A hard and painful lesson at a young age


Happy Robert is now working to rebuild her life and laying the foundation for her child Esther’s future. At 16 she became pregnant unexpectedly but the help she received through legal aid allowed her to receive child support which also enabled her to employ herself and sell household necessities.

Rural Dutwa ward is located a few kilometres north of Bariadi in Simiyu, and is dotted with quite lively villages, where herds of cattle can be seen almost in every direction and oxen pull carts along dusty roads.  Life isn’t as paced as it is in the town of Bariadi, where we have travelled from.

We disembark outside the local paralegals’ office, where we are met by our host Nimariki Boniface, who heads the unit. After completing the usual formalities, we sit and listen to him as he briefs us on Happy Robert story.

“Happy Robert lives just across the road from here with her mother, siblings and her two-year old toddler Esther. Happy is now about 20 years old and it hasn’t been too long since she was able to secure child maintenance from the father of her child,” Boniface tells us.

“When her mother divorced their disabled father, she left with six children and settled here, where after a while she met another man and had one child with him. Her ex-husband’s disability and the general impoverishment the afflicts many people including him meant that, he was and still is unable to provide for the six children, which means the whole burden is in the hands of his ex-wife, who relies on subsistence peasantry for a living. This situation played a significant role in what happened to Happy,” he adds.

Happy dropped out of school due to ill health and at 16 met a trader from Magu, who pressured her into a relationship that eventually turned her into a teen mother contrary to her wishes.

We ask Boniface to fetch Happy and her mother, and a few minutes later they come through the door along with little Esther. Her mother narrates the story confirming what Boniface had told us earlier.

“Happy went through a very difficult time one because of her illness which eventually healed, but also because of the pregnancy. This guy met her and was able to manipulate her immature mind and she ended up pregnant. I initially thought her illness had returned, but I became more concerned when she became sick in the mornings and that’s when I took her to the dispensary and confirmed she was expecting;

“When we informed him about it, he initially disappeared and we were compelled to involve our village chair, who linked us with the paralegals. With their concerted efforts and guidance, we were able to reach his family and he eventually agreed to provide support to Happy,” she tells us.

Happy manages a shy smile and adds, “I can’t quite say my life is perfect now, but at least he provides for me and my child every month, it’s not much but I’m grateful. He also agreed to provide me with some capital with, which I started selling onions and dried anchovies which help us put some food on the table. I live at home and our family is large, my siblings go to school, and in essence, it’s tough for us particularly for my mom, but we do our best”.

Bahame Nhulo, the village chair says of the ordeal, “I worked very hard on this case because it was a sensitive issue.  She was a very young girl from a very poor home and she was pregnant and pretty on her own. It paints terrible picture, when a grown young man proceeds to land a naïve girl in serious difficult and then abandon her;

I’m grateful for the readiness and commitment of the paralegals, who guided me and the victim’s mother through all the fine points of the law, until we finally were able to secure child maintenance for Happy and her daughter. It’s been rewarding even though she still has quite a mountain to climb,” says Nhulo.

The involvement of the paralegals in this case, proved crucial from the onset and their excellent relations with the village leadership ensured Happy’s painful experience doesn’t define who she is today.

She represents the core of beneficiaries that LSF’s Access to Justice Program targets. Stories similar to Happy’s play themselves out around the country, however the presence and readiness of paralegals plays a significant role in safeguarding their rights and helping them restart their lives with hope and confidence.

“Looking back at my personal journey, I urge young girls not to allow their minds to be twisted around. I was deceived and I simply didn’t have the wits to fight off and stand my ground, but that is all in the past now and it’s given me lessons for the future. I intend to work harder for my child and one day help her live a more comfortable life.  I’m very grateful for the assistance rendered to me by the paralegals.  It’s given me another chance at life,” concludes Happy.

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