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Risky transit – The plight of an Ethiopian woman in Puntland

9Fawzia is a 30 year old Ethiopian woman, originally from the Oromo Region. She was born in Addis Ababa, where she lived together with her husband, a soldier in the Ethiopian Government Army, and their daughter. When Fawzia‟s husband was dismissed, he realized immediately that it would be best to leave his country and family behind. That way he would be the creator of his own destiny. Struck by her husband choice, Fawzia remained with their daughter struggling to provide security without the support of her husband and his family. With time living conditions became harsher, life for the mother and her daughter became increasingly precarious and the future appeared bleak. Surviving in a state of uncertainty, Fawzia eventually decided to follow in her husband‟s footsteps. Making sure that her daughter would be safe with her mother, then Fawzia embarked upon her unforgettable journey to Yemen.

On her way to Bossaso, where smugglers‟ boats depart in Puntland, she approached the Somali city of Garowee. There she started to beg in the streets to get enough money to continue the journey onwards to Yemen. As a woman traveling on her own, Fawzia was vulnerable and exposed to more risk. She believed it would be comforting to find other Ethiopians in the area, to spend time with. During her search, Fawzia came across two armed men. She asked them for help in finding the place where other Ethiopians were staying. Tragically, this decision was her fatal mistake. The two men guided Fawzia to the wrong place where they both raped her. At last and afraid that somebody could hear her howl of pain, the two men decided to leave Fawzia alone.
Fawzia was unconscious the whole night. The next day she gathered her courage and strength and resolved to continue the journey in the direction of Bossaso, making the trek alternatively by car or by foot. Fawzia spoke at great length to the Danish Refugee Council staff and reported having been harassed several times. She travelled the entire distance alone, faced many risks and never received any kind of protection.
Finally, Fawzia was shown a kind gesture by the boat smugglers who allowed her to catch the boat and provided her with food and drink without payment. Upon arrival in Kharaz Camp, Fawzia was referred to UNHCR partner INTERSOS for counseling support.
In November 2010, the INTERSOS risk assessment team assessed 474 most-at-risk new arrivals in Mayfaa reception centre and Kharaz reception centre. Amongst them women/girls at risk and unaccompanied/separated children make up the largest portion of most-at-risk New Arrivals (NAs), respectively 54% and 38%. 3 NAs reported GBV incidents during flight (respectively 1 sexual assault, 1 rape and 1 physical assault), whilst one NA talked to INTERSOS about a sexual violence taking place before she left Somalia. In November 2010, the rate of reported rape incidents during flight recorded a decrease in comparison to the previous month when 4 rape incidents taking place during flight were reported. From January to November 2010 an overall of 37 GBV incidents were reported during flight.
* Named changed for protection reasons. The image is for illustrative purposes only and is not the woman featured in the story.
* The story is related to the month of November; figures are as of 30th November, 2010
By DRC Yemen
Photo by Cassandra Mathie

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