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Rebuilding her life

POSTED November 22, 2023

Rebuilding her life

Finding hope after a horrific assault

By Gezahegn Gebremariam, Children Believe Ethiopia

Jamila’s life changed in an instant when four men with weapons kidnapped her while she was on her way home. After being raped by one attacker, they tried to force her to marry him while she lay blindfolded and in pain on a cold floor, begging not to be killed.

Thankfully, the community discovered what had happened and Jamila was brought home.

“As a result of a social worker intervening, the police were called and all of my kidnappers, including the one who had raped me, were caught,” Jamila says. “My life was undoubtedly saved, and I was liberated thanks to the community workers’ hard work, the police and the community’s awareness.

The men responsible for the crime were charged and received prison sentences.

Recovering and rebuilding

One ordeal was replaced by another though, as Jamila, just 16, began a difficult road to recovery from her experience. Sexual assault and rape are severe examples of gender-based violence, which can have a devastating impact that can last a lifetime. Fortunately, she got the help she needed.

“Professional counsellors assisted me with ongoing psychosocial counselling,” she says. “When I returned to school in Grade 10, I was able to successfully complete my high school education. I currently attend one of the private colleges as a second-year diploma student, studying accounting on the weekends and at night.”

All of the support, from helping her escape kidnapping, accessing counselling, and continuing her education to follow her career dreams, came through a Children Believe partner working in this area of Ethiopia. The need continues to grow, but thanks to the support of Canadian donors, Bole Bible Baptist Church Child Care and Community Development (BBBC) staff are better equipped to help young women like Jamila at every stage of an ordeal like she experienced, from the community watch that alerted police, to guiding her through counselling as part of the healing process.

Staff with BBBC report she has been an active participant in their school-girls clubs where victims of gender-based violence get free legal, medical and psychological support. In partnership with Children Believe, the agency has wide-scale programs to prevent such violence in the community and leads Community Conversation programs with the Child Protection Committee they established. They also launched Child Rights Clubs, Girls Clubs, and a Child Parliament to raise awareness of child protection issues.

Jamila has found a way to seize her own future. She works as a waitress at a hotel to save money for her roadside tea-coffee business while taking classes on weekends to complete her studies in accounting. She lives with her sister in a rental house, caring for their single mother with a mental illness.

My sincere thanks go to the Children Believe programs which, have helped to heal my wounds and restart my academic career,” Jamila says.

To read more inspiring stories like Jamila’s, check out the new edition of ChildVoice Annual 2023.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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