We have to speak. We have to be strong and support each other. Never give up

Amara, smilingIn Ethiopia violence against women and girls is common and widely accepted. We met Amara at the safe house run by our partner AWSAD, the only one in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“My name is Amara. I was 11 when I was walking to school and a man attacked me. 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 counsellor 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. Now, I say we have to speak. We have to be strong and support each other. Never give up.”

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