Refugee Voices: Rising Above Trauma Into a Life of Hope
25 July 2018

Gloria is a survivor of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

In 2009, Gloria* fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When her husband was killed and her home was burned to the ground, Gloria managed to escape with her three children. They travelled for five days by truck, all the while the children, two boys and one girl, were crying and upset. They entered South Africa through Zimbabwe, being granted papers to stay for 15 days while applying for asylum. She and her children were given asylum-seeker status, which they have had to renew every six months since.

Because it is not permitted for people to work on asylum-seeker status, Gloria and her now 23-year-old daughter face challenges in securing income. Gloria has made money by cooking food and selling chips outside of schools, hospitals, and metro stations. She is cautious when she sells, because if the police come, they confiscate all of her products. At times, Gloria helps her daughter braid hair to make money.

In 2015, Gloria fell and has since had a leg injury which requires monthly physical therapy. JRS supported Gloria by providing her funds for rent and transportation to and from her appointments. At the hospital, Gloria has experienced xenophobia, with nurses treating her poorly and saying harsh things like, “What time are you going to go back to Congo?” and “When are you going to die?”. Gloria and other women fear going to the hospital, because of frequent cases of malpractice against asylum seekers and refugees. She suffers from high blood pressure and high levels of stress.

In 2017, Gloria joined the Women of Power group, a JRS support group for women who have experienced Sexual or Gender Based Violence (SGBV). This is a space for women to share their stories with their peers in a safe space. They talk about many different topics including their children and other stresses that they carry. When asked about her experience with the Women of Power group, Gloria’s tone changed from one of grief and struggle to one of relief. She explained, “It is a place to exchange ideas. You forget everything. It really helps me.” Sharing with other women who have experienced similar struggles is therapeutic. The group builds a sense of community as well. “When I am with the others I am happy”, Gloria said.

When asked about what brings her joy, Gloria said “I am alive. I see my daughter.” Her dream is to be able to send her three children to college one day.

*All names have been changed for the privacy and safety of the women.

Sarah Garwood

Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer, JRS South Africa

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