My name is Adimu and I live with my grandmother in a local village in Arusha, Tanzania. Two years ago when I was 16, a neighbor raped me. I was on my way home from school. He grabbed me as I was coming across the bridge, dragged me into the bushes and raped me. I fought like a wild cat but he was too strong for me and heavy. After he was finished, he left me lying there.
I was hurt and bleeding. I went home. My grandmother wasn’t home. She had gone to the market. I stripped, burned my clothes and washed myself. I felt dirty. I wanted get rid of the blood and the feel of him. I didn’t tell my grandmother what happened. I kept the sordid mess to myself. I was afraid to walk home alone after that and asked an older boy whom I trusted to walk with me. I had trouble sleeping and when I slept, I had nightmares. I would wake up, shaking with terror. I was afraid that my neighbor would rape me again.
Then, I found out that I was pregnant. My grandmother demanded to know who was responsible. “Is it that boy who walks you home from school?”
“Who is it then?”
I told her and at first, she didn’t believe me. Then, a few days later, they found the neighbor in the bushes, shot to death. Apparently, he had tried to rape another girl but her father came in. The neighbor panicked and ran out of the house. The girl’s father grabbed his shotgun and ran after him. He shot him. And it turned out that I and the girl weren’t the only victims. My grandmother was sorry that she didn’t believe me. She had thought the neighbor was such a nice man. He was always kind and generous to her and the other neighbors.
I hated that I was pregnant with his child. I wished I could get rid of it but I knew that it wrong to feel that way. It wasn’t the child’s fault. I felt it growing inside me and when I began to show, my classmates began gossiping about me. The boy who walked me home shunned me. My teacher, Miss Juma took me aside one day after school was dismissed and told me that I couldn’t go back. “Why not?” I asked, horrified.
“There’s a ban prohibiting pregnant girls and teenage mothers from attending school.”
“So, I’m not allowed to come to school because I’m pregnant.”
“Yes. I’m so sorry, Adimu.” I could tell that she was but it didn’t make me feel any better. I left the classroom in tears and went home and told my grandmother.
So, all the time I was pregnant, I couldn’t to school. I continue to do the chores I used to do when I wasn’t pregnant and when I came home from school. Then, I went into labor. The baby was stillborn. It was a girl. I cried. I held her for a while and then my grandmother took her and wrapped her in a blanket. My uncle who was a carpenter made a tiny wooden box and my grandmother placed Kanoni (‘little bird’), that was what I named her, inside.
We buried her in quiet and shady part of the forest. I passed there everyday on my way to school to pay my respects and to put wild flowers. Yes, as soon as I was fully recovered, I returned to school. My teacher, Miss was glad to see me and my classmates. Those who gossiped about me were sorry and the boy who walked me home was sorry about the way he treated me. “It was my mother,” he told me. “She didn’t want me hanging around you after she-well, after she learned that you were pregnant. I’m sorry, Adimu.”
I smiled and told him that there were not hard feelings. I didn’t need him to walk me home anymore. My neighbor, Kanoni’s father was dead and buried. I concentrated on my education which was so precious to me. I wanted to be a doctor.
It was during my last year in school when I met Asad. He driving slowly down the dusty street I walked on when I didn’t cut through the forest. I was on my way home from school. He stopped and called out to me. I was inclined to ignore him when, he said in Swahili, “Please, I need your help. I’m looking for Arusha.”
“I live there,” I replied in English.
“Am I heading in the right direction?” he asked. He was very handsome and had unusual eyes. They were like the same color as a lion’s.
“Yes. It’s just ahead,” I said, pointing.
“Since we’re heading in the same direction, why don’t I give you a lift?”
“I don’t mind walking.”
“Please don’t be afraid. I promise I will be a perfect gentleman.” He leaned over and opened the door to the passengerside.
After a slight hesitation, I got in and we drove off. “Where are you from?”
“I’m from London, England. I moved from there to Arusha.”
“You don’t look English although you have the accent.”
“I’m mixed. My father is English and my mother is Qatari.”
“Why do you want to live in Arusha?”
“I’ve always wanted to live in Africa. It’s a beautiful continent.”
“Who do you want to see in Arusha?” I asked him.
“I’m not here to see anyone,” he replied. “I’m on my way to Oondru House.”
“That’s the big fancy house with a pool.”
He smiled. “Would you like to tour of it?”
“No, thanks. I have to be getting home. You can drop me off here. Oondru House is that way.”
“Are you sure I can’t give you a ride home?”
“No, thanks. I’ll walk the rest of the way. Thanks for the ride.” I opened the door as soon as he stopped and got out. “Goodbye.”
“But, I don’t even know your name or where you live.”
“My name is Adimu and I live the poor part of Arusha.”
“And my name is Asad. I hope I get to see you again, Adimu.”
I turned and headed for the bridge which would take me home. A few minutes later, I heard him drive off. I too was hoping that I would see him again. I found myself as far as Oondru House before turning back. It was a very stately place. I wondered what business he had there that afternoon and if he had been there again. Maybe one of these days I would run into him. I got my wish but I didn’t run into him in front of Oondru House.
One day when I went home from school, I saw a jeep parked in front of my grandmother’s hut. I recognized it. My heart began to beat fast as I approached the jeep. He was sitting in the passenger-side. “How come you’re sitting there?” I asked him.
“It’s more comfortable,” he replied. “Hello, Adimu. It’s good to see you again.”
I didn’t admit that I was happy to see him. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see your uncle. He and I work together, you know.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
“I was hoping that I would see you too. Are you busy now?”
“I have some chores to do–“
“Your grandmother gave me permission to take you on a tour to Oondru House.”
“Wouldn’t the owner mind you giving me a tour?”
He smiled. “I can guarantee you he won’t.”
“I’ll go and change.” I ran into the house, stripped, washed and changed into a dress. “Thanks for letting me go to see Oondru House, Bibi,” I told my grandmother before kissing her on the cheek.
“Thank your uncle. It was he who talked me into letting you go. He says he trusts Mr. Taylor.”
“Thank you, Uncle Baraka.”
“Well, I figured that there’s no harm in you going. Besides, Mr. Taylor doesn’t live there alone. He’s got a housekeeper and other staff.”
I gawked at my uncle. “Mr. Taylor lives at Oondru House?”
“Yes. It’s his. He bought it a couple of weeks ago.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that you’re the owner of Oondru House?” I asked him when I got into the jeep.
He smiled. “Well, I did tell you that the owner wouldn’t mind me giving you a tour.”
I couldn’t argue with that. Oondru House was magnificent. It was so big and had so many rooms I felt I could easily get lost. The grounds were just as specular. After the tour, he had his housekeeper, Bupe, prepare us supper. I visited Oondru House regularly after that and one evening when we were in the garden, Asad declared that he was in love with me and asked me to marry him.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. After I recovered from my shock, I admitted that I was in love with him too and accepted his proposal.
He knew about what happened to me two years ago and about Kanoni. Together, we visit her burial site and put flowers. We got married at my grandmother’s church and had the reception at Oondru House. My teacher, Miss juma and my classmates were there along with my grandmother, Uncle Baraka and our neighbors. Asad’s parents were there too. It was a beautiful ceremony and I was happy for the first time in my life.
Two years ago something horrible happened to me but now something wonderful was happening to me. As Asad leaned over and kissed me, I thanked God for His goodness.
This story is fiction but it is inspired by the true story of Imani* whose rape by her neighbor and resulted in pregnancy. She was only 16 at the time and in primary school back in Moshi, Tanzania. Imani loved sciences and geography and wanted to work as a doctor or a nurse when she completed her studies. Unfortunately, like ten of thousands of adolescent school-going girls in Tanzania, Imani can longer access education due to the ban prohibiting pregnant girls and teenage mothers from attending school.
Equality Now has filed a case against Tanzania at the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in Arusha to challenge the discriminatory policy and have it lifted. Click here to read more about it.