05 Sep
  • By Maria Chiponde
  • Cause in

Once a Slave

Moza Alima is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She fled insecurities and conflicts from her home country some years ago. It all started with a conflict that erupted in between her tribe and a rival tribe. During the fracas, her father and husband were killed by assailants because of their connections to the opponent tribe. As if that was not enough, Moza and her two children were captured by militant soldiers and forced into a life of slavery. During her time serving the soldiers, she was forced to perform hard labor, and was often sexually exploited. The abuse and exploitation she suffered at the hands of the militants can still be seen on Moza. The woman has deep scars on her knees and arms from the soldiers’ assaults.

However, all was not lost for Moza. When a new group of soldiers came in, they helped Moza and her children escape the country. It was a long journey that saw Moza staying in various temporary housings in Tanzania for two years. It was in 2015 when Moza finally arrived and settled in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. Moza passed through a painful ordeal back in DR Congo but the living conditions in Dzaleka added more misery to her life.

Life at the camp was difficult, to say the least. For some refugees, Dzaleka is mostly where they reunite with their families and loved ones but that was not the case for Moza because she was on her own. Worse still, alone and without a husband, Moza was a vulnerable woman. Moza was a widow who had a huge responsibility of looking after her children, singlehandedly.

To feed her two children, Moza had no option but to be forced into survival prostitution. It is heart breaking to learn that it cost a meagre 200 Kwacha (27 Cents) to sleep with her. 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 pious Christian, Moza 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, with her heart in pain. She wondered if her life was going to be like this forever. She was also worried about contracting the HIV virus and leaving her children behind.

It was at this period of self-doubt and depression that Moza met her current husband Shabani Maganga, who fell in love with Moza and her tenacity. Together, the two decided to learn sewing from a tailoring shop in the refugee camp and used this vocational skill as a ticket to escape from their past lives. It was also a gateway from the painful life of forced prostitution that Moza was inadvertently trapped in. At last, she had found a decent trade that would earn her an honourable income.

Moza, a woman of dignity, could finally sleep soundly at night knowing that she had at least a dignified source of income.

Moza and Shabani’s story does not end there because something better was yet to occur. Life took another positive turn after they started working with our social enterprise, Kibebe. Their standard of living slowly started improving. They could manage to buy the basic things that they lacked and which they could not afford at first.
“We were able to get a mattress, a bed, a table, and even electricity for our house because of work from Kibebe!” Moza and her husband joyfully said, smiles lighting up their faces. A few years ago, these smiles were hardly present on Moza’s face let alone on Shabani’s.

“I live because of Kibebe.” Moza cheerfully disclosed. It was obvious that Moza and Shabani are content with and grateful for the life that they are able to lead now.
Though dramatic, Moza’s story highlights not her uncommon past, but a fundamental human need that we all share—being part of a productive community and feeling proud to meet the family’s needs. Having a job, simple as that, is a critical part of having a normal life. It is Kibebe’s longstanding mission to provide job opportunities to families like Moza’s who need them to thrive not only materially but also emotionally and socially.