It is estimated that approximately 15 million adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide have experienced sexual assault at some point in their lives. CMMB’s DREAMS – Tusaidie Wasichana Waelimike  (TWW) project has faced this statistic head on, working to educate adolescents, teachers, and parents on issues related to gender equality and violence, and the community’s role in addressing them.

Told by Rose, a young girl enrolled in our DREAMS program, this story highlights how CMMB’s DREAMS interventions changed the life of one young girl in need of help. 

The name of both Rose and her friend — who is the subject of this story — have been replaced for child protection purposes.

My name is Rose, I am 17- years-old and my friend Zainab is a survivor of sexual assault. We live in a large slum in the outskirts of Nairobi where we face so many challenges, from domestic violence and sexual harassment, to drug and substance abuse. I feel people of my age, especially young girls, are particularly vulnerable to these challenges.

Zainab is an only child who used to live with her father — a single parent. When we first met, Zainab was more often than not absent from school. On the few occasions she was present, she looked unhappy and afraid. She told me that she only came to school when her father was in a “good mood.” But even when that happened she still looked sad.

I became close to Zainab and one day in school, I noticed some injuries on her neck that she was trying to hide with a scarf. I was worried and I asked her about it. I am not sure why, but that was the day when Zainab finally opened up to me. I sat next to Zainab as she explained her situation. I remember her words:“I live with my father and every evening whenever he gets home from work, he abuses me. When I try to refuse, he beats me up and forces himself on me. The scratches around my neck are from him. I cover them up with my scarf so people do not see them. He told me never to tell anyone.”

Zainab shared her challenges with me and I talked to her about the importance of opening up and seeking the help of our teacher. I learned about the importance of seeking help and where to go to find it from CMMB’s health clubs and mentorship sessions. She didn’t agree at first. She was worried about what would happen to her, how her father would react. But, after many attempts, Zainab finally agreed to seek help from our teacher.

The teacher listened to Zainab and offered her support. They talked about her situation and how she can rise above her abuse and escape to a better life. After seeking help, Zainab’s father was approached, talked to, and eventually agreed to let her move out of his home and in with her aunt.

Zainab continued her healing process with counseling sessions and today she’s a member of the health club. Now that she has risen above her experience, Zainab now has a new dream and today she shares the following words: “I want to help other young girls facing challenges here in school and at home. With the knowledge I have received from my friend Rose and the health club, I felt empowered. Now I know the importance of confiding in someone that I trust and speaking up when faced with challenges. I want to empower other girls to speak out and not allow the challenges that they go through to affect their studies.”

Image collage of JSI and PEPFAR

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