LIKE many others in Dzaleka refugee camp, Anna is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). During the unrest in 2012, her father and husband were killed during the tribal conflict. Captured, Anna and her two children were brought to the militants ‘base in the mountains. Here she was forced into slavery; a life of hard labor in which she was often sexually exploited. She still bears the scars - marks on her knees and arms serving as permanent reminders of the soldiers’ assaults.
Her fortunes changed when she met a soldier who had known Anna’s husband and helped her escape. For two years, Anna stayed in various temporary lodgings in Tanzania before reaching Malawi in 2015.
Life at the camp was hard. Many people come to Dzaleka to meet family members, but Anna was on her own with only her two children aged nine and seven to feed. Without her husband to earn, she was forced into prostitution, with men paying 200 Kwacha (27 cents) to bed her - enough for only four Mandazi (fried donuts). To sustain herself and her two children, she had to raise at least 1,000 Kwacha per day, which meant sleeping with a minimum of five men.
A dedicated Christian, Anna was tormented by the discrepancy of her beliefs and what life forced onto her every day. When she was alone, she would sit and cry to herself, wondering if her life was going to be like this forever. She was also worried about getting HIV and leaving her children behind.
It was at this period that Anna met her current husband, Sam, who fell in love with Anna and her tenacity. Together, they decided to learn sewing from a tailoring shop and used this vocational skill as a ticket to escape from their past lives. After they started working with Kibébé, life took another positive turn. They said joyfully, “we were able to get a mattress, a bed, a table, and even electricity for our house because of work from Kibébé - I live because of Kibébé.”
Though heartbreaking, Anna’s story highlights a not uncommon past and a common human need - the ability to meet a family’s needs through dignified work
Names were changed to protect the identity of the artisans.