Hannah broke the curse

From the moment she was born, Hannah Peter was deemed a “cursed” child. Her life became an uphill struggle and she was forced to marry a man who raped her. Despite this, Hannah has never given up on having power over her own life.

Even though she is only 25 years old, Hannah Peter in Liberia has been forced to marry twice. She is now fighting to take charge of her own life, with the help of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s partner organisation WORIWA. Photo: Wolobah Sali
Even though she is only 25 years old, Hannah Peter in Liberia has been forced to marry twice. She is now fighting to take charge of her own life, with the help of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s partner organisation WORIWA. Photo: Wolobah Sali

Hannah Peter lost her twin sister at birth. From that moment on, she was deemed a “cursed” child. Her mother abandoned the family and Hannah’s father decided to let her grow up in the care of his sisters.

The rape

One day, when Hannah was only 15 years old, her aunt fell ill. According to traditional medicine practices in Liberia, she was taken to a “sick bush” (where patients can be isolated for treatment). The medicine man, however, refused to treat the aunt, unless Hannah was given to him as one of his wives.

“My aunt said no, because I was too young. But her sisters didn’t listen to her. They sent me into the room and told me to fetch something. But the man was there. He put a cloth over my mouth and raped me,” says Hannah.

Married against her will

Hannah was forced to marry the perpetrator.

“I wasn’t happy. I tried to kill myself so many times. He was too old for me and beat and abused me. When nobody was around, my aunt told me to run away, but I didn’t dare to,” says Hannah.

After a few months, Hannah’s aunt got worse and she passed away. At that point, however, Hannah was already pregnant. Like too many other girls in Liberia, who are forced to marry young and become pregnant, Hannah had no hopes of an education.

Lost her baby

Hannah was more or less seen as the medicine man’s property and he mistreated her severely. After giving birth to their baby, Hannah was desperate and fled to her father.

“I was sick. When I reached my father, he took me and the baby to the hospital, but the baby girl didn’t make it.”

Hannah was still considered cursed by her family, who decided to marry her to yet another older man. Once again, Hannah was subjected to brutal violence.

“He was evil. He beat me and stepped on my stomach,” she says.

“I slept in the kitchen”

Soon enough, Hannah became pregnant again. Her new husband wanted her to work for him by selling fish. But as the pregnancy progressed, it was difficult for Hannah to continue the business.

“It made him angry. He abused me and threw me out. I slept in the kitchen later that night,” says Hannah.

In the morning, a woman came knocking on Hannah’s door. She took her to the office of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation WORIWA.

“She said that they would help me. And sure enough, the staff from WORIWA came with me, back to the house. Something which neither my father nor my aunts dared to do, because they were scared,” says Hannah.

Sent to jail

Hannah’s husband became furious when she showed up together with representatives from WORIWA. They decided to call the police. Because of the severity of his actions, and the fact that Hannah was seven months pregnant, the man was sentenced to two months in prison.

“WORIWA stood by me, through it all. I didn’t pay them any money, yet they did everything for me. Since my aunt died, I didn’t think I would have anybody on my side ever again,” says Hannah.

Finding her own way

Hannah is still in a very vulnerable position, where she is dependent on her husband. She visits WORIWA’s office daily.

“I want to thank WORIWA for saving me and my child, and the authorities for putting my husband in jail. He’s a bit more afraid now.”

Hannah is now looking for a chance to make her own money, to be able to leave the abusive relationship.

“If I do my own thing, I won’t have to turn back when I leave,” she says.

 

Kvinna till Kvinna has worked for women’s rights in Liberia since 2007 and we have an office in Monrovia. We support and work with several local partner organisations, including WORIWA, to end all forms of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. Read more about our work in Liberia.

10 January 2021