It is morning and raining heavily in Saenda –one of Malawi’s remote and impoverished villages situated in the area of Chitera in the Southern district of Chiradzulu. But 14-year-old Christina Asima is not shaken as she is concentrating on the on-going lesson at Nkhande Community Day Secondary School (CDSS), some miles away from her home.
She neither worries about the safety of her belongings nor security of her house and her two year-old son, who is left at home with his granny.
Thanks to Kids Rights through Girls Empowerment Network (GENET)’s construction of a good quality house for her, Christina is able to go back to school. She confesses that life was terrifying when she was putting herself in a borrowed dilapidated house which had all the qualities of a shack.
Christina was engulfed in a vicious circle of poverty, which reduced nearly everything she had to zero. Upon entering her house, one would be awe-stricken as to whether it was a habitat for a human being or animal without any human right. A worn out green pail and two plates, which were left behind by her mother before she deserted her, sat lonesome on a dust-ridded floor.
“At first, I was hardly concentrating in class because I would spend much of my time worrying about the condition of my pathetic house. When it rains while I am away, I am bothered by the fact that there is heavy leaking in my house. And true to my fears, I would always find my food, beddings and clothes soaked by rain water when I get back,” says Christina.
The security of her house was also another serious issue which was worrying her for days on end as its single door was barely hanging on its hinges. But now Christiana says she feels safe.
“I was spending sleepless nights fearing that anything could happen to me because my former house could hardly protect me from impending rape from strangers,” says Christina.
Christina found herself in such a predicament around 2011 when her parents dumped her in the village along with her other siblings. She was perceived as an adult hence automatically she became a bread winner for the family at the age of 11.
Child abuse is more than an act of rape, or a result in bruises or broken bones. While physical abuse is shocking due to the scars it leaves, not all child abuse is as visibly obvious. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, or making a child feel worthless or stupid are also forms of child abuse. In Christina and her younger siblings’ case, they experienced emotional agony as they were deserted by their parents.
However, as per tradition, this was normal for Christina as she was deemed to be a grown up after undergoing the initiation ceremony. As a desperate measure to look after the family, she was forced to fall in love with a man who promised to marry and take care of her but only ended up leaving after impregnating her.
“Those who know my story can bear witness that my life was hell. I had no hope to believe that life was worth living. But now that I have an opportunity to go back to school and live in my own decent house, I have all the reasons to smile and hope again. I trust my dream to becoming a nurse will be fulfilled,” says this form two student. She adds that her health, including that of her son, has also tremendously improved.
However, she regrets that some sections of her community do not feel happy about the development and their dissatisfaction is taking shape in her personal life. She cites neglect by the communities as the main challenge, borne as a result of jealousy. Community members also act unsupportive and gossip about her a lot.
“At first, community members seemed to be ready to help me overcome my problems. But later, when Kids Rights committed funds to build my house and send me to school, there was no active community involvement,” she says regretfully.
Christina also has growing concerns for the future and fears she will have to resort to missing school again because her relative, who takes care of her baby while she is at school, is no longer willing to do so for free.