The young girls who end up on the streets of Malawi’s cities are desperate. No one has listened to them. No one has helped them. They have left home because they have been raped or beaten or have nothing to eat. On the streets, they are also raped and beaten. They can only find food and protection by prostituting themselves. They live with fear and abuse.

There are much fewer girls than boys on the streets, but they are even more vulnerable. Chisomo has now worked with more than 100 girls, helping them find relatives who will care for them and enabling them to access justice, medical treatment and education.


In September 2002, Donata*, a 15 year old girl, walked into the Chisomo office. She was sick, exhausted and at the point of giving up. She had been repeatedly raped by her father, but no one had listened to her. When she was 9, her mother had left home. She could not take her children with her - according to their culture, they belonged to their father. Shortly afterwards, Donata saw her father rape her older sister who was just 12:


“I used to share the same mat with my sister. One night, I saw my father on top of her, forcing himself on her. She struggled and cried out with pain. I was very scared.”

Her sister married and left home when she was 16. In August 2001, Donata was woken by her father in the middle of the night. She was terrified and screamed for help. No one came. This marked the start of repeated rapes. Donata went to her brother, to the Police, to her local health centre, to her village chief. No one did much. The Police gave her a letter for the village chief. The health centre gave her paracetomol for her pains.


At last, in utter desperation, she walked 15 km to Sanjika, the president’s palace in Blantyre and told her story again. The guards sent her to Chisomo. There, Donata. found someone to listen and to help. Now she has been treated for her sexually transmitted infections and is feeling well again.


Chisomo has helped her grandmother to start a small business to support Chifundo and her 5 other orphaned grandchildren. Chifundo is back at school, doing well in class, and says she is looking forward to completing her education and being able to support herself and her younger brother.


Her father is in prison, awaiting trial for rape. Her mother has secured custody of her and her 2 younger sisters. Donata is back in school and doing well. She says:


I now feel better that my father has been arrested and will be tried.... He has to learn a lesson that he cannot abuse his children for ever. I am looking forward to finishing school. I want to become a nurse”


Her aunt would beat her badly,


Chifundo is an 8 year old girl whose parents are dead. Her community rejected her, accusing her of practising witchcraft learned from her mother. They blamed her for sicknesses in the village. Her grandmother sent her to her aunt and uncle to escape this treatment. Her aunt would beat her badly, deny her food or even shelter, and make her work at home instead of going to school.


Chifundo ran to the streets. There she met David, a Chisomo social worker, and found someone who would listen to her and help her face her problems. Now she is living with her grandmother.”


Donata and Chifundo have at last found the encouragement and support they so needed. It took great courage and determination for them to leave home. Yet the streets did not provide the answers.  There are many other girls who are still looking for someone to listen. Chisomo has many challenges ahead and much work to do.