Life has never been easy for Monia, a young widow and mother of twin daughters in Burundi, Central Africa. When she was six years old, she got very sick and her legs stopped working. She used pieces of wood to help her walk until she was twelve. Her mother died and her father remarried. Monia* asked her father to send her to school but he refused. She persevered, worked and paid her own school fees. Even though she was paying for school herself, her father and stepmother were not happy and sabotaged her by burning her school notes. Monia moved in with another family. It was difficult but she was still able to work and pay her school expenses.
When she was sixteen, the person taking care of her brought a male friend home. He left Monia alone with the man who raped her. “I tried to fight but he was more powerful.” Her rapist told her it was okay because he wanted her to be his wife. Two months later he came back for her and she went to live with him. In some African cultures, girls who have been raped feel as though they have been ruined and have no choice but to accept the person who assaulted them.
Monia lived with him for three years and had a series of difficult pregnancies including two miscarriages. She gave birth to twins but they didn’t live long -- one for 12 hours and one for 2 days. She got pregnant again and went to see the doctor because she was sick all the time. The doctor didn’t know she was having twins again until the delivery. After she’d given birth, a problem was discovered with one of the baby girls - she had water on her brain. They couldn’t do much for the baby at that hospital and Monia did her best to take care of her. Eventually, someone told her there was a hospital in the countryside that might be able to help and so Monia’s husband gave her money for transport.
While Monia was in the countryside, her husband became sick and died. She got news of his death and was told to keep her children in the country. She didn’t have money. Monia says this was an extremely desperate time for her, “I was about to become crazy. I could not handle the situation by myself.” A good Samaritan paid her hospital fees and gave her money for transport back to town.
Monia struggled when she came back to Bujumbura. Eventually, she met a graduate of the Homecare Sewing Center who told her to go and apply for the training. She was accepted into the program and has received tailoring training, food, health care and spiritual and emotional support. Monia says, “I thank God for family at Homecare. I’m so overjoyed ... I have hope this suffering will become glorious. I trust when I graduate I will have a machine. Poverty will be gone and I will have a new life and provide for my family.”
With a bright smile and an even brighter determination, she continues: “I am no more orphan. I am no more widow. I am beyond all that. My future is a big thing. My business will be so good and people will hear of it. Many people will know me because of what I am about to do. I pray to the Lord to give me my strength because when you have faith everything is possible.”
Monia graduated from the program in June 2014. Her daughters are growing and doing well. A few months ago, we received the joyful news that Monia's daughter with a disability is starting to walk! Monia has had some health concerns of her own, but she is successfully using her sewing machine to earn income to support herself and her two beautiful baby daughters.
* Not her real name.