Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fighting Sexual Assault in Uganda

I want to tell you about a brave little girl named Grace.

I first met Grace several years ago. She was a student at your Kutamba Primary School. Like other kids her age, she loved playing with her friends, having fun, and going to school. 

Then everything changed. She was brutally attacked–sexually assaulted–by a thirty-five-year-old man. 

Grace was just nine years old.

Grace’s grandmother, Granny Rose, knew who had hurt her—he had the nerve to offer her a goat if she would drop the matter. But she refused. She didn’t want to cover up what had happened. 

But what could she do?

Granny Rose knew the police would only arrest the man if she paid a $12 fee—half a month’s wages. Unless she found a way to pay it, the pedophile who hurt her granddaughter would go free. He could prey on other little girls. 

Granny Rose felt powerless.

Grace had a long walk to school by herself—leaving her vulnerable to another attack. What could she do to protect her granddaughter? 

Granny Rose had a tough decision to make. She didn’t want her granddaughter to be hurt again, but she didn’t want Grace to miss out on her future either. In the end, she decided to send Grace back to school. 

When Grace returned to school, she was carrying a heavy burden. She couldn’t focus in class. She had become very shy. It was as if the life had been taken from her.

Finally, someone asked the right questions, and with tears in her eyes, Grace told her story.

Jackson–my husband and your friend–was there with me in Uganda when I found out what happened to Grace. Her story broke our hearts. I don’t know if she was the first of your students to have this experience, but she was the first to do something incredibly powerful. She spoke up. 

Grace’s bravery did something else too–it forced me to remember my own experience.

Grace’s story is my story too. When I was eleven, I was attacked–just like Grace. But unlike Grace, I stayed quiet. 

I tried to forget what had happened, but I still felt shame and embarrassment. There was no one there to speak up for me, to demand that the man who assaulted me be brought to justice.

When I heard Grace’s story, I knew I never wanted another child to think they had to suffer in silence and in shame. I couldn’t stay quiet anymore. 

I couldn’t change what had happened to Grace, but I could help her heal. And I realized I could use my voice now to help other little girls. I could demand justice for victims. Maybe I could help prevent future assaults.

Shortly after I first heard Grace’s story, I established the EDJA Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending the sexual assault of girls in rural Uganda and to securing justice for those already assaulted. 

Grace’s bravery has brought real change to the community. Thanks to her courage, EDJA became a reality. Grace was given counseling to help her move toward healing. Later, her attacker was tried and sentenced to ten years in jail.

From that important beginning, Nyaka and EDJA have worked hand in hand, especially for your students. Together, we have fought for girls, both in the classroom and in their communities. Together, we have nurtured their minds and defended their bodies. Together, we have demanded justice. 

And now together, we will continue the fight. Today, we’re pleased to announce that EDJA is becoming part of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project family.

Don’t worry—everything you love about Nyaka is staying the same. We will continue to serve your students and your grandmothers through your schools, clinic, grandmothers program, library, and other programs. 

With EDJA joining Nyaka, you’ll also have the opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable children—both through your schools and in the community.

Together, Nyaka and EDJA will help bring an end to sexual violence in rural Uganda. Together, we will send a message to anyone who harms little girls: you WILL be held accountable.

This important work can’t happen without YOU. We invite you to celebrate this important moment in Nyaka’s history by helping even more of your girls. 

YOUR gift will help YOUR girls succeed. 

YOU will help the victims get the support they need. YOU will ensure that their rapists go to jail. YOU will help educate the community. And YOU will make sure that girls can reach their full potential through education.

As you know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There isn’t a better time to help ensure YOUR girls never have to face what Grace and I did. 

We can’t do it without YOU. This is YOUR opportunity to remind YOUR girls that they are valued and worthy of achieving their dreams. 

YOUR gift will empower girls who were once victims to become victors. 

Make your gift HERE today!

With Gratitude,