Proud to be a Girl

Banner for Proud to be a Girl article on Day of the Girl Child 

“I love staying at home. I feel safe here, there’s a good feeling of warmth and love.”

13-year-old Rita and her 11-year-old sister Nika reintegrated back into their home six months ago, after spending three years at Hagar’s Girls’ Recovery Shelter and in foster care.

Three years ago, both girls were sexually abused. One afternoon, Rita’s step-father told her to follow him in the forest. Deep in the jungle, he violently raped her. Emotionally broken, bloodied and scared, Rita didn’t know why her step-father was doing this to her. He told her that if she ever told anyone, he would kill her.

He returned home alone. Claiming she wasn’t far behind, Rita’s mother didn’t believe him and went looking for her. After a few hours, she found a terrified Rita, who out of fear claimed that she had fallen and hurt herself. But the mother could see blood running down her legs and the doctors confirmed she had been sexually abused. A few days after Rita’s abuse, her younger sister Nika revealed that she had also been sexually abused repeatedly by the step-father but was too frightened to tell anyone for fear of him killing family members.

The step-father ran away and remained at large for six months. After receiving advice and counselling from Hagar, the girls’ mother reported the crimes to the authorities. He was found and sentenced to prison.

When the girls were transferred to Hagar’s Girls’ Recovery Shelter in Phnom Penh, both were suffering from anxiety, depression and trauma. Hagar counsellors and case managers spent a lot of time with them to begin the process of healing. It took them some time to adjust to their new surroundings but once they met other young clients, they came out of their shell.

I remember the first day I arrived, I was very scared and stayed by my elder sister the whole day, says Nika.

After spending one year at the shelter and studying at Hagar’s Community Learning Centre (CLC) in Phnom Penh, the sisters transitioned into a Hagar trained foster family. In March 2016, they came home to their mother and family, and have now safely reintegrated into their community.

Since returning home, the girls have taken on their role as aunties very seriously and love to take turns swinging their nephew and niece in their hammocks.

Rita dreams of becoming a doctor to help people heal inside and out, while Nika wants to teach young children about morals and values, becoming a primary school teacher. The sisters are doing well at school and are happy. With assistance from Hagar’s case manager and counsellor who visits them on a monthly basis, they are thriving.

“No one at school has said anything to us about what happened. Of course there must have been some gossip that went around when we left, but we managed to go back to our classes without any problems, and we are happy in school,” says Rita.

*Hagar pursues the highest degree of care and protection for its clients; names have been changed and images do not necessarily reflect the individual profiled.

Violence against women and girls is rife in Cambodia. But you can help put an end to this injustice by supporting girls in Hagar’s care.

You can help many girls like Nika and Rita receive holistic aftercare services through Hagar’s programmes.

$35 could ensure legal assistance for one girl in Cambodia

$70 could help provide a daily breakfast each month for two students at Hagar’s CLC programme in Cambodia

$105 could provide a complete medical check-up for women, boys and girls survivors when they are first referred to Hagar in Afghanistan

$140 per month could provide a primary or middle school education, including remedial and accelerated private tuition, for one boy or girl in Hagar’s programmes in Afghanistan

$210 could see five girls go through a medical check-up in Vietnam

$280 could provide school materials for 20 girls for one school year in Cambodia

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