I want to teach women that everything is possible.

Mekedes was referred to Assocation for Women's Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD) in 2012 following years of abuse at the hands of her brother. Here she tells her story.

In the hairdressing salon

“Before I came to the safe house, I used to live with my mother, my brother and sister in Bahir Dar. After our mother decided to leave for a monastery, I was sent to Addis Ababa to continue my studies with my brother. We didn’t grow up together but they told me that he’s my brother, my own mother’s son. I remember that I was 16 years old and he was supposed to send me to school. But it was after I came here that I faced the abuse.

My brother was the one who abused me. It lasted for 5 years. He was a Commander in the police and he influenced me not to speak out. He beat me up and made me be terrified of him. During the five years that he raped me, I got pregnant three times and, three times, he made me go through abortion. I was very hurt.

I couldn’t talk to anyone because I was very hurt psychologically and was afraid of people. My own brother was very cruel to me so I thought everyone else was like that. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. One day, my neighbour found me all beaten up, screaming and lying on the ground.

My first contact in the safe house was the house mother. She immediately provided me with clothes, a bed, sanitary products and more. She fed me and gave me sanitary pads because at the time, I used to bleed every day because of the problem on my waist. I even had warm water for a shower.

I benefited so much from coming to the safe house. The medical treatment helped me because I was badly hurt. I had pain on my waist area due to the beating and was internally ill because of the abortions I had. I couldn’t even stand on my two feet. I was scared and gave up hope. I couldn’t speak and thought that I was going mad.

The first thing that helped me in the safe house was the counselling service. It made me be strong, psychologically. The second is the medical help. They followed up my case, the food that I ate and even my interactions. It was a bit difficult for them to get me back on my feet but they endured it to bring me to the place I am now.

When I started treating myself well, gained enough confidence and started interacting with people, they asked me what I want to learn. I told them that I would like to learn hair dressing.

After I finished my study, I got an internship. Later, the safe house helped me find a job and they provided me with materials that I need like mattress, blanket, and covered the rent for the first month I was out of the safe house. After a couple of years, the safe house asked me to help establish a hairdressing school in the compound of the safe house. That day, I was so happy that I couldn’t even go to sleep because I never thought the Mekedes from the past would be standing here today.

I tell the students my story and make sure that they never give up hope. My first batch of students were amazing and there were a lot of guests when they graduated. I want to teach women that everything is possible.