Ericaine’s life has been devastated. Three little padlocks give her back a tiny piece of dignity. 

Warning: the following story contains descriptions of murder and sexual violence. 

It’s not easy for Ericaine to feel safe. She has experienced the kind of trauma that can be disturbing to even read about. 

Ericaine is 34 and lives in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Central African Republic (CAR). 

BRUTALITY AND DESTRUCTION

Civil war broke out in CAR two years ago. Members of a rebel group went from house to house, raping, beating and killing inhabitants, then torching property. They came to Ericaine’s village. Tragically Ericaine’s family wasn’t able to flee in time.

Ericaine’s husband was forced to watch her being raped before he was killed along with their baby. They then went on to beat Ericaine and verbally abuse her, before finally burning down the family home

Ericaine washes her hands outside the new latrines
The latrines – all locked
Ericaine washing her hands at the new facilities

STAYING STRONG

What happened next is a testament to Ericaine’s strength; first, she retreated to the bush to hide. Then – together with two other women also driven from their homes – she walked six hours in the blazing summer heat to the IDP camp.

Although the camp was safer than the bush, conditions were bad at first. There was no clean water, and no latrines. ‘The smell was unbearable.’ said Ericaine, screwing up her face as she recalled it. ‘Even if you weren’t sick, it would make you sick. Our water came from a nearby stream, and we knew it wasn’t clean and would be bad for us, but it was all we had to drink.’

Tearfund has built latrines, a handwashing station, and a drinking water pump in the camp. Ericaine and her friends have taken charge of the facilities, keeping them clean and safe. She also instructs anyone using them on the importance of washing their hands.

The chance to feel safe for those few minutes each day makes such a difference.

TAKING BACK CONTROL

However Ericaine and her friends had one extra request; they wanted the toilets to be padlocked, with keys looked after by the Hygiene Promoters in the village. It’s a small addition to the facilities but it means a lot to them.‘ I feel safe using the latrine – I don’t worry about anyone coming out of the bush to attack me,’ Ericaine says.

After all she has been through, the chance for Ericaine to feel safe for those few minutes each day makes such a difference.


Ben Cohen
Ben is Web Editor for Tearfund. This can sometimes feel a bit like being ‘senior hairstylist for Bigfoot’ but he does his best. He writes a bunch of stories for the website, regular emails to supporters and much more besides.

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