A single mother of six and one determined spirit


Hadija Selemani of Malagarasi in Kibondo, Kigoma is seen outside the house she built next to her old one after, through legal aid, she won custody of her six children following a difficult marriage and started rebuilding her life with a job as a cook at a nearby secondary school.

The fight against gender-based violence is everyone’s responsibility. In 2019 LSF has recorded 23% disputes nearly to quarter of total reported disputes were associated with gender-based violence.

The GBV cases were 13,591 with male 2,811 and 10,780 females reported to paralegals, which is 79% of total GBV cases, which shows that, women are most affected by GBV.

In the Malagarasi neighbourhood of Kibondo in Kigoma, Hadija Selemani earns her living and takes care of her six children as a cook at a nearby secondary school. The family lives in a small two-bedroom house that she managed to build through mere grit and determination, which by local standards is a far cry from her previous dwelling, which sits adjacent to the new one, thus providing a sharp contrast between her past and her present.

Hadija explains why her present life picture looks the way it is, “I was married in Ngara, where honestly I lived a dreadful life, because of the horrible abuse I suffered in the hands of my husband. I considered my situation and figured out that, if I continued to live there I would probably end up dead.  So, I made the decision leave, but not with my children;

“Behind me, my children never went to school and instead were left to live aimlessly. My husband met and married another woman, and relocated elsewhere leaving the children to fend for themselves, and in many cases they had to be given food by neighbours. They were seven when I left, however, one fell ill and as a result later died,” says Hadija.

Hadija was informed of her child’s death, and when she went back to attend the funeral and burial, she says, she was overwhelmed with pity over her other children especially the condition she found them in, and decided to take them all with her and returned to Kibondo.

Not long after her return, her husband tracked her down and demanded that, she return the children, and that’s when she sought help from her local ward office. Realizing the legal nature of the tussle, the office contacted Adrian Eustace, a locally-based paralegal, who took up the case.

Her husband had sent two people to collect the children, and when this was made known to Eustace, he confronted them on legal grounds, and told them that, that was a custody case and only the children’s parents could be involved, and in any case the children themselves were old enough to make a choice as to who they wanted to live with.

Her husband continued his intimidation including filing false charges against her accusing her of abducting the children and taking them out of school, thus causing her to live under constant fear of arrest after knowing that, the police were looking for her.

When the case landed at the paralegal office, they sought to explore it in its entirety including addressing allegations of physical abuse, that she suffered in order to build a stronger case in her favour as the victim.

“Hadija’s situation had more than one dimension, and because it had elements of abuse, we referred her to the police first, who would interrogate her and recommend her for any treatment if necessary. Her physical health was fine and what we wanted to know was the one thing she desired the most, and she told us that, the custody of her six children was paramount;

“Her former village authorities in Ngara confirmed the tumultuous marriage she experienced; we then proceeded to contact her husband and asked him over for consultation, however, he had heard that Hadija had been to the police and that caused him to yield and agree to let go of the children for fear of being prosecuted,” Eustace told us.

Hadija today says, even though it’s not easy to take care of the children single-handedly, but she is to a large degree content that, all her children live under the same roof with her.

She adds that, her husband has cut-off all communication with her, and has removed himself completely from providing for the children but that, she says, increases her determination to continue furnishing a more decent future for all her children.

“I thank God that I have made quite a stride, and whatever my job yields, I bring home and share it with my children,” she adds.

Eustace sums up this situation by saying that, many women and children around Kibondo experience difficulties just as Hadija and her children, but they remain silent perhaps out of fear or not knowing where to turn to, however, legal aid and education available free of charge provide an ever-ready route out of such grim circumstances.

Hadija has been able to turn her life around, because she was determined to seek justice for her children by way of winning her right to live with them, and prevent them from continuing to live in poverty without any hope.

Hadija’s story is a reflection of timely and effective access to justice, and more importantly it provides an example of how an empowered poor woman can rise to become a heroine to her children, and a model for resilience in times of tumult.

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