UNICEF-NORSAAC restore rape victim’s education … arrest perpetrator

Shamsiya and her child

The Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC), with funding from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has supported 16 year-old Shamsiya (no last name to protect her identity) through delivery and have restored her back to school through its Child Protection Programme.

Narrating her journey from pregnancy to childbirth and the UNICEF-NORSAAC intervention, Shamsiya, who lives in the Zangumyakura community in the West Mamprusi Municipality of the Upper East region, noted that she was impregnated by her auntie’s husband after her parents sent her off to stay with them due to financial constraints.

This practice of fostering by relatives is very common in the district. Parents who are unable to cater for their offspring tend to give them out to external family members to take care of them in order to alleviate themselves off some financial burdens.

According to Shamsiya, she had been living with her auntie and her husband, Yusif, in Walelwale also in the Upper East region, since age five. Yusif being responsible for Shamsiya’s pregnancy denied strongly at the beginning stages of the pregnancy.

Shamsiya narrated that on the day of the rape incident, Yusif, who may be in his late 30s, asked her to escort him deliver some items to a friend. “On our way there, he took me to a social center called Bazaar Social centre, paid for the room and took me to the room. He asked me to remove my clothes and told me that even if I screamed and cried nobody will help me. So he forced me and slept with me. He then gave the bag to me to take to his friend.”

According to her she was raped a second time by her uncle and never realized she had taken seed until her grandmother noticed and confronted her. She said Yusif threatened and denied responsibility after she gathered the courage to name him to her grandmother, who also did not believe her story.

Shamsiya was later sacked to return to her parents in Zangumyakura by Yusif’s wife.

Dahaman Seini, Father of Shamsiya, narrated that his daughter came home out of the blue, pregnant. He said he was disappointed in his family but could not take any immediate action until an officer from NORSAAC encouraged him to.

“I was home one day when I got an invitation to visit Walewale for a message from my family. When I arrived, I was told my daughter was pregnant. I did not return home with her that day however, I was home some few days later when she returned on her own. I was very disappointed that Yusif denied responsibility initially. But after the Social Welfare came in, he accepted responsibility.”

Grace Gumah from NORSAAC noted that she got word indicating that there was a pregnant teenager in the community. She said when they followed up on the report, Shamsiya had moved from Walewale to Zangumyakura.

“Shamsiya dropped out of school when she came to her parent’s abode. So we referred the issue to Social Welfare and the Girl Child Officer of the GES of the district gave a letter to be given to the school here in Zangumyakura to allow her go to school while pregnant till delivery. It was through that letter that her father followed up to get her to start schooling safely again. Also, we referred her to the UNICEF Safety Net Programme officer who was responsible for monitoring her progress,” said Madam Grace.

She added that because Shamsiya was unaware of her pregnancy for a long time, she was also unaware of her due date for delivery. “We wanted to support her with her process however, all efforts to reach her father proved futile.

When we eventually found our way here, the father told us that he had heard that the Coronavirus could affect you if you answered calls and that is why he wasn’t answering our calls. So she delivered before we could help out. But after birth we took her to the hospital to ensure that there were no complications.”

Ms. Gumah advised parents to desist from offering their children for fostering because they are not given the needed attention and protection during their upbringing.

In the Zangumyakura community, it is very common for parents to send off their children to live with a well-to-do relative in order to relieve themselves off of their family size due to financial constraints and lack of family planning.

In an interview with the Head of the Social Welfare and Community Development, he noted initially, Shamsiya’s father was unwilling to report the incident because it involved a family member however, with the influence of Ms. Grace, he was convinced.

“I made him understand that this is our job and I assured him of the confidentiality and the privacy involved in the case. We served the man an invitation letter and we booked a date for them to appear. They all came with full force to withdraw the case from the office but we didn’t allow them because there’s a child in involved and therefore the case cannot be resolved at home. We are interested in the full well-being of the child.”

He said after Yusif accepted responsibility, he was slapped with a monthly charge of GH¢200 to be paid to Shamsiya to take care of herself and the unborn baby.

Her father noted that the family was also advised to invest some of the money in farming in order to better secure the future of the Shamsiya and her baby.

He testified that through the efforts of UNICEF-NORSAAC, Shamsiya was sent back to school, had free medical post-natal check-ups and successfully sat for the 2020 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).

Shamsiya is currently awaiting her results and is very hopeful about the future. She aspires to become a teacher in order to get a better platform to advocate for and empower young girls who may find themselves in her situation.

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