A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
a site for internally displaced people. There are two children in her family, herself and her elder brother. Both her parents were farmers, but her father is dead and she now lives only with her mother in the displaced people’s camp. She completed primary school and has just finished an on-the-job training course in culinary art, and hopes to set up her own restaurant.
Spes had a child with a soldier, but the latter took the child away without her knowledge. Spes was extremely distressed over losing access to her son, as was clear during the interview, which was brought to an end when she broke down.
When war broke out I was in 6th primary. We had to go and live in a displaced person’s camp. Where we stayed, there were lots of soldiers. At night, when we went outside, to the toilets for example, the soldiers would be waiting to rape us. That was how I fell pregnant. No-one understood me, and no-one helped me. My family chased me away, saying ‘take this pregnancy to the person who made it’. When I delivered, I had nothing, not even a piece of soap, not even a cloth,16 or a towel or clothes for the baby. The baby grew up and then one day his father came and took him away from me. Now I can’t even go to see him because his father told me not to come near his house. That’s why I have so many problems. My hope is that you can help us form associations, and that way we can live better.
The problem for us girls is that if someone deceives you and you fall pregnant, he immediately abandons you. He won’t help you but he can still come and take your child away, or else your parents chase you away and you have nowhere to go because the father won’t recognise you.
Another problem: when I delivered, the child’s father refused to register him, and I didn’t do it. But that didn’t stop his father from coming and stealing him, despite not having recognised him. My hope is that someone can help me take him to court, because he stole my child and even when I go to see him they hide him from me. This child is now 12, and he never comes to see me. He is being brought up by his grandmother. This child is the cause of much unhappiness for me. I want to bring a complaint because when he took the child from me he didn’t give me anything, although I suffered bringing him into the world in conditions of extreme poverty. I interrupted my studies, because I became pregnant when I was 15 and people thought I would be unable to deliver at such a young age. But God helped me and I delivered with no problems. In the maternity ward I just wore a dress and didn’t have a cloth to wear.
When I had the child, my uncles told me to take him to his father, because later on he would come and claim some of our property. My mother chased me away while my brothers harassed me. I didn’t know where to go, I spent the night outside. But
Spes is referring to the rectangular piece of cloth wrapped round the body forming part of Burundian dress, meaning that she had no clothes to wear.
To have a cloth is a minimum requirement for a Burundian woman, especially during delivery.