A brave mother, Hadjara Oumarou, sat under a tree with her estranged husband, Oumar Sidik, outside their local village courthouse here in Chad’s Tandjilé District. Their 10-year-old daughter Amira (not her real name) sat between them.
They were at the courthouse because Mr. Sidik had sold Amira for the equivalent of $120. When the man who ‘bought’ her visited Ms. Oumarou to demand his bride, she refused to give her up, insisting that she attend school before she marries.
In the same district, a shocking number of young girls have been raped.
“These young girls are between the ages of 9 and 15,” said Rosalie Narhodji, an activist with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE). “The situation is serious, so we needed to react. We decided to create awareness across the district to say ‘no’ rape in Tandjilé.”
Realizing women’s rights
A UNICEF delegation met with Ms. Narhodji and other FAWE activists in Tandjilé earlier this year, advocating for the authorities and community members to take a stand against sexual and gender-based violence. In April, FAWE rallied hundreds of women and girls from surrounding villages to march to the district Governor’s office and demand protection and justice.
In Chad, women are citizens with full voting rights, but many remain unaware of their right to protection from gender-based violence.
“Until now, there has been no justice,” said Ms. Narhodji. “They don’t see [rape] as a crime but as an act of indecency, instead.”
Ndoidjim Boidi, the district prosecutor for Lai, pointed out that “rape is a crime. The punishment under article 275 in our penal code is to work in perpetuity. You go to prison and you stay there.” But activists say that perpetrators are not consistently pursued in court.
Micheline Tchangle is a single mother in her early forties who dedicates her time to running a rehabilitation centre in Lai called ‘Talita-Kum’ – which means ‘get up and walk.’ She shared the story of a little girl, Aline (not her real name), who was so brutally raped by her uncle that she is now forced to use crutches.
According to Ms. Tchangle, Aline was taken to live with her aunt and uncle in a neighbouring village after her mother died, and this is where the attack that changed her life forever took place.
After the assault, Aline was left with a broken pelvis and hip, unable to walk. She was only taken to the hospital two months later, which was far too late.
Ms. Tchangle took Aline in and has taught her to walk again, albeit on crutches. “For me, a man who does that to a little girl … it’s a crime,” she said, shaking her head. “He should go to prison.”
Much contention surrounds certain accepted practices in Chad, from young girls being forced into marriage to female genital mutilation and even paying compensation to the families of raped girls, as opposed to prosecuting rapists.
“Entrenched practices that infringe on the rights of girls and women need to be challenged,” said UNICEF Representative in Chad Dr. Marzio Babille.
Empowering women is an important factor in confronting violence and consolidating peace in Chad. Hope lies in the efforts of mothers like Ms. Oumarou, Ms. Narhodji and Ms. Tchangle, but they need continued support as they challenge gender-based violence and abuse of girls and women in their own communities.
To watch the video, please click here
|© UNICEF video|
|Sexual- and gender-based violence needs to be challenged by empowering women, an important factor in consolidating peace in Chad.|