“I was raped, got HIV from the rape, and when I tried to tell my family, they told me to shut my mouth.”
Those chilling words were spoken by 20-year-old Maureen Phiri from Lilongwe, Malawi. As one of the speakers at Together for Girls’ (TfG) “Every Hour Matters for Post-Rape Care” event, which was in collaboration with the World Health Organization at the United Nations Women’s Commission on the Status of Women in March, Phiri courageously spoke about her sexual assault at age 11 and her advocacy to end sexual violence in Malawi and beyond. Sitting alongside representatives from various governmental and UN agencies including Malawi’s Minister of Gender, Children, Disability, and Social Welfare, the Honorable Patricia Kaliati and United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell, Phiri told the audience that the man who assaulted her took advantage of her because her family was poor.
“Madame Minister [Kaliati], that man took advantage of me because my family was not well-doing”, she said, her voice breaking, as she was overcome with emotion.
“I was only 11 years old, Madame Minister, only 11,” Phiri said. “He would buy my family food, and I lived with him and his wife, but when she would leave, he raped and harassed me.”
“I kept it to myself, and did not tell anyone but then I was found living with HIV,” she said. “I did not get HIV anywhere else but through rape.”