MAHAMA, Rwanda: More than a dozen schoolgirls broke down in tears as one of them told Malala Yousafzai about the rapes they experienced and witnessed while escaping the fighting in Burundi in 2015.
The 19-year-old Pakistani education activist was visibly moved by the sobbing Burundian refugees, asking her father Ziauddin Yousafzai to step in and respond on her behalf.
Ange-Mireille Ndikumwenayo was on a bus heading to Rwanda in May 2015 when she saw two girls being gang raped by the roadside.
“They tried to run and asked for help but no one could help them because they had guns,” “It broke my heart.” said the 20-year-old, referring to the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing which rights groups say has attacked and tortured government opponents, charges it denies.
“It’s extremely shocking,” the world’s youngest Nobel laureate, who survived a near-fatal attack by the Taliban, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Rwanda’s Mahama refugee camp on Thursday.
“It’s very tragic their stories, very moving and emotional.”
Ange-Mireille Ndikumwenayo, who witnessed the roadside gang rape, told Yousafzai how girls who gave birth after being raped felt they could not step back inside a classroom.
“It´s shameful to speak up and say that you have been raped,” she said, dressed in a blue shirt and black skirt like her classmates seated on a wooden bench behind her.
“When you are not married and you give birth, you think life is over.
“Ndikumwenayo became a mother three years ago but returned to school with the dream of becoming a journalist to draw attention to violence against women and girls.
She is now in her final year at Paysannat School, on a hill just outside the camp.
A year long war in Burundi has killed more than 450 people and forced 270,000 to evacuate since President Pierre Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term. Opponents said his move violated the constitution and a deal that ended a civil war in 2005.