After surviving Sexual Gender Based Violence, Malang, advocates for peaceful families
At the age of 14 years, Tabitha Malang was forced by her uncle to marry a man that was three times older than her. Having lost both her parents when she was a toddler, Tabitha was raised by her uncle, who seized the earliest opportunity to marry her off when she turned 14 years.
“I was not ready for marriage. My uncle married me off without my consent. My husband forced me into sexual acts and whenever I objected, he beat me up leaving me in great pain. Sometimes, I resorted to sleeping outside of our home for fear of being sexually and physically harassed. The marriage left me without peace and I was experiencing mental distress, hopelessness and isolation” Malang sadly recounts her experience.
At the height of these challenges, Malang fled South Sudan to Uganda and has since 2018 lived in Ayilo I Refugee Settlement in Adjumani District where she was resettled as a refugee together with six dependants (two biological and four children of her late sister).
“Before I received psychosocial support, I was always angry, withdrawn and uncertain of the next day. In January 2022, I shared with my neighbour the emotional and mental health challenges I was experiencing and she introduced me to the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO Uganda)” Malang recounts her experience.
UN Women with funding from Japan (LEAP-Japan) works with TPO Uganda to provide mental health psychosocial support to women and girls in refugee and host communities in Uganda. Through this intervention women and girls receive mental health awareness and mental screening, are enrolled into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions where they receive counselling and learn life skills.
“In January 2022, my neighbour invited me to attend a meeting that was being facilitated by TPO. I was given a platform to share my distress without being judged, which gave me hope that I would finally recover from the mental health challenges I was experiencing. Today, I am a happy woman, able to take care of myself and children,” said Malang excited about the transformation in her life.
Malang is now a change agent in her community, who is passionate about supporting the building of peaceful and happy families. She provides basic counselling to other women and girls as well as engaging in family mediation. She recalls reaching out to at least five families and eight women with basic counselling and family mediation.