At age 13, Lerato* lost her mother to AIDS. She has never known her father. At 13 she was left to raise herself and her two younger siblings, ages 4 and 7. By the time she was 17 years she had two more children of her own. She struggled to raise her two younger siblings and her two babies.
One day she approached a friend of ours who had worked with her and helped her for several years. Lerato asked our friend if she could get birth control pills. Our friend told her, “No, Lerato, you can’t be doing that. We’ve talked about this, you should not be sleeping with men.”
Lerato’s response echoes the desperation and heartache of young women all over South Africa. “No, you don’t understand. I’m not sleeping with men, but what am I supposed to do when the men break down the door of my shack and rape me? I can’t afford any more children.”
*Name changed to protect privacy