The Girl Whose Story Broke My Heart -Heidi Oyugi
In this article, Heidi speaks about one incident she encountered in her line of work that has forever been etched in her memory. It is an experience that she continues to draw various lessons from and uses it as a teaching pad for those working in the development and education sectors, more so regarding the vulnerability of women and girls.
Heidi narrated her story to Maryanne W. Waweru.
“One day, as I was in my office at one of the refugee camps in Northern Kenya, I was informed of a young girl who desperately needed to see me.
Assessing the urgency of the call, I immediately rushed to the gate. There, I found the girl, called Adit*, crying inconsolably.
Adit had come to the refugee came from neighbouring South Sudan at the age of nine years. An orphan, Adit had spent years being tossed from one relatives’ house to another. One day, after a visit back home in South Sudan, her aunt decided to return with her to the refugee camp in Kenya.
And that was how Adit found herself at her aunt’s house -a foster home. She instantly gained brothers and sisters; eight new siblings. The foster homes were the preferred placement structure for children in the refugee camp, as it enabled them to grow up in the semblance of a ‘normal family’ setup.
Her aunt was a businesswoman who spent most of her day out looking for money. Somehow, as the youngest sibling, most of the responsibility for domestic chores fell on Adit. Thankfully, she was enrolled in school but had to balance her studies with cooking, cleaning and undertaking most of the housework.
On the day that Adit came looking for me, she had decided to skip school due to the urgency of the matter.
I listened to her painfully narrate her ordeal. Her brothers had been sexually abusing her.
Adit was being sexually violated right at home, in the family setup which we had assumed was safe. She was about 12 years old when she came to see me.
Adit’s story broke my heart.
The reason she had chosen to confide in me was because she had previously seen me at her school liaising with the teachers about life skills lessons, as I conducted assessment for the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program. I appeared trustworthy to her. At that time, I headed the education program in my organization, where we worked with local schools in the refugee camp.