In Zambia, our project team is working hard to rescue girls vulnerable to abuse, child marriage and trafficking ... girls like Jannet
Jannet’s neighbours were curious: why did Jannet, a child, need to take medication every day?
‘She has a growth in her stomach,’ her mother would tell them.
A shameful secret
No-one knew the real reason Jannet was sick. Her mother made sure her secret was safe; she was afraid of what people would say if they knew the truth.
One day a medical outreach team, supported by The Freedom Challenge, was visiting Jannet’s village near Lake Tanganyika in Zambia. Cecilia, one of the workers, saw that Jannet was very sick. The team carried out tests to find out what might be wrong.
When the tests came back, Cecilia was dismayed. ‘Your daughter is HIV+,’ she told Jannet’s mom carefully. After a minute’s silence Jannet’s mom said. ‘I know.’
Afraid to tell anyone
Slowly the story unfolded of how Jannet and her mom were too afraid to tell anyone of the real diagnosis. But that wasn’t all. Cecilia heard how Jannet had been sexually abused, since she was a young girl; in total, she’d been raped by eight men. One of whom was her teacher.
Worried for Jannet’s future and her health, Cecilia was determined to take Jannet back to the town where the project is based; she knew that there she could receive counselling and better medial intervention.
A fresh start
So in August 2016, Jannet, now 16, arrived at Hope House – a shelter for vulnerable girls, providing them with opportunities they never imagined possible.
Ceclia is the ‘mom’ of the house:
“I have such a heart for these girls; having seen what goes on in the villages – they have no value, no chance to go to school and when they reach 14 years old they have to get married,” she says.
A long way to go
There is still a long way for Jannet to go. Her experience has left her with deep trust issues and low self-esteem. She has to learn how to get along well with the other four girls in the house. Her health needs constant monitoring. And she needs extra tuition to enable her to catch up on her education.
Yet Jannet is one of the blessed ones; she has started this journey on the pathway to freedom.