It started like any other school day in 2007, Grace Yeremiya from Mtuwaimvi Village and Traditional Authority Kabudula in Lilongwe District set out to attend her afternoon classes at Chipasula Primary School.
She bid farewell to her mother who used to sell fritters along Chidzanja Road in Lilongwe City.
When Grace was crossing the road, a car hit her and that was the turning point of her life.
Her mother, Evelyn Chalesi, learnt from neighbours that Grace was involved in an accident and had been rushed to the hospital.
She recalls: “I had to abandon my fritters and run to Kamuzu Central Hospital [KCH] where they took her. She was unconscious at the time.”
Chalesi says her husband Yeremiya John, who worked as a security guard, had to work three times harder to ensure that she and Grace were comfortable within the walls of KCH.
“The man who hit her visited us once and never showed his face again. We waited for him to come again, but he didn’t,” she says.
A three-month stay in the hospital only made Grace better physically, but not mentally.
Says Chalesi: “We noted minor changes in her behaviour and upon medical consultation, doctors suggested surgery. They said it was a result of a damaged brain tissue. We tried to solicit money for her treatment, but we failed.”
John followed up the compensation entitlement which the family was supposed to get when the case was taken to court.
Months turned into years and nothing tangible was coming up.
He sheds a tear when he says: “It was a case full of hope, but with no direction.”
With a broken heart, the family decided to relocate to the village as they could no longer afford living in Chilinde Township in Lilongwe City.
Mtuwaimvi Village, where Grace’s father comes from, became their new home and people received them warmly.
Chalesi says when she was out doing pieceworks, the husband would look after Grace, ensuring that she had eaten and bathed.
In 2010, however, Grace ran away from home and unknown people raped her. She became pregnant.
Due to her mental instability, the parents were forced to lock her in the house or tie her under a tree so that she stays home and not cause any trouble in the village.
She later gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who is now 10 and in Standard Four.
Chalesi says: “We lack a lot of things, including better accommodation and basic items such as clothes and food. Our plea is for well-wishers to help us have a safe house where our daughter will be secure at all times.
“Since she sometimes throws away things in the house, she needs to be protected. We fail to do piecework that could help us to find food for the day because her welfare and that of our grandchild comes first.”
John thanks the community for being accommodative and helping them in time of need.
However, he stresses that what they want as a family is to see their daughter well and the grandchild attending school without hiccups.
Says John: “God blessed us with another daughter in our grandchild. She is a very good girl who respects everyone. I really wish her the best and hopes that one day well-wishers will come to our aid.”
Coalition for Empowerment of Women and Girls executive director Beatrice Mateyo says what the family went through is despicable and should not happen to any citizen in Malawi.
She, however, says her organisation heard about the issue and has taken it to relevant authorities for review.
“Our main focus now is on how we can help them to have a comfortable life and get Grace treated in South Africa where doctors here in Malawi recommended.
“We are appealing to people of goodwill to help Grace and her family in whatever way they can so that they get their lives back on track,” says Mateyo.
Child and youth activist Fred Nyondo condemns the tendency of rape and defilement which has in recent times affected those who are not mentally stable.
“As a nation it is sad to note that the issues of rape and defilement are also haunting our brothers and sisters who are not mentally stable. It is a habit we must all condemn and make sure that perpetrators are brought to book,” he says.