Grace is a fifteen year old girl who bravely shared her story at the conference I mentioned in my last blog.
Last year Grace travelled outside Lusaka to visit extended family when she fell sick. Thinking she may have malaria, she went to the local clinic. The doctor gave her the usual tablets for malaria but then administered an injection. This surprised Grace as she had never recieved an injection for malaria treatment in the past. Yet she trusted the doctor and allowed him to inject her.
A few moments later she became drowsy and needed to sleep. She and her friend asked the janitor in the hospital if there was anywhere she could rest. She was shown a bed in the maternity ward where she lay down. Her friend needed to go home so Grace remained alone. Flitting in and out of sleep, Grace felt very tired and unable to get up. She decided to rest and go home in the morning.
At around 2am, Grace awoke to a noise. Someone had entered the ward and was standing by her bed. It was a man. She doesn’t remember what he looked like but the trauma of what happened next will never leave her mind. He violently raped her.
The last few months have been a blur for Grace and her family. She bravely told her family what happened and they have supported her throughout. Her father is determined to find the perpetrator and have him arrested. He has been working tirelessly to gather evidence and work with the police.
Grace recalls meeting four different men in the clinic that evening, yet without DNA evidence and witnesses, it has proved very difficult to make an arrest. The perpetrator is still free. A hugely sad and common experience for victims of rape in Zambia. Justice may never be achieved.
Over the last two days we have been training 11 child protection officers from Villages of Hope. This is a large organisation working in many countries in and out of Africa, offering health care, education, discipleship, shelter and feeding programmes to some of the most vulnerable children.
Grace came into my mind again yesterday as we worked together with the staff at Villages of Hope. We were addressing the importance of identifying potential risks to children in their programmes, including the health clinics.
They were coming up with ways to reduce these risks by implementing child safeguarding measures. Small simple measures to prevent hideous acts of violence taking place against children like Grace. If such measures had been in place within the clinic Grace visited that night, could this rape have been avoided?
We are always encouraged to work with committed people and organisations, passionate to see children protected from harm and determined to speak out on their behalf and keep children safe.
Our vision is to see an end to child cruelty across Zambia. To prevent crimes such as what Grace went through. To stop other children going through the same. Amongst other activities, we do this by equipping clinics, schools, churches and other organisations to make their environments safer for children.
Please join us in praying for Grace and her dad as they continue to fight for justice. That the police would take her case seriously and carry out a full investigation, that witnesses would speak out regardless of fear, that the man would be found and arrested, that the courts would make the best decision in line with the law. That justice would prevail. And that Grace would be fully restored and healed.
Grade wants to be a lawyer to support children who have gone through similar experiences. Such a privilege to meet this inspiring young girl.
Hannah and the Team x