From suicidal thoughts to big life-dreams.

When Teddy* (not her real name) was raped by a man she has befriended in 2017, she got pregnant. Her family and the neighborhood could barely accept her. It haunted her so deep that she contemplated committing suicide.

“When my family members knew that I was pregnant they all rejected me. Everyone at home was rude and disrespectful to me. They would later chase me from home. That’s when I thought about taking my life,” Teddy recalls.

After being chased from home, Teddy went to stay with a friend. She says her friend suggested to abort and Teddy was categorically opposed to the idea. She instead wanted to kill herself. She remembers battling thoughts of worthlessness and attaching no value to her body which she considered soiled. This is why at some point she attempted suicide.

Her friend, a lady who was 4-years older, advised her to report the case to the Police, where she heard about Isange One Stop Centre, a holistic approach to support the victims of sexual and Gender-based violence in Rwanda.

“When I arrived at Isange One Stop Centre, the officer helped me a lot. They linked me with a psychologist and promised to coordinate efforts to bring my aggressor to court,” she remembers. Teddy says that when she went to meet the psychologist for her therapy session, she found out that most victims of sexual violence go through what she was going through, but she was counseled to stick on life.

Researchers have found that more than a third of women rape survivors have contemplated suicide at some point after their assault, and 13 percent have attempted suicide. Sadly, survivors of sexual assault can face a much higher risk of suicidal feelings.

“Few weeks I received a call from someone who said they worked with RICH and that they wanted to meet with me. When we met, they told me that there’s a project that was dedicated to help people in my situation.” Teddy says.

“This group of teen mothers was trained benefited from the project dubbed “Claiming Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Rwanda” funded by the Scottish Government through Oxfam in Rwanda, that seek to address gender based violence related cases through increasing awareness for positive change in social behaviours, attitudes and norms, building the capacity of Isange One Stop Centers (IOSC) for high quality services through increased linkages with community and follow-up of GBV victims and empowering GBV victims for economic resilience and reduction of GBV incidence”. Says Eraste Ntihemuka, the CSRHR Project officer at RICH.

Through the project, Teddy and the other victims were equipped with skills and knowledge in areas of reproductive health, business and entrepreneurship and mindset change to overcome the trauma.

“First of all, I thank Oxfam and RICH for the opportunity to meet other young girls like me who accompanied me and helped me to realize I wasn’t alone in my situation,” Teddy says. “This made me regain confidence and the whole course training recreated a stronger me who was then transformed and ready to live again,” she adds.

Upon completion of the training, Teddy and the other teenage mothers were given a training kit comprised of a sewing machine, table, ruler, needles, tape measure, scissors, etc…).

Chatting with Teddy, the results of the impact evaluation point to a change in her expectations, thanks to a strengthening effort of her socio-emotional abilities. She has greater self-esteem, improved abilities to plan and take control of her future.

“I don’t want the person who did it to me to feel victorious. I transformed from the person who wanted to commit suicide to a new me. Now with the gained skills and confidence, I am committed to do whatever it takes to succeed. I’ll make life better for me and for my daughter,” says Teddy.

“There was time I couldn’t stand to speak; I was feeling hopeless and worthless. Sometimes I would find myself crying for no reason. But now thanks to this project. I’ve regained hope for life, and I’ll work to live better and better.”

Claiming Social Reproductive Health in Rwanda (CSRHR), is a 4.5-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.