It was a jovial and emotional day for Litsemba Lami Support Group (LLSG) members as they underwent their validation exercise on the 2nd of December 2023 at NATICC premises. The validation exercise was to honor survivors who had successfully completed all their 12 sessions aimed at rehabilitation and this year’s theme was “Become the Change You Want to See”.
The event kicked off with some welcome remarks from the NATICC Programs Manager (PM), Mr Kenneth Makhanya. During his remarks, the PM acknowledged the presence of invited guests including guest speaker, UNDP representative Mrs Margaret Tfwala Tembe, partners, board members, parents, and LLSG members present on the day for their attendance, support, and collaboration. He then shared the project overview, including the LLSG project inception and background. He also appreciated Ms Lindokuhle Mamba for being an ambassador and mentor for LLSG members. He stated that the healing journey is a process and so is the journey they are about to embark on after validation. The PM urged parents to continue supporting them even after the validation exercise as this is not the end of their healing process, warning parents that there is still a chance of relapsing as anything can be a trigger. He mentioned that NATICC has assisted more than 100 sexual abuse survivors since LLSG’s inception and hopes the organization will enroll more children in the future to provide a solid foundation for comprehensive healing. “This does not mean that now that we have validation, all wounds have healed. We still need a collaboration with parents to ensure that our children get the support they need and as NATICC we will continue to provide one-on-one sessions”, said the PM.
Lethokuhle Nhleko*, a 2023 LLSG member, had everyone on the verge of tears when she gave a moving testimonial on how her abuse started and how it affected her. She narrated that when she was twelve years old, her biological father raped her for six (6) painful years. She lamented how no one came to her rescue within the family despite her relentless cry for help. As a result of the continued trauma, she became suicidal and developed heart disease. She found herself in a huge dilemma that forced her to escape from home but unfortunately, she woke up in a hospital bed where she ended up undergoing heart surgery.
That was where she met her then hero who took her to Project Canaan where she stayed for two years then later, she was taken to Sight of Hope in Ekuthuleni, which is a safe home for sexual abuse survivors. During her time at Sight of Hope she was reintegrated back to school and she is currently doing her Form 4. Her journey with NATICC started after all that and, in her own words, was worth it because she now sees life from a different perspective. “What happened to you in the past is not your fault but then your happiness is your responsibility”, she said during her testimony. Lethokuhle’s story highlights the extent of violence that women and girls experience at the hands of the men they trust and love. It also highlights how sexual abuse within the family is still shrouded in a culture of silence and tolerance.
Drug abuse a cause and consequence of sexual promiscuity amongst teens
Lihle Shange*, another LLSG member, also shared her testimonial on how she survived drug and sexual abuse. She warned LLSG members about the dangers of drug abuse. She highlighted how drug abuse can be a cause and consequence of sexual promiscuity. Lihle told the gathering that while she was still residing in the Republic of South Africa, she became hooked on drugs at the tender age of 12 years old. She blamed her addiction on peer pressure as it was her friends who introduced her to the habit, forming drug abuse. It was then that she became the most mischievous child to the point where she became homeless. She shared the effects of using drugs including becoming sexually active and having multiple sexual partners because you cannot make informed decisions when under the influence. She appreciated her guardian for being so supportive and taking the initiative to get her help. That was when her healing journey with NATICC began. She now feels empowered and sees things from a different and informed perspective. She is also very selective in choosing her friends as she appreciates how friends can have an influence on one’s character.
A parent was also given the opportunity to give her testimonial. She first appreciated NATICC for supporting parents and being there for them during such difficult times. She shared how her daughter was raped by a stranger at the age of 10 years and only discovered when her child was already doing Form 2 after noticing that her academic performance had drastically dropped and sometimes absconded classes. She Appreciated the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) who referred the case to NATICC, after reporting it, as there was not much they could do since available evidence was scanty at best after such a long time without reporting. During that time, her child was suicidal and having anger issues. After she was enrolled in the support group, she changed for the better, much to the relief of her mother.
Executive Director (ED), Mr Sisekelo Nzima, was emotional to see LLSG members so participative and happy. He appreciated NATICC staff for doing such a stellar job in restoring hope and courage to the survivors. He expressed his gratitude to partners for their support and collaboration. He also thanked parents for always availing their children for sessions and listening attentively to their children’s concerns. “It takes a village to raise a child”, he said during his remarks. He urged men, and fathers in particular, to rebuke each other, especially regarding the sexual abuse of a child. He emphasized that LLSG members are not completely healed, but the journey continues, and as such our doors as an organization are always open. He further appreciated Norway for supporting the LLSG project thus enabling NATICC to provide a safe space for survivors and UNFPA for their presence and support on the day. He further stated that in the future, he wishes to have a bigger number of survivors enrolled in LLSG which is dependent on available resources.
Other speakers included the NATICC Board chairperson, Mr Henton Kunene, and Project Coordinator, Mr Helge Nupen, who also had an opportunity to give words of encouragement and wisdom to LLSG members, expressing how proud they were of them for coming this far.
UNFPA pledges support for LLSG activities
When delivering her keynote address Guest Speaker, Mrs Margarette Tfwala Tembe, who is the UNFPA Head of Officer, appreciated the all mighty God for making the day possible. She went on to highlight that NATICC and UNFPA had a longstanding partnership which they will officially renew in 2024 as NATICC aligns perfectly with some of the interventions they support, including GBV and TP prevention. “It was important for UNFPA to honour the invitation because we, as UNFPA, also support GBV prevention programs in the country. I am proud of LLSG members for being so brave in disclosing what happened to them, the agony they went through and for being strong when all seemed lost”, she said.