Tirunesh* grew up with her father and step-mother, who encouraged her to become a domestic worker to help the family’s finances.
Work was found for her with a family and she worked for them for four years, until one day, one of the older sons of the employer raped her.
Tirunesh remembers the day and talks about it as a past she does not want to go back to.
She told her employer, but was ignored. “She told me that ‘these things happen’ and that I should get used to this as every other woman does…She didn’t seem to take it as a big deal,” Tirunesh recalled later.
When it became clear Tirunesh was pregnant – still only a child herself – she was taken back to her own family. On the day of labour, complications arose and her baby died while she was on her way to the hospital.
She was saddened by her loss but her family supported her and tried to take care of her for a while. But her family’s economic problems had not changed, so she decided to find work in Addis Ababa, the capital.
The huge city was new to her, she was confused and quickly became lost. Police found her wandering around a bus station, and fortunately brought her to one of our Lighthouses.
It was life-changing for her. She loved getting a real education for the first time (she was aged 16 when she came to the Lighthouse) and started opening up to her counsellor as time went by. Her social skills, confidence and self-reliance grew noticeably.
Eventually she felt confident enough to return to her father. On the day of reintegration, Tirunesh was very happy and hopeful to go back home again. Her excitement was matched when she was reunited with her father. He too was very happy and thankful to see his child again.
Tirunesh and her social worker discussed ways to improve her life. With the guidance of her social worker, she decided to start up a small business. Therefore, the social worker linked the child with local savings and loans association so she could have the support needed for her journey. A deposit of 3,000 birr (roughly £80, or $100) was made to her account as a startup money.
Tirunesh is now living with her family and is content and hopeful about what the future has in store for her.
*Name changed to protect the child’s identity