The stretch of failure and disparity seemed to follow me

Nomkhosi Gelane, household number 25939, comes from kaGwegwe in the Shiselweni region.  She is aged 12 years old and has both parents who separated hence she stayed with her great grandmother. Her mother is said to be working in Matsapha whilst her father’s whereabouts are unknown but believed to be somewhere in Sandleni.

Referral:

Field officers from Compassionate Swaziland in Matsambama constituency reported her matter of sexual abuse on 23rd January, 2017 and the case was attended by NATICC on the 24th January, 2017.

Intervention:

The stretch of failure and disparity seemed to follow Nomkhosi when she became an outcast from her class and schoolmates who began to mock her and never wanted to sit close to her. She struggled with a number of challenges, which emanated from both home and school. She has never received any support from both her parents in the light of the situation she lived in.

Some teachers in the school, who had observed this kind of behavior for some time, noticed Nomkhosi’s isolation from other children in the school. They had noticed her as an isolated child who was always mocked by other children. They made her life very miserable until the teachers intervened after noticing that she had a very bad odor. At first, the teachers thought it was a hygiene issue with her, but after getting closer to the child, they learnt that it was something beyond that.  Her matter was reported to the head teacher who took it upon herself to dig deeper into understanding more about Nomkhosi and her background. As the head teacher went about seeking for more information about this girl, it transpired that Nomkhosi was staying with her great grandmother who was too old to even notice that something was not right with her. 

It was also revealed that a known man, a neighbor who found her selling vegetables in the streets of Hlathikhulu at night, raped Nomkhosi at some point. After she reported her case to her great grandmother, the response was that, there was no need to go to the hospital or report the matter to the police, as she would be fine eventually.

ICC intervened by assessing client at home and at school. Immediately NATICC referred her to hospital for more diagnosis and treatment. Medical report revealed that indeed she was sick and suffering from sexually transmitted infections. Even though case had been reported to the police, perpetrator was not arrested. NATICC referred child to DSW for placement.

Currently Ntombi has been placed at Methodists Girls Home Zondle in Hlatikhulu.  At school she now has friends and is in the cricket school team. She failed last year however her current performance shows great improvement and the teachers are sure she will graduate to the next grade.

 

A 10-year-old girl, a survivor of Neglect

Nqobile Mkhweli is a 10-year-old girl, a survivor of Neglect. She is physically disabled; her lower limbs are not functional. She is an interactive and intellectual child but is currently not attending school because of her physical disability. She sometimes goes without food for the whole day. She lives at Bhanganoma under Mtsambama Inkundla with her 3 siblings aged 17, 15 and 5 years. Due to labor migration, her mother works as a domestic worker in the Hhohho region and comes home monthly. The family is child headed and the two siblings attend school during the day and Nqobile is taken care of by her 5-year-old sister who is a minor. She gives her food, if they have, and her aide is limited as she cannot help her to the lavatory thus Nqobile relieves herself within the yard. Because of her sister’s age she is sometimes left alone at home while her sister goes to play with her peers in the neighborhood.

She is exposed to harsh weather and at times shares her food with the family dog. It is also reported they were once nearly burnt inside the house with her younger sister while they were trying to make fire inside the house to warm themselves. Her relatives that live about two hundred meters from where she stays do not support her. She only bath’s once a month when her siblings know that their mother is coming, evident are her teeth that have turned yellow and scaling skin. Nqobile is always half naked which makes it easy for her to respond to the call of nature without spoiling herself which also exposes her to sexual abuse as she is at times alone in the family compound. When the mother comes home she does not spend time with her children as she is an alcoholic who squanders her time and money at the nearby drinking spot. The food she buys does feed the children for the whole month which is why at times they go without food. Nqobile was supported by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to receive a wheelchair but broke it as it was used by her siblings as ago-cart (umjibhi).

Shelter: The shelter that houses the family is in a jeopardizing state, the doors do not lock properly and windows are broken.

Assessment and findings:  NATICC did an assessment that revealed that the children are neglected. Nqobile had been deprived the right to Education as she is very intellectual. She is also exposed to sexual abuse as she is constantly without clothing on her lower body. The health and sanitation of the children is compromised as she defecates within the family yard which might transmit diseases. They are also deprived of proper shelter.

 Interventions:  NATICC provided education about GBV, emergency food package was provided and the case was referred to the DSW and Police who said they still needed to do their own assessment for further action. A meeting with family members was held to try and find a resolution which NATICC facilitated and family private time is still ongoing. NATICC also provided a new wheel chair for Nqobile to replace the broken one. The mother of the children was contacted and she promised to come back home permanently on the 23rd of October 2017 so that she can take care of her children and a relative offered to give her capital to start a self-help project, another relative have also been assigned to look after Nqobile whilst she prepares to come back home. A follow up meeting have been scheduled for 30/10/2017

Expected Outcome for the Visit:   DSW and DCS to conduct their own assessment immediately. For economic support and Education right to Nqobile.

Ntombifuthi’s un-inverted Mirror

In August this year Ntombifuthi Zonde will be turning 15 years old. On her birthday there will be no party, nice food or new clothes. She will walk to her local clinic on that day to collect her ART medication. This child was unfortunate that her mother died when she was 8 years old. She was healthy and HIV negative on the day of her mother’s funeral.

Her father had to return to work in Johannesburg, leaving Ntombifuthi and her two brothers behind. The children were to be looked after by their older Ntombifuthi half-brother.  The children without their mother roamed the community, sleeping everywhere they so wish. Ntombifuthi trailed behind her bothers as they slept in their friend’s homesteads. During the night her brothers’ friends would sneak to her sleeping mat and sexually abuse her, sometimes by multiple perpetrators in one night. It did not just rain in Ntombifuthi’s world; it was a constant torrential storm. The circle of her sexual abusers grew to include a neighbour and her step brother. When her father came home to visit them from South Africa, her excitement and anticipation turned to a nightmare. Her father would sit her on his lap, act which seemed to be parental affection at first. From sitting her on his lap, he then started fondling Ntombifuthi, and inappropriately kissing her.

When her aunt (wife to her uncle) visited Ntombifuthi at her homestead, she discovered that the children were in distress. She took Ntombifuthi to stay with her since she was the youngest. Like all other children Ntombifuthi visited neighbours she was soon being subjected to more sexual abuse as she was subjected to sexual abuse by the neighbour and the family head boy.

After her aunt observed her walking abnormally, and not getting satisfactory answers, she took her to hospital. At the hospital medical reports revealed that she had advanced multiple sexually transmitted infections. She was also tested for HIV and results were positive, thus enrolled on ART immediately. For the first time Ntombifuthi revealed that she had been sexually abused by a number of people. Her case was reported to the police, suspected perpetrators were summoned by police but they could not collect enough evidence for convictions. Alleged perpetrators all denied having sexually abused the Ntombifuthi. As if that was not enough, Ntombifuthi’s father also denied ever sexually abusing her and subsequently disowning her following the allegations.

NATICCs Interventions

NATICC  received  a referral from compassionate Swaziland a partner working in the Umliba loya embili project and responded to the case for post abuse care , since the case was old the medical intervention had already been provided, NATICC’s intervention was to provide the child and family with post trauma counselling , refer and accompany  the child to National Psychiatric Hospital for psychotherapy services and  Mental health assessments and also by helping her family build her a social support network.

Ntombifuthi is ferried to the NPC by a NATICC Case Manager where she is receives her psychotherapy services. The NPC is a health facility which is approximately 100km away from her home. On days she needs to go to the hospital, she is picked up early in the morning by a NATICC Case Worker and ferried to the hospital.

During her trip to Manzini, Ntombifuthi is joined by other sexual abuse survivors who are her peers. The children ride in the back seat of the car. Usually, they do not converse during their trips to the NPC but on this particular day Ntombifuthi and two other survivors sparked a conservation.  They were talking and laughing like children going to some funfair. Soon their conversation drifted to the reason for the trip. They shared their survival stories. In the midst of the conversation they promised each other that they will never keep quiet about abuse and will share our stories with other children, so that many children can be protected from abuse and seek help. As they dropped at the hospital car park, they hugged each other and Ntombifuthi was heard saying “Yebonine kantsi angingedwa lengehlelwa nguloku…” which loosely ranslated means “Guys I was unaware that I am not the only person to experience this ordeal…”  Ntombifuthi is active in teen clubs’ activities at Hlatikulu Baylor clinic, where she is being empowered to cope with her situation and her HIV status. She is drawing strength from sharing stories with other children in similar situation especially those who got HIV through sexual abuse.

NATICC intervention activities, which are the provision of post abuse care to Ntombifuthi and her relatives, yielded positive outcomes. Her aunt is now fully aware of the situation and she lamented that if she knew what she knows now as a result of NATICC teachings, she could have stopped this abuse sooner. She has been empowered with knowledge on all forms of abuse and support strategies as Ntombifuthi journeys through her life to success. She was also educated on the CPWA 2012 which she also appreciated.

 Since NATICC is a family strengthening organization Ntombifuthi’s father has not been left behind, Ntombifuthi’s paternal home has also been visited in a bid to do perpetrator counselling. Unfortunately he was not found at home but after exchanging contact details and subsequent attempts to setup an appointment with him, he said he will be at home during the Easter holidays and an appointment was agreed for 31st March, 2018.

Much as Ntombifuthi is below her expected grade at school, she is determined to finish school and become a police officer under the Domestic Violence unit. When she was probed on why she wanted to be a police officer and why the Domestic Violence Unit, her response was in a broad smile of hope in vernacular “licala aliboli”.