True Vision

films that make a difference

The Lost Girls of South Africa

The Lost Girls of South Africa
Back to ‘Our Films’
90 minutes
Deborah Shipley

The Lost Girls of South Africa is a timely and revealing feature length documentary that offers a privileged glimpse into what life is really like for young girls growing up in South Africa. It follows the stories of four girls, aged 11-13, who become victims of child rape, looking at the experience and its aftermath through their eyes and in their words. Why we made the film :

we were approached by Channel 4 asking for a film that explored some of the main social issues facing South Africa today, with the impending World Cup.

As we had already documented the sad relentlessness of the AIDS pandemic and its impact on children in Orphans of Nkandla, it was apparent to us that the issue that wasn't receiving enough understanding or coverage was the terrible affect of sexual abuse.

Having visited many communities in South Africa (on other projects) we were keen to enable girls to have the opportunity speak out – to tell their stories so they can be heard.

One of the greatest frustrations that these young women and their mothers have faced, and a source of considerable anger, is that no-one listens to them.

The general approach of society in South Africa is that if this happens to a young girl she should just keep quiet and accept that it is part of growing up. They were determined not to accept that they should

be gagged. Indeed after my co-producer, Xoliswa and I first met with Ntombizanele, the youngest of the victims, she wrote us a letter explaining why she wanted to be in the film, because she was so keen for her story to be told and heard by a wider audience. She knew the film would not be shown in South Africa, but she was motivated by a very mature desire a) to have someone to whom she could tell her story in her own time and in her own way. and b) to raise the issue of child rape in South Africa internationally in the hope that pressure from outside may effect real change within the country.

The girls involved in this film, along with their mothers, were all extensively consulted about the implications of taking part in this film, and being identified. It was explained to them that while the film would not be sold to South African television, it was still likely that their pictures would be accessible on the internet in SA. We were very clear about this, but they were equally clear that they had a right to tell their story , and wanted to, in order to try to reduce the likelihood of it happening to other girls. I am humbled by their bravery and stoicism.


Deborah Shipley, London, May 2010


October 2014

Fantastic news

Nozuko and her family have some long awaited and incredible  news, after all this time Nozuko's dad has finally been aquitted, they are all relieved and delighted.


December 2013 Update


Is in Grade 9 and continues to do well in school, she achieved 4 A's and 2 B's in her end of year report for 2013.  She excels in English, Life Orientation, and Maths.  She would like to be a lawyer when she completes her education.

Her father is working, but still awaiting a trial date.  Nozuko's family, comprising of her parents and granny, are very supportive of her.

Fuzeka and her younger sister Nwabisa

After their mother's death, they experienced a somewhat turbulent time, but are now happily living with two maternal aunts who are loving and stable.  Their new home is very clean and well-decorated. Fuzeka feels that she has received enough counseling to deal with her mother's death.

Fuzeka will be 16 years old in 2014 and is in Grade 9 at school.  She passed all her exam subjects, her favourite's being English and Life Orientation.  She enjoys reading and cooking and her favourite food is pasta.  She wants to be a doctor when she grows up.  She has a best friend who attends a different school.

Nwabisa will be 11 years old in 2014.  She will be in Grade 6.  At the end of 2013, she passed all her subjects, her favourite being mathematics. She likes doing gym exercises, going to church, and watching TV. She has a best friend who is at the same school.  When she grows up she wants to be a social worker.


Gretchen finished grade 10 which is a year before Matric. Her school did not offer Matric  so they sent her on a business course which she hopes to get a certificate for. Gretchen and her parents still want her to do Matric and are trying to arrange that at her old school. Gretchen is fast becoming a young lady.

Gretchen likes watching TV and reading and believes that she will do well in life. Her mother was extremely grateful for our donation of uniforms and clothes for Gretchen, especially as her job as a carer came to an end when her employer died, she told us that Gretchen "is still the same good girl". Gretchen's father is reformed and has become very active in the church.

However their family life is uneasy because Gretchen's oldest brother's son who was in prison when we were filming, has returned home and is still taking drugs and stealing.


Sadly, Ntombi is not doing well. She does not attend school regularly and, according to her mother, has fallen into a "bad crowd". As her mother is not at home as much as in the past, and is attending a Government Leadership course, she cannot monitor Ntombi's movements closely.

Ntombi was severely affected by her photograph being used in a leaflet for contraception by BAYER which was distributed in schools throughout the northern districts of Port Elizabeth, and her then school. She was ridiculed by her peers. Her photograph was plagiarized from our website by the company which drafted the leaflet for BAYER.  When we were alerted to this, we immediately contacted BAYER for an explanation and recompense.  Although one of their representatives accompanied our South African Producer to visit Ntombi, and promised to arrange counseling for her, they failed to secure this. We are continuing to pursue BAYER to uphold their promise.

In the meantime, we are endeavouring to arrange counseling for Ntombi from the same Psychologist and Counsellor who met the other girls in the film.


If you would like to learn more, find out about organisations working on this issue in South Africa, or find out how you can help the girls, then click here to go to True Vision Foundation - Lost Girls website

if you want to purchase a copy of film click here


Nominated for The BAFTA, the Amnesty Media Award, and the One World Award