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My name is Claudine

I was born in 1975. I wanted to be a doctor when I was young. But I had to stop secondary school when my father died. I was very sad and even angry to have stopped going to school, but I had no choice as my mother was sick and I had to work to support her.

When I was 17, I met a young man on Sunday afternoon at Church. He was an orphan just like me and we loved each other. Ah love. I learned that love is a heart disease. We can’t help ourselves when it happens. That man was the only man I loved in my life. We had a good marriage and were comfortable enough to have our children raised in a loving environment.

But after a few years, he started hanging out with friends and started drinking a lot. Things got out of hand when one day he came home in the evening and started yelling at me and accusing me of spinning negativity on him. He took the pan in which I was cooking beans outside and threw it. In our custom, this meant, “I no longer want this woman in my house.” And he took the lamp that was there, and he started beating me. It was the beginning of our separation.

This was the very first time that it happened. But I was bleeding everywhere. The neighbors took me to the hospital and when I reached the hospital, the doctor said they couldn’t treat me until I explained how it happened. They thought that it must have been road bandits who beat me so severely. I had no choice but to succumb to the doctor’s pressure and tell them that it was my husband who did that to me. It was the very first time I was beaten and the last time that I entered that house.

I learned later that the doctors informed the police, who then went to arrest my husband for domestic violence. When he was released from prison a few days later, he accused me of sending the soldiers to him. He vowed never to share a relationship with me and kicked me out of the house. We loved each other a lot and maybe people, unable to tolerate our happiness, led him to drink and to reject me like this.

I was left with my children whom I really love a lot. They also love me. But the problem is that there is no way to provide for their schooling. I was left with very little means when I went back to my family. I had to go work on other people’s farms to earn money to feed my children. It was very hard and I could only send the youngest two to school.

One day, I was going back home at around 7:30 in the evening. I encountered a soldier on the side of the road. He said, “Give me money.” I told him that I didn’t have any money; I only had flour to feed my children. So he said, “Give me money, or I will kill you!” At that time, I had no choice. He started beating me, and then he turned his gun on me; I thought he was going to kill me. Then he started to rape me.

I woke up in the hospital. Apparently some people saw me unconscious on the side of the road and took me to the hospital. That’s when I also learned I was pregnant and was infected with an STD by this stranger. It was very hard to go back home and to deal with all that happened to me and my neighbor’s gossip after seeing me pregnant. Eventually, I miscarried and I spent every penny I had on my medical bill. As a matter of fact, I am still paying for it.

That’s when joining a women’s organization saved my life. The women who were in my group and the trainers came to visit me, showed me love and care, and were my only comfort during those days. We love each other in the class and when we are all there, we are very happy. We are like sisters.

Today my wish is for no man to enter my life. All I want from God is to open doors for me so I can get food for me and my children on a daily basis. If I am weak today, it is because of men. After what I went through, I lost a lot of blood; they had to put extra blood in my body. As a result, I no longer feel like I am a human being; it’s all because of men. I think I may be able to forgive this one day, because I could have died but instead I was saved. I am sure others have also forgiven.

One day I decided to speak out about what happened to me. It was something I never planned, inflicted on me by someone I never knew. And then I became pregnant and miscarried. All this made me angry and I said to myself, “I can’t keep this anger in me, I have to speak out!”

I know that I should take courage because I survived a hard situation. Every day, I have to wake up and pray and say, “Thank you God, for I’m still alive. It was hard but now I’m here.”