Mapendo Bisimwa
I'm homeless. I'm neither in hell nor in heaven. I pray to God, but I don't know if he listens. I have no education, and I have no dream. I cannot afford to dream.

I was born in 1973. I studied until primary school, but I did not finish because my father died in 1985. My mother had passed away in 1981. There had been seven of us, but today we are only two—me and my younger sister.

When I became an orphan, I went to live with my grandmother, but she could not afford to pay for my education. I started selling flour in the market, where I'd see a young man from time to time. One afternoon, I was coming from the market. I was alone on the road. I ran into that that young man, and he started talking. He told me stories about everything and nothing. Because the road to my house was small and narrow we had to walk one behind the other. As we were walking, he grabbed me from the back and pulled me on the ground and raped me. It burned. I did not know it was rape at the time. I was too naive to understand what had happened to me. I cried. After some time, a woman I knew from the market came to rescue me. She called thief, and he ran. I knew nothing about sex or sexuality. I explained to my grandmother what happened. She asked if I knew the man who had done this to me. I explained who he was and where he lived. She immediately knew whose son he was.

The next day, my grandmother went to see the chief of the village and told him the situation. The chief said that the man would either pay the bride fee or be imprisoned. My grandmother went to visit the young man's parents to inform them what their son had done, and what his options were. When the young man heard that prison was an option, he immediately opted to pay the fee and take me on as his wife. But when my grandmother left, he fled to Goma.

Three months without my period, I knew that I was pregnant. I was still living with my grandmother. A young woman pregnant without a husband is an embarrassment, so I decided to move in with the young man's family. When his father saw me, he knew why I had come, and he welcomed me. He traveled to Goma to find my husband. After three days, his father brought him back to the village. He greeted me and even gave me a new outfit as a present.

His family gave us part of their house because my husband was unemployed. He went to the city and found a job as a domestic. After some time he had saved enough money to start a small business.


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