Monika’s story

Monika, the youngest of three sisters, is from Songea in Southern Tanzania. When she was 13, her parents divorced. Monika and her sisters went with their mother, Nuru, to live with her parents. Life was hard: the harvest was poor for two years in a row and the whole village suffered from hunger. Monika and her sisters all had to leave school.

Nuru befriended a woman who had a market stall selling second-hand clothes. This seemingly kind woman suggested that she could take the three girls under her wing and arrange for their schooling; they would return home for the school holidays. The matter was discussed by the family and agreed upon. The two older girls were sent to Dar-es-Salaam where, almost certainly, they were set to work in a house as unpaid servants. They have not been heard of since that day in 2003.

Monika was sent to a wealthy man’s house near Moshi where she was obliged to work as a housemaid, and was not enrolled at a school. The man’s two sons also lived in the house. Before long, both of them had sexually assaulted Monika. After the second attack, Monika went to her mistress and reported what had happened. Her story was not believed and was instead severely beaten for making false accusations.

Covered in bruises, Monika went to the police for protection. They did not—or would not—believe her story and told her to return to her mistress and apologize for her misdemeanours.

Distraught, Monika ran away to the streets of Moshi where, destitute and friendless, she earned money by selling herself for sex. She was picked up one evening by the police, who took her to the Remand Home for Children (a juvenile detention centre). Terrified by the situation she found herself in, her fellow inmates being almost all male teenagers, she begged a kind warder to take her to her own home at night where she would be safe. The warder took pity on her and brought her to Amani Children’s Home, where arrangements were made for the home to pay a surety that she would not run away.

Monika was cared for and counselled before being tested for HIV, which was mercifully negative. One of Amani’s social workers, together with a social worker from the Remand Home, took her back to Songea by bus, where her mother was overjoyed to be reunited with her daughter after six anxious months, and the girl’s story was confirmed. The Remand Home authorities dropped all proceedings and she was allowed to stay in her own home.

The Amani Social Welfare Worker spoke with the village headman to establish Nuru’s need for help and support. Amani is now paying for Monika’s school expenses and a small sum to buy food for the family until conditions improve and they can manage by themselves. Twice a year, a social worker visits Monika and Nuru to ensure that all is well, while mother and daughter still hope and pray that one day Monika’s sisters will return home. Sadly, the “kind” woman from the market stall has never been traced.

While we are very fortunate that such occurrences will not befall the children at our schools, or our own children, what can we do to help the Monikas of the world? On the one hand, it may seem a helpless cause, because this story gets repeated over and over in the developing world every day. So we have two options.

We can philosophize endlessly about development principles, aid issues, etc. and wring our hands at how tough life is. We can teach and talk about social justice in the classroom in abstraction.

Or we can reach out today and help the Monikas of the world, one at a time, and bring hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.

What would the effect on your students be if they could have a meaningful impact in helping the Monikas of the world? Through the Climb for Leaders, you can help students at your school make an impact that is life changing: for themselves and for children like Monika.

We encourage you to view this video below, then please contact us to discuss how your school can get involved.

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