He was big and very strong. He forced me to a place where no one could see and he raped me. I was afraid that my family would beat me and shun me or force me to marry my rapist to save our family’s honour so I kept silent. It was a heavy secret. I was quiet most of the time. My parents believed I had enough school for a girl. They forced me to quit school and support the family.
‘I thought, if I go to work in Addis Ababa maybe I can go to school at night. I got a job as a housemaid. The man I worked for said he might let me go to school. But instead of school he raped me. He said if I told anyone he would kill me.
‘I kept quiet. Then I started not feeling well. I discovered I was pregnant. When it started to show he beat me and threw me out. That night I went to a church. I thought I would be safe. But a thief came and stole all my money. No money, no shelter, no food, pregnant, nobody to talk to, nobody to care about me. I wanted to kill myself.
‘A policeman saw me crying. He told me to go to the police station. I was scared. I was pregnant with no husband. I thought they would send me home for punishment. But instead they sent me to a safe house. I was very surprised. Later, I found out why. The people at the safe house had been training the police. So now they know it is their duty to help.
‘I came to the safe house. It was so clean. Everyone was so friendly. At first I could only cry. I couldn’t believe it was for me. They looked after me and helped me give birth to my baby boy safely. I talked to a counselor and to other girls. I learned skills that would help me get a job to support myself. I stayed for seven months until I felt strong. Then they helped me find a good job, in an office. I clean and run errands and have a safe place to live.
‘There are people who care about what happens to girls. Now, I am not afraid to tell my story to anyone. Even though it is not easy to challenge tradition. I am determined to tell other women there are laws protecting us and people who can help us use them if we need to. And I tell them there are people in the whole world who care about us and who want to help us change our lives.’
Womankind Worldwide is an international women’s human rights charity working to help women transform their lives in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We partner with women’s rights organisations who are challenging discrimination and violence. Womankind delivers the essential support – funding, expertise, contacts and publicity – these women’s organisations need to amplify their voice, increase their impact and bring about greater change. Last year we worked with 37 women’s organisations in 15 countries.
Project: Supporting women and girls survivors of violence
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Partner: Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD)
Women and girls experiencing violence in Ethiopia have few options to turn to and services to support them. Shunned by their families and communities, they have little support to help them overcome the trauma and increase their confidence to overcome the experience.
In some cases, women and girls survivors are forced to leave their homes, as the violence escalates. Most of them are poor with no income and no alternative accommodation.
With support from trusts and foundations, Womankind works with AWSAD to provide temporary shelter and other services such as counselling, legal aid and training for survivors and their children.