“The plan was that I would find a job and attend night classes. That way I could still complete my education.” Betty (17 years) from Ethiopia narrates her story. She was 14 years old when she left her rural home to come to Bahir Dar city. Her single father’s small farm did not make enough money for the whole family and she had dropped out of Grade 8. Bahir Dar was waiting for her.
“So I travelled to Bahir Dar. But my arrival did not go well. I was snapped by a group of young men. They took me away in a bajabji (tuk-tuk). Then they defiled me. This scattered all my plans, and I became hopeless. Going back home to my family was not an option for me. I feared the stigma and discrimination.”
“There were a few girls from my home area in Bahir Dar. I temporarily moved in with them. These girls were already engaged in sexual exploitation. They persuaded me to join them. At that time it felt I had no other option. Also, I thought it would help me lead a better life and support my family with my income.”
“Life was so bad and full of hopelessness. I was working and living in a hotel. I had no dream of coming out of this business, getting money every day was not sure. I was losing all confidence in myself.”
“One day in March 2019, I was approached by an outreach team. They asked me how much I was earning, and if I would like to get out of my existing way of life. They offered me support to do so - a place to stay, food, training in business and vocational skills. I could not believe my ears, I could not believe this was really true. But they kept coming back to me, and in April I said yes.”
“I moved into the FSCE rehabilitation centre. While I was staying there, I was counselled and provided with all my basic needs - food, shelter, clothes and health care. I followed the vocational training of my choice, to become a barber. After my graduation, I started working in someone’s male beauty salon. Part of my income is put aside so that I can save to open my own salon. I am earning about 1,800 birr per month (approximately 45 euro). This is far less than what I was getting before. But I am happy with less income. At least now my dignity is respected, and I am no longer beaten and abused.”
“The biggest change is coming out of the worst scenario of life. I have acquired skills that help me create my own work and earn a living. This is very important for my life. I have a new dream now - one day I want to own my own beauty salon. I want to lead a healthy and independent life within my community.”