She thought life would be better if she followed her mother to Mzimba.
The 17-year-old disguised as Masozi was delighted when her stepfather not only accepted her in but also travelled to Mzuzu Bus Depot to welcome her from Karonga. However, little did she know that he was lusting for her.
She narrates: “I had just sat primary school leaving examinations and thought my stepfather help me achieve my dream of becoming a nurse.
“Strangely, after picking me from Mzuzu, the car stopped in the thick of a forest on the rugged road to his home and he gave me K2 000 to have sex with him. I refused.”
The man asked her not to reveal his sexual advances, which worsened in her new home.
“I kept rebuffing him, but he became harsh and frequently shouted at me and my mother for petty issues. One day, he ordered us to leave, saying the marriage was over,” Masozi narrates.
This compelled her into unprotected sex with him to save her mother’s marriage.
“He forced me into a nearby lodge,” says Masozi tearfully. “From that day, he forced himself on me any time he wished.”
To her agony, even her stepfather’s brother defiled her three times.
“Both threatened to kill me if i disclosed this to my mother,” says Masozi.
She kept the secret until she fell pregnant.
“When I missed my periods, he said we should have sex freely, but I told him I didn’t want the pregnancy because I wanted to remain in school.”
Since abortion in Malawi is illegal except when a woman’s life is in danger, the stepdad took Masozi to a traditional abortionist in Zambia who sent them back because she was just two months pregnant.
“We returned to Zambia when I was three months pregnant, but the traditional attendant sent us back again, saying we should come with K20 000 on April 5,” she explains.
Racing against the clock, the philandering siblings borrowed K25 000 and the younger one took her to Embangweni where two escorts led them to a woman who gave her two tablets around 7am.
“The dosage did not work, so she gave me another dose in the evening. I started bleeding within an hour. I spent a night in agony until I was discharged the next morning,” she recalls.
The bleeding alarmed some community members who informed the police.
Masozi’s unsuspecting mother was shocked when police summoned her and the girl.
“I’m in pain,” she said. “They have destroyed my daughter. Sleeping with her and procuring unsafe abortion without my knowledge?” she shook her head in disbelief.
Community health worker Ian Zgambo says the survivor sought contraceptives, but was referred to Mqocha Health Centre for pregnancy tests.
“She was pregnant and she wanted to terminate the pregnancy. Together with the police, we called the survivor, her mother and her stepfather. He was furious,” he says.
Child protection worker Abrioh Ngulube says sexual violence and unsafe abortion remain rampant in Mzimba.
“I briefed the police and the survivor revealed that her stepfather had gagged her from disclosing what she was going through,” he recounts.
The police arrested the siblings and kept the bleeding girl in the officer-in-charge’s house. The next day, they took her to Embangweni Mission Hospital for post-abortion care with support from the Spotlight Initiative funded by the European Union.
Minister of Gender, Social Welfare and Community Development Patricia Kaliati commends a nationwide network of village champions for tracking teen pregnancies, child marriages and sexual abuse in hard-to-reach areas.
“When one of them informed me about the issue, I informed district staff to investigate the matter,” she says.
The network is part of the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate harmful practices and gender-based violence against women and girls. The initiative is supported by the European Union through the United Nations agencies, Unicef and UNFPA in partnership with the civil society.
It promotes sustainable development goals to achieve gender equality by 2030.
United Nations resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres says the initiative is forging strong partnerships for women and girls to enjoy their rights and live better lives.