Ending Sexual Violence

Eveline* is a teenager with a story to tell and a determination to tell it. Her courage has been hard-won through experiences no child should ever have to endure. But the healing she has experienced fuels her determination to see others experience freedom and hope

Like many of the young people she has grown up with, Eveline’s early years have been defined by struggle and poverty. Dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, her mother often struggled to provide the school materials and feeding fees that she and her siblings needed, which meant frequent absences from school. These circumstances also put Eveline in a vulnerable situation that, sadly, one man was quick to take advantage of.

When one of the family’s neighbours offered to purchase school supplies for Eveline, her mother warmly welcomed this offer. She allowed Eveline to go with him to shop for materials, but his intent quickly became clear. At the hands of this deceptive neighbour, Eveline experienced sexual abuse for the first time, accompanied by threats to ensure she would never tell anyone. Following a second incident of abuse, she told her mother, but she too demanded that her experience be kept quiet. Filled with pain and confusion, Eveline returned to school with this secret buried deep within her. But this was not the end of the story.

Eveline’s school is one of the schools that currently offers the Youth First Rwanda program, run by Wellspring in partnership with WorldBeing. Designed to help young people build life skills, resilience, and well-being, this program offers sessions on many topics relevant to children like Eveline, such as human worth and dignity, positive and healthy relationships, sexual reproductive health, and self-advocacy.

As Eveline progressed through each session, she quickly recognized what she had experienced and could finally name it as sexual abuse. But she was also being given the tools to address this violence, to fight against it, and to ensure it would never happen again. Youth First teaches young people how to advocate for themselves and for their rights. And so, in spite of the threats she had received, Eveline knew that she had to share her story with someone she trusted—for the sake of her healing and also for the sake of other children.

Eveline speaks of having been “cured” by the Youth First Rwanda program, as she shared her trauma and processed her emotions with the school leader and one of the Wellspring-trained Youth First facilitators. Now, from this place of healing and wholeness, she is determined to raise awareness among her peers of their rights, and of how they can defend those rights and oppose abuse wherever they encounter it.

Eveline now takes every opportunity to share her story and all that she has learned through the Youth First program. Both at school and in her wider community, she is shining a light for her peers and empowering them to take their futures into their own hands. She is equipping young people to say no to those who would exploit their vulnerability, who would seek to rob them of their childhoods, or who would tamper with their God-given dignity in any way.

Eveline’s story is only just beginning, and it’s a story of hope. When children are equipped with an understanding of their inherent dignity and worth and the tools to live to their full potential, there is reason to hope. Thank you for standing with these children as you support their empowerment through the Youth First Rwanda program.