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Children in South African township
Science and Health:
Why the Children?
More on This Story:
Page 2

Q & A and Photo Essay

There's an epidemic of rape in South Africa and tens of thousands of young girls have been attacked in their homes or on the streets. The horror is made worse by a South African government that withholds the drugs that could save these young lives. Video journalist Jamila Paksima went to South Africa as a Pew Fellow in International Journalism to report the story.

We talked with Paksima about her quest to make these girls' voices heard. You can also find out more about the children portrayed in the documentary by viewing the Photo Essay.

Jamila Paksima
Jamila Paksima

Photo Essay

How did you come to tell this important story?

I've been in the business for 14 years, working my way up from researcher to producer. I spent many years at NBC, working on programs with Maria Shriver, Tom Brokaw, Forrest Sawyer and produced the special WITNESS TO THE EXECUTION. I applied for a Pew Fellowship, which is for mid-career journalists. You have to pitch a foreign news story that is not being reported in the U.S. I really wanted to do an AIDS piece — it's the most important story in the whole world. So I started doing research and saw the statistics that young women were getting AIDS at the fastest rate of all and I wanted to understand why. It turned out that a lot of that had to do with rape.

I went to South Africa in the fall and the whole issue erupted. While I was there the story of a baby who had been raped hit the headlines.

Can you put your finger on the reason behind the rise in child rape?

I thought I could go and find the answer but there are so many reasons: poverty, lack of access to adequate health care and education, splintered families, men's low sense of self-worth. For many, there is little to hope for: People are frightened, dying, they are burying their families. It seems violence is sometimes an opportunity to have a little bit of power.

What about "The Myth" — that having sex with a virgin can cure AIDS?

Well, I've never known what it's like to be so desperate, so sick — they must be on a different plane. But we have to remember that this myth isn't exclusive to South Africa — it's in many places. And it's throughout history — it used to be thought to cure syphilis. All the people — church, community leaders, government, sangomas (faith healers) — need to get on the same page about this and address it head-on.

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