A village with lost souls. Tshakhuma is a place filled with drama. People trying everyday to make ends meet. I live near a farm called Levubu owned by the boers. “Let’s live life to the fullest”, that’s what the youth say day in day out. Education is a dream yet to be realised. We have become so relaxed to a point that as long as the farm is there, we will always have a meal each night.

Mates my age are now young mothers, school drop outs and junkies. Doing what they call ‘slaying’, nice word for pretending to be living a lavish life. Recently there was a trending habit. Gangs were breaking into people’s houses and taking their valuable belongings. I had to sleep with a knife under my pillow to protect myself in case some lunatic decided to pop in. Due to our informal houses made of tin and planks ….it’s really easy to get in not sure if it’s also easy to get out.

It’s rare to find a decent girl out in the streets because we know that there are vultures waiting to feast on our flesh. I am standing at a distance focusing my lens at the negative stuff, how hypocritical of me.

One winter morning something tragic happened. That experience changed my entire life. I was coming from church with my friend Fiona. Two little innocent teenagers who just wanted to live a happy normal life. We met a group of boys smoking a joint at the corner store. We were wearing long black skirts and white tops. The boys followed us at a distance. I saw them at the corner of my eye, their eyes piercing past our clothes. “Let’s walk faster”, I said in a squeaky voice. The boys also increased their pace and finally caught up with us. They started touching us inappropriately. I screamed and one of the guys smiled. Instead of making him likable it made him more detestable and he ended up becoming aggressive. He pushed me to the ground.

I couldn’t see anything nor hear anything. My mind was just blank and confused. Suddenly like thunder the nerve impulse of my friend’s voice reached my cerebrum. She was being raped and I was next. I saw in horror as my friend was raped by three guys right in our hood, the place where we grew up playing in these streets. She was screaming her lungs out and I couldn’t move a muscle to save her. The more vigilant she was the more resentful and alienated the boys became and the worse things got. I started crawling away slowly until I reached a small path and saw some old ladies ploughing their millies. I wanted to shout but no words came out.

They saw me bleeding and rushed to offer assistance. I told them about Fiona and they called for help. A bunch of villagers came and started a riot.

She was gone. That beautiful little princess with a pure heart was gone and those boys had beaten her to death. I laid next to her corpse. The boys were said to have been high on drugs, what a so-called excuse. I remember a tall black man with a really rough voice telling the others to set the boys on fire. I believe that everyone has the right to life. The tall man lit the matches and everything was up in flames. Everyone just stood there watching like it’s one of those Lokshin Bioskop movies. That image still haunts me till this very day.

Last night the gangs were at it again shooting each other all night. I did not even bother to go to school because I knew that chances of me coming back are really slim.

I am devastated scared of what the future holds for me. Everywhere I turn the topic is always about the incident. I know that the people who were killed had friends and family. Do those people blame me for their murders? Was I supposed to keep quiet while my friend was suffering? I’m not sure anymore, but all I know is that I am not safe not as long as I’m staying here in this rundown community. The pain and anger that one feels cannot just disappear just like that. I hate men for what they do to women. I hate myself for feeling weak and defenceless.

Although the counsellor has formed a support group for girls I still feel that much has to be done. Not for me, but for all the young girls in our community that still feel that it is their obligation to uphold the Ten Commandments. Danger roams these streets searching for those who are desperate to end their miseries. All I’m thinking about now is how I can be successful and come back to help my brothers and sisters in need. The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time. I discovered that it’s not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult. If my life shrinks and expand in proportion to my courage then I might as well start believing in myself. My question is where do I begin?