20 June 2018

Miriam’s Diary: Through the eyes of a young woman giving others a helping hand

Additional Info

  • VAWG themes: VAWG & Education, VAWG & Social Norms
  • Country: Kenya

Read about an ordinary day for an extraordinary woman living in one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

February 26, 2018

My name is Miriam. I was born in Somalia. My family fled the war in 1992 when I was one year old, and I have lived in Dadaab refugee camp—one of the largest in the world—since then.

Now, I work for the International Rescue Committee. Every day, I work to protect women and girls from violence.

6 am

The first thing I do is pray. I live with my mother. I make us both breakfast and then clean our home. My mother has always supported me. She encouraged my education as a young girl and is just so happy watching me go off to work every day.

7.30 am

I set off for the women’s support centre. It’s quite a long walk and sometimes I get harassed on the street. Some people in the community think that I am wasting my time, that I should just get married. But I know others, including many young girls, look up to me as a role model.

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8 am

The team gathers outside under the trees for a daily meeting to discuss any challenges we have encountered in our work and ask each other for advice. Then I sit outside the centre and wait for women to arrive. I want mine to be the first face they see — someone smiling and welcoming them.

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Women and girls come to the centre for many different reasons; the camp is not an easy place to live. There is a lot of domestic violence, early or forced marriages, girls are denied education, and there is sexual assault.

When a woman arrives I take her into a private room and ask her about her situation. If she is a survivor of sexual violence, I ask if she is willing to see a doctor and then immediately call them. We have a shortage of medical staff so it can be hours until someone arrives. Sometimes I end up staying with a survivor into the evening waiting for a medical exam.

12:30 pm

When the doctor arrives, I explain everything that is happening, act as a translator and assist as the doctor performs the exam and gives her treatments, including to prevent HIV.

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If she wants her case to be forwarded to the police, I help gather evidence, such as her clothes, and find her new, comfortable clothing. I reassure her that this is not her fault and that she is not alone, that I will be here to support her and listen.

4 pm

I start the walk home. To be honest, it is not an easy time of the day – my head is filled with the stories and experiences of the women I have seen and their suffering. It is heavy. When I get home, I prepare supper for my mother and myself. Sometimes I read – I love reading the news and fiction – but normally I try to get to sleep as early as possible.

I’m proud of what I do. Women come to see us traumatised, and scared, and sobbing. They leave knowing that they will be ok and that there are people who will help them and support them.

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Violence against women and girls exists all over the world – not just in Somalia, not just here in Dadaab. If I go back to Somalia I want to continue to educate people and continue to protect women and girls. They are the backbone of humanity. The world cannot become beautiful without their leadership.

Miriam is a community worker working with the IRC’s Women’s Protection and Empowerment team to help women and girls who have experienced violence in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. She is also a refugee.

Miriam’s name has been changed to protect her identity. These are her words.