I was 12 years old when I gave birth at the safe house

After being raped by a family member at just 12 years old, Sirgut* fell pregnant and was referred to a safe house run by Womankind’s partner, AWSAD. Now, at 15, Sirgut is continuing her education at the safe house while learning new skills to help her build a better life for herself and her son.

Sirgut, 15, is learning business skills & sewing and studying at 8th grade so she can build a life for her and her 3yr old son

“I was raised in a rural area as one of five children. When my father passed away, my mother couldn’t raise five children alone, so my Aunt took me to Addis Ababa to raise me as her own.

When my Aunt brought me to the city, she promised me that I would go to school. But things weren’t as she said they would be; I had to work in the house and not go to school. I asked my Aunt so many times to let me go to school and she finally let me. But I had no time to study because I had to work until 12am every evening taking care of the house.

My Aunt was working nights and her husband came into my room and raped me one night. I couldn’t sleep after that, I would stay awake all night. Sometimes when I did fall asleep, I’d wake up and he would be strangling me. He raped me many times. I would bleed a lot. He used a knife and threatened to kill me and my Aunt if I told anyone.

Eventually, I told my Aunt what her husband was doing. She denied it, she said I was trying to blame him for me having sex with other men. I told her again and again.
It was my neighbours who helped me in the end, after I was in a bad way. They took me to hospital, where I was told I was pregnant - I fainted. The neighbours reported my Aunt’s husband to the police and a case was opened.

The police brought me to the AWSAD safe house. I spoke to AWSAD’s Legal Officer who then chased up my case with the police, but my Aunt’s husband had already gone. I knew he would get away with it – he’s rich and can bribe police officers. I feel so frustrated that he got away with it.

The legal support I’ve had from AWSAD has been very good but it is the counselling that has changed my life. I was 12 years old when I gave birth at the safe house. I used to hurt myself and my son because I couldn’t bear my situation but, through the counselling, I learned to love my son and care for him, and love myself. I can’t explain how much I love my son, he means everything to me.

I’ve been at the safe house for nearly four years. In that time, I’ve taken training in life skills, business skills, embroidery and food preparation. I’m also a student studying in 8th grade at the safe house.

The safe house provides everything for women who have problems like me. I have seen worse cases than my own. It has saved my life and so many others. 

I want to care for people in the future. I care a lot about HIV patients – I want to become a scientist and help to find a cure.”

*We have changed her name to protect her identity.