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‘‘I am now happier and hopeful,” Rihanna’s moving story

September 22nd, 2022

Rihanna never dreamed that there would come a time when her situation would change for the better. She was only 14 years old while she was staying with her maternal grandmother looking after goats when an unknown man sexually exploited her back in Somali, and she conceived a baby girl who is currently 15 months old.

Bitter Memories

Rihanna and her 6 siblings were born and raised in Hagar, Somalia. Although she had never stepped in school, together with her parents and maternal grandmother, they lived a normal life. Sadly, their village was attacked by unknown armed men who would also attack the young girls with children born out of wedlock like herself. Rihanna’s parents and younger siblings had no option but to flee from their homeland Somalia in search of safety in Dagahaley refugee camp, Kenya, leaving behind Rihanna with her elderly grandmother. The struggle of staying alone with an elderly grandmother and carrying pregnancy at a tender age meant tough realities and life changing situations that affected Rihanna’s personality. “I was stressed and could not find any way out. I also felt hopeless and not sure what to do with my life . I developed fear given that I could not stay there as the place was under control of Alshabab,” Rihanna explained.

New home

Upon her staying in Dagahaley, Rihanna and her family had no livelihood support and they only depended on well-wishers and the rationed food by the Humanitarian Agencies. Through the support, they managed to start a small business to help in meeting the family needs.

Tough times

A few months later, Rihanna decided to flee from Somalia to Kenya – Dagahaley camp, to join her parents. She was warmly received by the mother; however, her stepfather was not happy about her coming to the camp for fear of discrimination from the community due her being a teenage mother. 

This situation made the stepfather want to marry her off to a 43-year-old man in exchange for money ($400) that would help to address the shame of her not having a ‘husband’ and high household needs respectively.  At a young age of 14 years, Rihanna was forced to join her mother in doing the manual jobs including washing clothes and fetching water for neighbours to earn a living, putting her at the risk of being exploited. “I was so distressed and felt hopeless and worried for my future and that of my child ‘’, Rihanna explained.

Rescued

Luckily, the Community Owned Resource Person (CORP) working in the block where Rihanna’s family lives was informed of the incident by a block leader. In November 2021, Tdh took up the case and commenced providing appropriate interventions to Rihanna. She was referred to Medecins Sans Frontieres and Refugee Consortium of Kenya and the police for medical and legal support respectively.

Receiving Support

Further to the interventions, Rihanna was enrolled for Tdh Psychosocial Support Services and received counselling sessions. She was also referred to RCK for legal counselling. Additionally, she was also linked with the education agency for accelerated learning in Dagahaley. Tdh further supported Rihanna’s mother with six months Cash Based Intervention 66.97 Euros, equivalent to Ksh 8,000 per month, to cater for her basic needs and meet other family needs. Through the support, Rihanna’s mother managed to set up a small shop that supplements the support from the humanitarian agency in meeting the family’s needs. 

Currently, Rihanna is at YEP centre in Dagahaley camp, where she undergoes accelerated learning to pursue her career goals while her siblings were also admitted to a school.

According to the recent home visits, Rihanna attends school regularly, helps her mother with house chores and has big dreams for the future. “I am happier, hopeful and I have chosen to use my situation to empower young girls to pursue education regardless of what they might have gone through’’, Rihanna explained.

I am happy to be in school. I want to become a humanitarian worker someday and be able to take care of my child and my family.”

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