(Grace’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons)
Grace’s father was killed in the genocide when Grace was just a baby. As a result, her mother couldn’t manage to care for her as well as working to earn money for food so she sent Grace to live with her grandmother. Grace had a happy childhood to begin with and loved going to school, but at 15, Grace’s mother, who had since remarried and had another child, decided it was time for Grace to move home and help out with running the house instead of continuing at school. Grace was angry and disappointed at having to end her education and this caused problems between her, her mother and her new step-father. Eventually they all decided her Aunt could help her to find a job as a domestic worker in Kigali to earn money with Grace’s hope being that one day she would have enough money to return to school, complete her education and fulfil her dream of becoming a professional chef.
The reality of her job as a domestic worker, however, didn’t live up to her expectations. She was employed by a couple who kept promising to pay her but never did, while each night the man of the household would come to her room and rape her with threats to her life if she ever told anyone. Grace was too terrified to flee for many months but gradually began to tell the couple she was going to find her Aunt and force them to pay her what she was owed so she could leave.
One night, the house was broken into and a number of things were stolen while Grace slept in the outhouse. Afraid of Grace’s threats, the couple called the police and said Grace had purposefully let the burglars in with a plan to share the proceeds of the burglary with the perpetrator and she was thrown in juvenile detention.
Nicolette Nsabimana who runs Centre Marembo works closely with the police and attends juvenile detention regularly to give health and sex education classes and to gain an understanding of the circumstances of the young people there who are often victims in need of our help. She managed to remove Grace from the centre and take her into Abatuje house.
With healthcare, regular counselling and the support of her ‘sisters’ in the house, Grace recovered and regained her confidence. She completed our cookery vocational course and her final year of school and has since secured a job as a chef at one of Kigali’s most respected Hotels where she continues to thrive.
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