LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – After years of theft and threats from her own stepchildren, a Zambian widow named Grace finally has the rights to her home restored.
Overjoyed, Grace told her IJM social worker, "I am so glad there is an organization like IJM that cares for widows, because there is nowhere else that I could have turned to for help."
Abuse from Children She Raised
When her husband passed away in 2008, Grace suddenly came under threat from relatives who wanted control of her home. Her stepchildren bullied her constantly, stole her belongings and even threatened to kill her. She lived in fear that they would attack at any moment.
Grace tried to resolve it on her own. She agreed to rent out the main house and share the income with her stepchildren. But after a while, one stepson brazenly seized the house and cut off Grace's only source of income.
"The saddest part of it all is that I raised these children," she says, "but they have turned on me."
Without money, Grace struggled to keep food on the table for her two children and two grandchildren. As her debts built, she worried they would be homeless at any moment.
Defenders Arrive Just in Time
"Grace was so vulnerable in her physical situation, but also personally and emotionally," says IJM Aftercare Specialist Margaret Mushingo. "When the case came to IJM...she genuinely had no hope that it would work out for her."
IJM Zambia protected Grace and gave her the support she needed. IJM attorneys defended Grace's rights in court and stood up against her abusive stepchildren in a tense six-month trial.
In July 2013, the Zambian judge ruled in Grace's favor; she and her stepchildren would share the home, and they could no longer block her from it. Joy Lubinda, an IJM aftercare specialist who has counseled Grace, says, "She was very happy when we handed her the keys—that it was finally over."
As Grace gets back on her feet, IJM will continue checking in on her safety and will help her find skills training programs so she can provide a stable future for her family.