In recent years refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo fled from violence in their countries and arrived in Kenya. This is the story of one girl:
My name is Fatuma. I was born in a village in Somalia. My mother abandoned me when I was a baby and because my stepmother hated my mother, she always found a reason to beat and insult me. She never let me play or attend school. Instead, she sent me out with the goats each day and made me stay out until it was dark. My father didn’t bother with household matters, including how I was treated. I grew up feeling lonely and sad. One day I begged my older brother to take me away to the city with him. When he did, I was happier than I had ever been in my life. But one day when I was at the market I heard a blast. I’ve always been curious so I ran towards the noise when everyone ran away from it.
Suddenly, I fell backward and everything went dark. When I woke up, I was in a hospital, and found out that I had been shot in the arm and that my brother was missing. My neighbour asked me to escape with her to Kenya, where I could find a better hospital. It’s the worst decision of my life. Even today, I don’t know where my brother is. I should have waited for him — the only person who ever loved me. I was in a lot of pain from my wound, and I was afraid because I had no family in Kenya. A family took me in but they said I was using my injury as an excuse to get out of doing chores and kicked me out after a year.
An older lady who was helping me to try see a doctor told me about Heshima Kenya when she found out that I was homeless. They work with refugee girls and welcomed me with open arms. This made me feel hopeful for the first time since I arrived Kenya. At the safe house I met girls like me. They escaped war in their countries, didn’t have families, and faced the same challenges as me.
Heshima Kenya arranged for me to get the surgery I needed to save my arm. I was also taught how to read and write. I’m now training to become a photo journalist.
It’s important to tell the world what is happening to refugee girls. Just because my hand is not working properly, I will not give up on my dreams. I now see many possibilities for girls that I never realised existed. This is my message to all girls who are only sleeping and waking: No matter how hard the ups and downs of life are, don’t give up. I know that are many sad stories behind many successes. Even if you are not there yet, it’s nice to be on your way.
Read more about Fatuma’s story at grassrootsgirls.tumblr.com