opinionBy *Nomancina Zombodze
My name is Nomancina Zombodze*, throughout my life, I have experienced so many bad things.
When I was three years old, my parents separated, my mother left me with my father and stepmother. My stepmother is my mom's elder sister, so she is still my blood relative.
I did not go to school whilst growing up. My father let one of his relatives take me to look after her children. I was eight years old by then. Lucky for me, my caregiver realised that I had to get an education, and she put me in school until grade seven.
Before I completed grade seven, however, a male relative forced himself onto me, which is incest. He threatened me, telling me not to report him. I kept quiet for so long whilst he continued to rape me for many years.
I then reported him to my caregiver, but she did not even believe me. Instead, she refused to pay my school fees because she said she did not have the money. Luckily, I managed to get a bursary from the Catholic Church to pay my fees until I completed middle school.
When I should have started high school, I no longer had a bursary and could not pay my fees. I decided to look for my mother and I was told where she lived, so I went there and I found her. She was so happy to see me because we had not seen each other for a very long time.
I told her about all my problems that led to my situation regarding school. She was devastated, but she could not help me. I stayed with her for a while, and then I met a man who worked for the defense force. He had money, and he promised to pay my school fees if I agreed to have sex with him whenever he wanted.
I was dying to complete school, so I reluctantly agreed to his terms.
I looked for a school in Manzini and I registered. When I told him that I had registered, he gave me some money for a school uniform and bought me a cellphone so that he could communicate with me.
From that day on, we started having sex whenever he wanted, even during school hours. He would call me to meet up with him. We continued like this for the first two school terms, until the school principal called me and I was told that I had not paid my school fees.
When I told the man what had happened, he fed me a story that he was about to deposit the money. I believed him because he gave me some bus fare and airtime. We continued on his terms until I finally decided to report my issue to the Guidance and Counselling Offices in Manzini. The support workers were so kind to me, but it was very difficult to tell them my nightmare.
They were so patient with me until, after a month, I told them the truth.
Once they knew what I had gone through, the support workers took me to an organization called the Forum for African Women Educationalists Swaziland Chapter (FAWESWA) where they explained my nightmare. The organisation promised to look for another school where they would pay my school fees.
They also found accommodation for me so that I would not have to meet the man again. The organisation kept its word, and I went to a new school around Manzini. I found a new family that I live with as well. With God's grace, I will complete high school in 2012.
To all the young girls, I know what poverty is and where it leads you. Please be brave and do not be like me. Take a stand and say no to rich men who want to take advantage of poor young girls.
*Not her real name.
This story is part of the "I" Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.