Meskerem’s story

This story was written by Meskerem, a young woman who received support from Natanim Training and Consultancy in Ethiopia, which Mental Health Youth Norway supports via TOFI funds. Meskerem has agreed to share her story with you. Please be aware that this account contains themes of domestic abuse, sexual violence, neglect and discrimination.

Meskerem at her graduation

Unable to sit

My name is Meskerem. I was born near Woliso area, a rural area in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. My older sister and I are both physically disabled. My older sister could not walk since she was a child. I was able to walk until I was four years old. Then, I suddenly got sick and was unable to walk. I started crawling and my parents were ashamed of my sister and me. The locals were saying that because of my father’s sins, he has two daughters that are disabled. Due to this, my father would feel ashamed and beat us in any way. He didn’t allow us to have any contact with anyone. My uncle was an educated man, so he took my sister and me to Holeta Medical Center.

My mother went to great lengths to raise my sister and me but my father beat my sister and me because we were born with disabilities. My legs were constantly bleeding because of the beatings. I was unable to sit because he would beat my legs heavily with a stick. Since there were two disabled sisters living in the house, it caused my sister and brother to be unable to get a spouse even though they wanted to get married, which they were able to do once my sister and I moved out from our parents’ house and moved into a new neighborhood, far from my family home.

They used to give us food that had expired. I usually only ate once a day.


The orphanage

My older sister and I got treatment and we started walking by using crutches, after that we entered an orphanage. My sister got into a fight with an organization employee then she disappeared, and as a result, she was raped. When I was in the orphanage, I studied until eighth grade. In the orphanage, they used to give us food that had expired. I usually only ate once a day. When the rainy season came, I would go home to see my mother. I used to cry a lot because I was missing my mother so I would go home and visit her but we never had peace in the house.

We never slept peacefully in our home. We were always living in torture...


No real home

My father would come home drunk and beat my mother at home. My mother was severely beaten by my father. He even cut her with a scythe. We have never slept peacefully in our home. We are always living in torture, our heart breaking and our body trembled. My father would rather have us hide in the house than go to school. He would beat me up and threatened to throw me out of the house.

Our uncle is someone we respect and I owe him a lot but our father says that he collects money in his children’s name. My father says that it’s my uncle that turned his children against him and curses him. It was my brother who saved my life when I was being beaten with an axe. My father did everything he could to prevent me from getting an education. After my father got into an argument with my uncle, he forbid me from going out of the house. By hiding in the dark while hearing a hyena screaming, I crawled out of the house to escape and I went to the city to continue my education. I tried to commit suicide multiple times due to everything that happened to me. Through time, my interest in education started diminishing. Similarly, my grades went down.

When I was in the orphanage I used to cry alone for long period of time. I was unable to calm down due to feeling anxious and afraid. In spite of all this, I was continuing my education. When I did not get the tenth grade result, I was very sad and said, “Lord! Why don’t you see my weakness, not my laziness?” The organization I was staying at, asked me to leave and go back to my hometown. Believing that I had no hometown and no home to return to, I was so anxious that I decided to hurt myself. I came to Addis Ababa for the 2008 school year.

Many children at school wanted to make friends with me. They called me a friend.


Helping hands

When I came to Addis Ababa, I met many good people in my life. When I went to school, on several occasions, people started giving me priority. When I was in Guder, I thought that people hated me and looked down on me because of my disability. After I came to Addis Ababa, many children at school wanted to make friends with me. They called me a friend. This incident made me feel special. It changed my life. When I went to school, I began to feel happy. Although I was far away from my school, I found people who wanted to help and encourage me along the way. I never thought that there would be anyone who would listen to me when I speak. But now people are listening to what I am saying. They laugh at my jokes, and now I have people who are dear to me. The good people around me played a key role in my success. I received psychosocial support (from Natanim Training and Consultancy) after coming to Addis Ababa which changed my life. I can’t believe that I have passed all of this now and found myself among the graduates, many people used to tell me that I couldn’t do it because of my disability. But I was able to see myself succeed and I am happy.

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