I have no parents

But I do have rights

I have no parents

There are almost 3.7 million orphans in South Africa - close to half of them have lost their parents to AIDS-related disease. This is one girl’s story.

My name is Preity, I am 20 and I live in South Africa. When I was young I lived with my aunt and uncle. They made me believe they had the right to beat and mistreat me because I was not their biological child, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was trapped.

They were plain mean to me. If I asked my aunt for sanitary pads when I got my period, she would say: “Use a newspaper!” When I wanted to fix my hair to look nice, she would say: “There is water and sunshine, what else do you need...”. It was terrible.

Life was hard for me then. I was very discouraged. Only after I had finished my difficult chores late a night, could I then take out my schoolbooks and do my homework.

One day, after thinking about it for a very long time, I gathered enough courage to go speak to a social worker I had heard about from a teacher at school. I was so scared. But I am so glad that I did. She changed my life.

When I went to her, I told her my story and I cried and cried. She looked at me in the eyes and told me, “Child, NO ONE has the right to beat you or treat you badly.” She went with me to my house and she met with my guardians. She had a few meetings. It took a while but she eventually helped me find another place to live away from them. There I was looked after. I was able to concentrate on my studies, and I became strong.

When I was at my aunt and uncle’s I was scared to ask for help. But I am so glad that I did. Now I am happy and safe. I am proud again. I am a girl who fought for her rights and won.