Leonie (not her real name) grew up in a culture where girls and women are considered of little value, mere objects for the pleasure and convenience of men who should be protecting them.
For Leonie, it meant that from the age of seven, she was raped countless times, by her three uncles. Scared her parents would punish her if she shamed her uncles and herself, Leonie stayed silent—and the abuse continued for years.
Leonie is one of the 20 percent of girls in the Central African nation of Cameroon, who have been raped or abused. In fact the attitude to girls there is so bad, that it’s not unusual for them to ‘loaned out’ and used as prostitutes amongst male family members.
But Leonie’s story doesn’t end there.
“I Was Told That God Accepts Me The Way I Am”
After falling pregnant to a married man, she was facing a lonely life as an abandoned single mother—until a neighbour told her about the Esther Project.
An initiative of the Bible Society in Cameroon, the Esther Project teaches women of their worth and value from the scriptures. It brought emotional healing to Leonie, from the trauma she had suffered.
“I was told that God accepts me the way I am,” Leonie says. “I received a Bible for the first time, and I was very touched. I found it talked about my life. Now, the Bible is everything I need for better living. I am free and I am happy.”
The project also stood beside Leonie giving her practical support as she had her baby, and helped her get established as a single mother.
They then provided life-skills training to help Leonie start a small business to support herself. Thanks to the Bible Society and the Word of God, Leonie now has hope for the future.
“I am not married yet, but I am coping financially because I am a hairdresser now, and I sell cakes too,” she says. “I don’t want to go back to my old life. I don’t know what I would have become without the Esther Project.”
Changing Lives for a Decade
Melissa Lipsett, the project’s chief operations officer in Australia told us that the Esther Project has had amazing results over the past decade. Australia’s Bible Society is now supporting the project to try and increase the number of women it reaches.
“The scriptures speak to the inherent value of women, the great love God has for each one of us, including women and girls, and that’s a message these girls need to hear—and it’s not one they’ve heard before.” Melissa said.
“As we share that message there is an opportunity to find healing from the traumas they’ve suffered.”
This article was originally published on Hope1032.com.au