Postcards from the Edge
One day he called me to his house and forced himself on me. After a month, I was pregnant. I went to him. He told me he was waiting for this. Now I could be his wife. It was honorable on his part to make me his wife. A pregnant, unmarried young woman in my culture is an embarrassment. So I accepted. When I gave birth, he went to my parents and paid the bride fee. I appreciated that he maintained my family's honor.
We were together for six years and had three kids. But each of the children died before reaching their first birthday. After the death of our third child, his family told him that something must be wrong with me. They began to pressure him to leave me. His attitude towards me changed. There was really no reason for us stay together then, since I was not really in love with him, we had no kids, and he was no longer nice to me. But I did not have the courage to just pick up and go.
I waited for him to tell me that he no longer wanted me so I could leave, but he never did. In 1999 I traveled to visit my family in the village because my mother had passed away. While I was there, I decided not to return. During that time there was a clash between the Mai-Mai and Congolese Assembly for Democracy (RCD), two rebels groups that have been involved in the conflict that has plagued my country since 1996. I fled with my family to the bushes to find refuge. The fighting lasted five days, and then the RCD, who had won the fight, informed us that it was safe for us to go back home.
Luckily, my neighbor heard the shots and called for me. We found each other with the scream of our voices. With her support I looked for help. We ran into a few young men who carried me to the hospital, where there were no medications because it had been pillaged by the rebels. A member of my family had to give blood for a transfusion.
The doctors transferred me to the General Hospital in Uvira. After three days there, the doctors said they could not continue to treat me considering my condition. So I was then transferred to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where I spent four and half months. But all my vaginal organs were still damaged. Panzi Hospital could not do the necessary surgeries to repair my organs, and the doctors advised that I go to Ethiopia.
I didn't have the resources to travel to Ethiopia or to get treatment. Thanks to the grace of God and local associations in Bukavu, Amnesty International supported the cost for my trip. While in Ethiopia, I had four gynecological surgeries to reconstruct my organs.
Today, I feel physically fine, but not like before. I have since returned back to school to obtain my high school degree. I want to continue with my studies to become a doctor so I can help my country and my people. I'm not sure which branch of medicine I will practice, but I want to specialize in surgeries.
I have not been in touch with my husband, but I learned recently that he had remarried. I do not see marriage in my future. I'm not sure what it could serve me.
I live with four of my younger siblings for whom I am responsible. I'm doing the best I can to make sure they get an education as well. But it is not easy. One of my sisters recently got her state diploma, but she cannot continue on to university. I live in hopes. I have faith, and I believe in the kindness of humanity. It is because of the compassion of the human heart that I am alive today.