Bringing Back the Hope
When Nikki confessed that she wanted to die because life was no longer worth living, I searched for words to comfort her as she lay on a bed in my hotel room. She was there at my invitation after I was informed that she was ‘shutting down.’
“ Why?” she wailed. “ Why? Have I not been through enough? Doesn’t God know that this is more than I can take? Every time I lift my head, I get beaten down. Why?”
Affirming her and trying to convince her that the pain she suffered was not inflicted by God, did not help. She had lost both parents early in life and endured the stigmatization associated with her orphanhood. She had put up with insults from teachers who casually informed her that she was a waste of time and community members who told her that she would amount to nothing. But she pressed forward until she completed high school, paying the school fees out of her own pocket. She moved on to college where she completed four years on a scholarship And just when life should become a celebration of her outstanding achievement, she was raped and now pregnant.
When she came to my room, she had been going through the motions of living with stoic endurance, communicating at a feeling level with now one. She was one of the many young people mentored and assisted by SOHO. As she lay on the single bed across from me, IU pried until she broke down and shared the secret that was driving her to the brink of suicide. The only reason why she had not done the act already was the growing life in her abdomen.
One in three girls experience abuse in Swaziland. The vast majority do not report crimes against them because of the feeling that they would be the victims of blame and shame rather than the perpetrator, particularly of the rapist happened to be someone ‘respectable.’ That meant someone respected in the community or someone with wealth or connections. In the scheme of things, orphans in Swaziland are low on the food chain. And females are lower still.
SOHO is introducing two empowerment programs for orphans and vulnerable youth. Save Orphans, Kick AIDS ( SOKA) uses sports, specifically soccer, to build physical fitness and teach life skills.
Children growing up without adequate adult mentoring lack socialization, critical thinking and effective decision making skills. They suffer from low self esteem and often accept abuse and privation as a part of normal life. Often their sights reach no further than the next day or week or month. They lack future vision and hang their hopes on relationships. That is why most often, girls commit suicide after rejection from a male.
The second program, Strong As Steel Yebo! (SASY) uses music as means of building inner strength, self esteem, and leadership skills to enable girls to become advocates against gender based abuse. They will learn about life transformation as they develop skills that could also potentially also be income generating for them.
Nikki is nurturing hope once again. As a single parent, she is bringing up her baby with a deep love although she still has many questions as to what the future now holds for her.