Hawa is a mother, artist, writer, leader and, perhaps most importantly, a survivor.
Born on the Kenya-Somalia border in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, Hawa’s life began in an extraordinary setting. In Dadaab, which literally means “the hard place on the rock,” impunity runs rampant and young women are exceptionally vulnerable to violence. Hawa credits her challenging beginnings as foundation to becoming the strong and clear-sighted woman she is today.
For a young girl living alone in a refugee camp, safety is a constant concern. At the tender age of 15, Hawa was sexually assaulted by a neighbor. Soon after, she discovered she was pregnant at the hands of her abuser. Hawa was alone and afraid in the refugee camp without the support of any family. Her attacker still roamed free. With limited options and fearing for her safety, she made the courageous decision to leave the camp and travel to Nairobi with the assistance of friends.
Soon after arriving in Nairobi, Hawa was referred to Heshima Kenya’s Safe House. Finally she was surrounded by other young women with similar stories and she no longer felt alone. For the first time in a very long time, Hawa felt safe. In Heshima’s healing community, Hawa received the support and care she needed during her pregnancy. A few months later, Hawa gave birth to a healthy daughter named Fartun. The Heshima community supported Hawa as she navigated the first months of new motherhood, and the staff were available 24/7 to assist. Eager to return to school, Hawa enrolled into Heshima’s Girls’ Empowerment Project and her baby daughter was loved and nurtured in our full-time nursery. Hawa was excited to learn to read and write in English and Swahili. She had big dreams for herself and baby Fartun.
Now–two years later, Hawa is a leader, activist and aspiring journalist. She watches the news and listens to the BBC every day, which inspires her to be like the journalists and reporters that she sees on television. Hawa is a leader in Heshima Kenya’s social enterprise, the Maisha Collective, enabling her to earn her own income to support herself and her daughter. She loves tasseling scarves with baby Fartun on her lap!
Hawa feels safe and strong. She is focused on her education and cares for her baby with the support of friends, peers and the staff of Heshima Kenya. As a young mother who would do anything for her beautiful daughter, Hawa says: “I am glad that Heshima Kenya cares for my child and we know that there is a place for us, a place of safety. Maisha is helping me take care of my baby and when she needs something, I’m able to do it for her. I can provide for her instead of having to ask it from somebody or somewhere else. I feel so grown up when I provide for my child.”
It is because of supporters like you that young women and mothers, like Hawa, are able to feel safe and secure, gain an education and create a bright future. From all the mothers and young women at Heshima Kenya, we sincerely thank you.
To learn more about Heshima Kenya’s award-winning holistic program for unaccompanied refugee girls, visit: www.heshimakenya.org.