“I just started bawling,” Leila Janah is telling me about a trip she took to Sierra Leone earlier this year. “I’m usually pretty steely as a matter of course. But I’ve been crying a lot more lately.”
But a sweet teenaged girl named Tiangay Kaiwo moved Janah to tears. Kaiwo was waiting for surgery at the government hospital in Bo to repair the extensive damage to her body after her teacher brutally raped her. Traditional tribal remedies involving herbs and a bath in boiling water exacerbated her condition. Kaiwo had been living with a painful rectovaginal fistula for over a year, but best as Janah could tell, the rapes began when she was 12 years old. Janah met dozens of girls and women with similar stories, all needing life-changing surgeries that nobody could afford. “Nobody even to hold their hands, to tell them that this wasn’t their fault,” Janah said.
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