Melina was only three years old when she left her home in southern Malawi with her parents. In her remote village, the subsistence farming that had ensured the community’s livelihood for countless generations had become unfeasible.
They could no longer grow maize, the most important form of nutrition for the family. Mashed into a thick flour, the grain is usually cooked with water in a traditional dish called “nsima.” In some African countries, this basic meal is often served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Following several years of drought and crop failures, Melina’s family migrated to South Africa in 2008, hoping to find stability.
Melina is now 11 years old and her legal status in South Africa remains undefined. Her family live on the outskirts of Johannesburg, reduced to an unsustainable existence. Because they entered the country irregularly, they have become trapped in a cycle of poverty and lack access to the legal system. As a girl, Melina is less of a priority for her parents and her society. Without residency, she cannot enroll in a public school or access healthcare.