Four ways poverty increases a girl's risk of sexual abuse

If most victims of sexual abuse are girls or women, and if people living in poverty are more susceptible to sexual abuse (source), then girls living in poverty are extremely vulnerable.


In many rural villages in Mozambique, where physical and spiritual poverty often blankets families with disease, fear of ancestral spirits, and a lethargic view of the future, girls not only face sexual abuse … the abuse often looks a lot like forced prostitution.
  1. Abuse can help a poor family earn money. When a girl gets raped, the crime usually is solved by the abuser simply paying a fine to the family. The poorer the family, the smaller the fine, but some parents actually view this arrangement as profitable. The police usually get involved only when the abuser doesn't pay.
  2. Abuse can get a poor girl into school. Poverty plagues generations of families in part because education is out of reach for the children. If a child can't afford to pay tuition, she can use sex as the fee to get in to school.
  3. Abuse can help a poor girl succeed in school. Likewise, it is horrifyingly common for a teacher to demand sex from a female student before promoting her to the next grade or giving her a passing mark on an exam.
  4. Abuse can be unavoidable. When resources are so limited in a community, proper latrines often are a luxury too expensive to afford. Forced to walk far into the wilderness to go to the bathroom, girls very often get attacked by boys when they're so far from safety.

“Poor school facilities remained the main contributor to the problem” in some communities, says Halkeno Terfasa, manager of FH's child development programs in Mozambique.

FH gets at the root of this abuse by exposing the issue of gender-based violence, helping families earn money safely, providing school fees for children in need, training and coaching teachers, and building latrines like the one above.

Built at an elementary school in a village called Tambarare, the latrine above will protect girls from sexual abuse while also increasing the general health of all the school's 900 students.

“There will be considerable reduction in diseases that are resulted from poor hygiene practices and attack on our girl students,” the school's headmaster said.


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