Friday, October 17, 2008

The girls...

And what is more tragic than the boys of South Africa? Only the girls.

Oh my. The reed thin, bright eyed 12 year old girl who repeatedly stokes the leg of our 35 year old male staff member and asks him if he is married. E. who introduces herself on her blog with the story of her sexual abuse. F. who stiffens and pulls away as I place my hands on her shoulders. M. who writes me an email out of desperation, scared witless by her father’s threats that he will beat her with a club. And he does.

On “graduation” day, when we give the children a certificate of achievement for participating in Infinite Family’s training, we ask if any one would like to explain to the parents who come for the occasion, what IF is about. Several boys stand up to give speeches. No girls. I encourage the girls, looking directly at the most confident of them…with no response. One girl runs out into the courtyard, too embarrassed by the invitation to even stay in the room with her fellow students.

Gail Johnson, the Executive Director of Nkosi’s Haven, explains that only one third of the rapes committed in South Africa are ever actually reported. Therefore it is impossible to know if the estimated 250,000 that occur each year are an under-reporting or not.

The women bear the abuse, they bear the children and they bear the burden of providing for their families.

I have no poetry or analogies that can change these facts. They are heart-wrenching, sickening, depressing.

We who can, must guide these girls to a better future. We who care, must be there to help heal, to listen, to witness their pain. Many of these girls have never met a woman who wasn’t abused. Many of these girls accept this painful path as the only possibility for their future. We know another way. We must share it.

So, share. Share your vision. Share your hope. Share yourself.

Their gift is you.

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