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Eighteen- year old Thandeka Sithole (not her real name) is survivor of rape and a product of rape. She was conceived as a result of incest after her mother was raped by one of her uncles. The abuse was kept a secret by the family. When Thandeka was 9 years old her mother got married and left her in the custody of her grandmother. From the age of nine until she was 16 year old, Thandeka was repeatedly raped by her two uncles.


“My mother didn’t want anything to do with me so she left me; that’s when all the abuse started,” explains Thandeka. “I was afraid; I had no one to talk to about the abuse. When my mother finally got an escape from the family through marriage she left me with my grandmother and never returned.


My mother did not have me by choice, how was she ever going to explain to her new husband who I was or who my father was?”


At the age of 16 she attempted suicide. She was referred to Adult Rape Clinic where she opened up about the abuse during a counselling session.


Thandeka’s experience and that of her mother resonate quite strongly with the experiences of many other women and girls in Zimbabwe where Gender Based Violence is a huge problem and is driven by certain cultural factors that encourage victims to suffer in silence. It is a story of how many things go wrong when justice is denied. Thandeka’s mother was raped and the family decided to keep the issue a secret.


Had the matter been reported, her mother could have accessed safe abortion services or even received counselling that could have changed the course of her life. Working with partners such as the Adult Rape Clinic the United Nations Population Fund is working to ensure that women and girls such as Thandeka and her mother do not have to go through such horrific experiences, find justice and have access to key services such as counselling, legal services and health care


At the age of 16 Thandeka found herself pregnant. Her matter is before the courts. She was granted an order to terminate the pregnancy. One of her uncles was arrested but the other one escaped and has not been seen since. Day by day Thandeka is trying her best to move on from the abuse and she says it has not been easy.


“I am currently undergoing trauma psychological counselling sessions and yet I still feel a sense of hopelessness, some days I have hope, some days I default but something tells me I have to keep telling this story, not just for me but for others. I guess the positive outcome at the moment is that I have managed to open up to you. I feel some form of relief,” says Thandeka.


“I hope one day I can add more to it, a different narrative and energy than the one I have now, some light maybe, I hope I can speak about it in another tone, maybe this is just the beginning… just maybe. I am somewhat relieved that services like this are available, maybe if my mother had received the help I did things would be different.” –Bertha Shoko with additional reporting from Musasa