Molly (Not real name) looks young, with a slim body; very funny with a little humor. By her looks, no one can imagine that she has had experience as traumatic as rape at her age.
At 17, she was raped and became pregnant. She did not report this crime on time to Isange one-stop center (IOSC) because of fear, but also coming from a broken family where father abandonned her with mother when she was a toddler.
Molly is one of the many Rwandan girls with a sad story of rape and shame of becoming teenage mother and the sad reality behind it.
In her words, Molly says the shame that society puts on her for having a child makes her feel like she will not amount to anything. Every day, she lives with shame, sadness on her shoulders, not to mention the trauma caused by the rape.
“My child makes me want to be a better person,” says Molly smiling “I started looking for a job because I did not want to go back to school,” she said.
With the help of counselors at IOSC, Molly was introduced to a project- Claiming Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Rwanda (CSRHR) that helps victims of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV).
This gave her access to a number of services ranging from counselling, training and workshops on various issues.
This project, implemented by Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH) in six districts namely Rubavu, Nyabihu, Kamonyi, Muhanga, Ruhango and Huye district and funded by the Scottish government through Oxfam-Rwanda, was launched October 1st 2017 and will run through 31st March 2022.
Through CSRHR project, victims are trained in Sexual Reproductive Health and entrepreneurship, which enhances their knowledge and skills in various areas related to parenting, socio-economic understanding and legal rights.
“One of the objectives of this project is to ensure that women, youth, and men enjoy equal rights and benefit from fair and inclusive development. To achieve this, the project ensures that women, especially GBV victims, are empowered, are free from discrimination and violence, they can improve their lives through entrepreneurship,” said Eraste Ntihemuka, the project manager.
Under this context, Molly is one of the many women taken in for help, just like many other abused girls, and their mothers who have gone through such an experience and burden of seeing their daughters abused but her determination has started bearing fruit.
“I did not expect my daughter to be raped, no parent can. At first, I was devastated, but she is my daughter and I have the responsibility to support her, “said Molly’s mother.
Although she has a baby, that did not stop her from dreaming of a better life. For Molly, this CSRHR training was a chance to say goodbye to her financial problems and poverty, to work again for a better life as she dreamt at 17 years.
“After taking entrepreneurship training, I started selling mobile phone services (Airtel and MTN) to earn a living. My mother gave me a capital of Rwf70, 000 that I added to my savings. In a short time, I obtained a loan of Rwf 200,000 from the Urwego Opportunity Bank through a mutual savings group,” Molly says.
Molly is now able to balance her life of being a mother to the now 2.6 year old girl and running a small business.
She has finished repaying her loan and she is considering getting another one to become a bank agent.
Global UN statistics show that 35% of women (roughly 4 out of every 10 women) have experienced sexual violence at a point in their lives. The National Institute of Statistics (NISR) indicates that since 2015, 34% of GBV victims inRwanda are preyed upon by an intimate partner.
To help more of such victims like Molly, the CSRHR has since 2017 built capacity of 560 GBV victims, through training on Sexual Reproductive Health, Gender Based Violance prevention, saving, entrepreneurship, life skills.
Moreover, 150 gender-based violence victims have been enrolled in Vocational training across the six districts.
The project reached out to over 25,000 people was reached with GBV messages through awareness campaigns. 670 were trained to be agents of change, and 750 to be gender-based violence champions.
So far, 360 men and boys have been trained in prevention of domestic violence, sexual abuses, GBV response and positive masculinity; and 405 conflicting couples were brought together to solve their differences, avoid conflicts and rebuild a healthy relationship; 80 health workers from six m district hospitals have also been trained on the Multidisciplinary Treatment of victims of GBV and child abuse.
Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH) was established in 2003; it is made up of religious organizations which are grouped into six confessional groups including The Catholic Church represented by the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda; The Anglican Church of Rwanda; the Protestant Council of Rwanda; the Evangelical Alliance of Rwanda; the Rwanda Muslim Community and the Fédération des Eglises Protestantes Reformées au Rwanda (FEPR).