A Safe Shelter for a Rape Survivor and Her Children

women housing GBV
Tuesday, 27 August, 2013 - 16:45

Lack of housing, gender-based violence and poverty continue to characterise the lives of the majority of South African women, almost 20 years into democracy  

“Today God has wiped away the tears that I have shed since I was a small child,” *Nomusa (not her real name) said sobbing, as she received house keys from Donna Cino, a World Vision sponsor from Canada.

For the first time, Nomusa and her three children will own a home, thanks to Cino and her friends who through World Vision raised funds to build the house.

Nomusa’s new home is a three room furnished house - with a big yard and a rain water tank. The home will increase access to water, enabling the family to develop their own food gardens.

“After I was raped the first time, I asked God many questions. I wanted to know what I did so wrong to deserve such an experience. It was worse when I was raped the second, third, fourth time, etc.,” said Nomusa.

Destitution did not only expose her to a risky life, severe colds and scorching heat in Umvoti in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. Her life was changed forever by the rapists who took advantage of this teenage street child, who was separated from her mother five months of age due to a divorce.

Growing up without a biological mother and staying with an alcoholic and abusive father exposed her to all forms of abuse from a very tender age. Innocence was taken away and bitterness planted in her little heart at the age of five, when she was sexually abused by her father’s friends and relatives.

Nomusa decided to run away from an abusive home when she was 12 years old. Homelessness made her vulnerable in so many ways, and she has been raped many times in her life. And from these ordeals she gave birth to three children (all conceived during rape). And sadly, history seems to have repeated itself - her nine year-old girl has already been raped twice.

“I have been feeling so empty, and did not know why I should live. But today, the excitement about life that I never experienced has been deposited into my life,” she said with tears in her eyes.

For her 15 year-old son *Bhekumusa (not his real name), being told he now has a secure place to call home felt like a dream.

“I had given up on the hope of owning a home, it was far-fetched as my mother does not have a proper income,” he said.

For World Vision, bringing hope to Nomusa’s life and that of her children is just one of the significant interventions to ensure the physical protection of vulnerable children and youth.

“Today we say all they have experienced is history, from now onwards they will face a more secure environment and their self-confidence will grow as they rebuild their lives”, said Sayinile Mzolo, World Vision programme manager in Umvoti.

- Olwethu Gwanya is communications Officer at World Vision South Africa.

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