The sun was scorching hot and my feet were aching in my open flat shoes. I could barely walk after the one hour flight to the Eastern Equatoria region of my country South Sudan. It was the campaign week of the 16 days of activism against GBV. In town to oversee an event that used performig arts to sensitize the community on the negative effects of GBV, i was definitely anxious to be in the state that is notorious for violating the rights of women and girls.
On this particular day, i chose to visit a local organization that was dealing with GBV issues. The long dusty road to the office was a short trip. After exchanging pleasantries - the talk began.
That day i was given first hand information on a practice that is being carried out called - Girl Child compensation! I had not really taken into heart the practice but heard of it in simplest forms - but the harrowing details i received from the ladies working in the grassroots village in Torit was a testament to the horrors they have witnessed.
This particular story which was both engaging and unbelievable got me raging in anger too the point i lost energy and began to tear up. Feeling helpless is something i despise and this was one of the instances.
A young girl was at school one day when her paternal uncle came to the school to request the girl to be excused as there was a family emergency at home. The young girl was perplexed and her first thought was that maybe her father had passed away suddenly - she kept asking her aunt questions on the way, but it echoed back with no reposnse. When she arrived home, she was met with a huge gathering of relatives and strangers she had never seen. The all looked solemn or at least that's how she described the mood in the homestead.
"There she is!" exclaimed one of her paternal uncles. It was her father's younger brother Her eyes darted around searching for her mother but she was nowhere to be seen.
"It is done!" another stranger clad in brown faded trousers and brown teeth to accompany it and an olden pink shirt concluded as she noticed from the corner of her eye. Next thing she felt was a hand yank her arm strongly as she was being led away from the house. She kept screaming what's wrong? what's going on? but no one responded. After all she was but a girl - young and unimportant.
Little did she know that in a dispute between the two groups including her fathers relatives, a member of the opposing group lost their son and she was to be compensated in his place for her lifetime.
The girl escaped and was taken to report the matter only to her horror find the same uncle who was part of the negotiation and agreement to use her as compensation seated at the station waiting to record her statement. He pretended to be concerned and claimed would take her home but immediately contacted her "new family" and handed her back to them.
As i write this the girl is still in hiding in a safe house as she escaped once again and is being protected by this local organization as even the authorities are not an option since they can't do much. The original plan of this group was to relocate her to the capital city and put her in a school and educate her as far as they could. It is still a plan and they continue to find ways to protect this little girl. They can't fund her relocation or rehabilitation as they are short on funds and connections.
This is one of the many cases that are unheard because the society is patriachial. This is one of the many instances where such cases are seen as irrelevant in the justice system as not much is done against such pratices which are considered fair and culturally accpetable. Knowing that the girls who are compensated live a life of misery and perpeutal confusion as they adopt to life with a strange new family that constantly refer to her a blood compensation for their lost loved one. She is constantly abused and used as a slave in the homestead of the "new family" and eventually gets married and spends all her adult life in this predicament.