In reality justice happens in incremental steps as we take the girls, and when we can, their families, on a journey to empowerment, understanding their rights and a sense of their own worth and value .
Here are three amazing ways we have seen justice beginning to take shape in the lives of the girls and their families in the last few weeks...
1. In Candido Sales, we held our first surgery with our lawyer, Fabio, inviting girls' family members to come along. The mother of one of our girls came to see him, whose daughter's case, in which a man was sexually exploiting her, is going through the courts. When she found out who the lawyer defending him was, she recongised him as a man who had raped her when she was her daughter's age. She had kept this a secret for years, but because of Meninadança's work with her daughter had come to believe that she, too, might find justice. So we are now taking on the case - the rape of the mother of one of our girls when she was 12 years old.
2. In Padre Paraiso, Georgina has been bringing a message of hope and justice to vulnerable girls in the town since January. In a meeting with the town's social assistance secretary recently, we heard about one of the effects of her work. Between November last year and April not one single report of abuse or exploitation had been registered in the town either through the national anonymous hotline, or to any of the council children's services. But since Georgina arrived, getting alongside the girls and showing them what is right and wrong, that has changed. Since April there have been at least four reports EVERY WEEK made by girls and others about cases of abuse and exploitation of children.
3. On Friday in Medina we called a mothers' meeting, where Fabio spoke about justice, involving those present in demonstrations about the effects of justice and injustice, and showing them what they can practically do to demand their rights (photo above). For the first time ever, the father of one of our girls, and the grandfather of another, showed up - a huge breakthrough. The meeting finished with our team serving them a delicious meal. The girls' parents listened intently to the presentation and were clearly moved by what they heard - that they too were entitled to justice, it didn't matter who they were or how poor they were. During the meeting Fabio also helped some families with their own individual problems, including petitioning the judge on behalf of one mother for a paternity test for her daughter (photo above with our social worker Leticia).
It is so exciting to see our girls and their families, most of whom have long given up on justice, starting to to believe it can actually be real in their lives. Our dream is to see "justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream".