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Catholic and religious women rescue girls on the outskirts of Pemba

By Sister Maureen Ogundeph

It was in the year 2020 that the Little Sisters of St Francis of Assisi of the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania started their mission in Pemba.

Where is Pemba? It is an island in the Indian Ocean lying 35 miles (56km) off the coast of East Africa, opposite the port of Tanga, in Tanzania. The Island is 42 miles (67km) long and 14 miles (22km) wide. The economic situation mostly depends on fishing and agriculture.

99.9% are our Muslim brethren, hence Catholics are very minor and most of them are there only shortly for business or work purposes.

The Bishop of Zanzibar, Rev. Augustino Shao, asked the Sisters to do the mission of PRESENCE. It was not easy to start the mission. The whole region has two parishes WETE and CHAKECHAKE.

The Catholic Women of the two parishes are very active though few in number approximately around twenty. However, they collaborate and move from one house to another to see the sickly and the needy. It was in this scenario that the catholic women of Pemba informed the sisters about a girl who got married recently at the age of 14.

The father separated from the mother from Mwanza (Mainland Tanzania) and went with the five children to Pemba thinking that the mother would have to follow. Fausta (not the real name) happened to be the firstborn with her four siblings the last being two years.

At Pemba they did not go to school, instead, he took them to farms and one worked as a house girl in Zanzibar at the age of 11 years.

When Fausta reached 14 years, his father took him to a man where he received a dowry of two million shillings equal to around 800 USD. Catholic women heard about this forced marriage and they informed sisters to intervene. The sisters listened to their stories and asked about the possibility of meeting the girl (Fausta). The girl came to church one day and told the sisters how she and her siblings had suffered without their mum all these years. She explained how their father was interested in them making money but not going to school.

The sister interviewed the girl and she expressed her desire to go to school. Together with the Catholic Women they looked for the father and reported the issue to the police. They informed their General Superior in Dar es Salaam and asked about the possibility of rescuing the girl and she never hesitated to assist, her mother was contacted and she expressed her fear of being with her daughter for fear of the husband following both of them.

Fausta was brought to Dar es Salaam at the end of January 2023 and in February she started her elderly education program and was moved to standard three because she was academically capable.

Unfortunately, in August 2023 it was found that she was 8 months pregnant and had to be rescued again to a place where she could safely have her baby without prejudices or embarrassments.

The father was alerted but recommended that Fausta be taken to her mother who unfortunately was not ready to welcome her. It was an unfortunate situation because Fausta heard all these and felt unloved and unwanted.

When the tentative time for Fausta to give birth was communicated to the mother and invited to be near the daughter during that critical moment, she agreed but when the time came she did not.

The good news is that on the morning of 24 September 2023, Fausta gave birth to a 4kg baby girl named Mary Clare. All the sisters were so happy as we were waiting and praying for this birth. Both mother and baby are in good condition and were released from the hospital after 24 hours.

This is how sisters and women can collaborate to listen and be the voice of the voiceless.

This story has many questions unanswered, but God will slowly put answers in our hands and mouths. Pray for the remaining four children in Pemba whom the sisters have decided to teach to read and write.


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