response, strengthening the capacities of Isange One Stop Centers for high quality provision of sexual and reproductive health services as well as empowering SGBV victims economically. The CSRHR project is implemented by the Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH) with the funding from the Scottish Government through OXFAM.