International Women's Day: Solange's Story
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the voices of the strong women and girls of RefuSHE. Strong, courageous women, like Solange*, who left her home in Ethiopia when she was just 15 years old. She joined RefuSHE in 2017 and is currently enrolled in Level 3 of RefuSHE’s Girls Empowerment Program where she is sharpening her Kiswahili and English skills, learning math, science, and social studies, and taking tailoring courses. Solange embodies the spirit of RefuSHE through her bravery, boldness, and optimism. This is her story:
I was the first born to a family of four: three girls and one boy in Haramaya, Ethiopia. My dad was a secondary school teacher and my mother was a housewife. They worked hard to provide for us. We attended a local Oromo school where I studied until my parents split up in 2014. I went home from school one day and found my mother and siblings were gone. I was very sad and cried every day until my father came by the house and took me with him. He said there was a lot of conflict going on and that we had to leave Ethiopia. We took a bus to nearby Moyale. We spent three nights in a hotel. On the last night, my father never came back. I cried and was very scared that he was arrested or worse, killed. Having no money to pay for the hotel or to buy food, I spent two nights sleeping outside and hungry. Eventually a good Samaritan woman came along and saw me crying. I told her my story and she paid for me to take a bus to Nairobi.
When I arrived in Nairobi, I didn’t know the language or my way around. Another good Samaritan helped me and took me to a local mosque. A Muslim woman listened to my story and said that I could stay with her and her three young children. Although I was scared at first and missed my family and Ethiopia very much, I grew comfortable and was even helping with everyday chores. That family was relocated to Canada a while after I had moved in with them, and I was left to find a new place to live again. That is when I was introduced to RefuSHE. I was very excited to learn about RefuSHE because they were offering education to the girls that were a part of the program. I missed going to school so much. A young couple in the community offered to take me in so I could attend my classes at the Girls Empowerment Project (GEP) every day. I joined Level 1 where I learned Kiswahili, English, math, science, and social studies. I met girls from all over East Africa who had similar stories like mine and I started to feel less alone. I even grew happy to know that I was living in a sisterhood at RefuSHE. I am in the tailoring class now and hope to graduate and join the social enterprise program of RefuSHE.
I continue to pray to be reunited with my family one day, but in the meantime RefuSHE provides me with everything that I need, and I am happy here. I hope to study hard and eventually become a doctor and in order to make people’s lives better.
*Name has been changed for protection and security reasons.