Raped and wed by 14, this refugee volunteer fights against sexual violence

Earlier this year, thousands of Congolese risked their lives to flee their conflict-ridden country and seek refuge in Uganda. Pema* is one of them. Despite the trauma of rape, fleeing and violence, she is now trying to rebuild her life together with her 10 children in Kyangwali refugee settlement in Uganda. Eager to help people with similar trauma, she became a volunteer with CARE.

They followed me into the forest. I went to get fire wood when the four armed men suddenly attacked me. I screamed at the top of my lungs for help but no one heard me, no one came. They pushed me to the ground and I immediately knew what their intention was. “Kill me”, I shouted to them, because I would have rather died than being raped by them. They did not listen to me. They took their turns, one after the other, until I fell unconscious from the pain. 

I woke up in the hospital. The nurse told me that villagers found me in the woods, my body covered in blood, and brought me to the main street. Luckily, a police car drove by that moment and brought me to the hospital. 

Trying to rebuild her life together with her 10 children in Kyangwali refugee settlement in Uganda

Pema now lives in Kyangwali refugee settlement, where she became a volunteer with CARE. After losing everything, becoming a volunteer gave her a new purpose in life. Her role is to raise awareness among women and girls about sexual and gender-based violence and early marriage, of which she is a survivor herself.

 “I raise awareness among women and young girls about sexual violence, and I explain to them why one should not get married too young. I can help them because I experienced it myself. I don’t want it to happen to others.” she explains.
Pema fell pregnant from rape at the age of 14. Due to family pressure, she was forced to get married to her rapist and, in the years that followed, was forcibly impregnated with 10 more children. Because of her young age, her pregnancies led to many complications endangering her health.

 “During my last pregnancy, I almost died. After I gave birth to my twins, I remained unconscious for two days. Doctors told me that I would not survive any following pregnancies and thankfully convinced my husband to sign the papers for my sterilization.”

Today, Pema meets with women and girls in the camp to inform them about their rights and existing solutions in case of rape and assault.

 “What I’m doing with CARE is very important for me. I’m very happy to do it, because nobody should suffer like I did. I hope I can contribute to making a difference.”

CARE has trained 41 volunteers from within the refugee community to raise awareness on sexual and gender-based violence and sexual, reproductive, and maternal health issues, as well as inform the refugees of their rights to protection and where to access services. The volunteers play a crucial role in identifying sexual and gender-based violence cases in their communities. 

How can we help?

Physical Address:
5th Floor, Union House, Plot 78, Luthuli Avenue, Kampala.
Tel: +256 31 2258100

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