“This is the story of Hadija, a brave 22 year old woman who is fighting to take back control of her life. An inspiration all women globally and everyone not to give up!’’
When Hadija* was in primary cool she lost both her parents. She then stayed with her cousin, Sharifa, who also managed the two houses left behind by Hadija’s parents. However, Sharifa was too busy working in her grocery store to care of young Hadija. At school, her Headteacher was aware of the situation and linked her to a white person who lived in the community and who then paid for her school.
Having passed her exams and despite the sponsorship ending, Hadija started secondary school. However, when she got older, Sharifa claimed that she could not pay the school fees. In truth, she had stolen the money left by Hadija’s parents and the rent from Hadija’s parents’ houses. Sharifa also forced Hadija to work in her grocery store and acted as a pimp for people who wanted sex with her young cousin. However, Hadija refused and ran away to stay with another cousin, Neema.
Hadija stayed with Neema for a few months. Neema was married and they only had one room, so Hadija was told to sleep in a neighbour’s house. A two bedroom house, one room with two sisters and another with their brother, Robert. One night when the sisters were away, Robert came to Hadija’s room and raped her. When she tried to protest, he said that if she made a noise he would say that she had forced herself on him, and besides he was owed it as he had done a favour to Neema in taking her in. For almost seven months they continued to live together pretending to be husband and wife.
Hadija became pregnant. Robert, a Kenyan, claimed his family would not let him marry a Tanzanian and said he needed to move back to Kenya - although he stayed in Dar es Salaam.
With no job and a one month year old baby to look after, Hadija had to return to Neema. When she returned she found her cousin had TB and was HIV positive. Neema’s husband, who worked for a leading international family health organisation, was aware he was HIV positive but had not told his wife. His response was to run away and Neema begged Hadija to stay and look after her. With no other prospects, Hadija agreed.
Six months later Robert returned and demanded her daughter. Hadija refused and Robert left, saying he would have nothing more to do with her. However, a year and a half later he returned again. Bullied and convinced she had nothing to offer her baby, Hadija let her go. With the situation ever getting worse, she got into a fight with Neema, who was complaining and constantly demanding money. Hadija ended up returning to Sharifa.
During that time, a friend who was about to start university recommended a company that would employ people who had not completed education. However, when Hadija met with the manager he demanded sex in return for a job. She refused and he threatened that he would ‘finish her’ if she told anyone. When telling her sister, she was told she was stupid not to sleep with a manager who had money.
At the beginning of 2011, Hadija joined a Restless Development youth group working in Dar. She cites this as giving her courage and enabling her to understand life. Even though her cousin is still insulting her, Hadija now feels more confident in her abilities and is working towards a career to be able to lead her own life and get her daughter back.
Through a former volunteer at Restless Development, we introduced Hadija to an NGO supporting Tanzanians infected or affected by HIV. This organisation is funding her through a 2 years programme to finish secondary school, as well as a 6 month class in hotel management. With her growth in confidence she insisted that Robert allow her child to visit her, and saw her for the first time in years last month.
Since being a little girl she has wanted to be a radio/TV presenter. Hadija now aims to secure a good job so she can fund herself to go onto studying media to become one step closer to her radio and TV dream.
*All names changed to protect identities
Teenage pregnancy often prevents young girls from finishing school. They get kicked out and branded as if it was their fault (UNGEI).
Teenage pregnancy climbed from 6.5% in 2006 to 10.3% in 2008 (Mkukuta 2010).
In schools where Restless Development worked in 2010, only one teenager got pregnant, compared to 8 pregnancies in schools where Restless Development didn’t work (AMCA Evaluation, 2012).
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