After losing her parents, Absetou* was left in the care of her brothers who were violent towards her. When she was just 14, she decided to leave her home. Now safe, and with access to education, she is rebuilding her life and looking to the future.
“I would say that my story is very sad. At the age of 5 I lost my father. I was then under the protection of my mother and my brothers. When I was in fifth grade, I lost my mother. Nothing went well in the family,” explains Absetou.
When Absetou began to have seizures, her brothers thought she was doing deliberately to provoke them. “They said that I didn’t know how else to hurt them, so that’s why I was using these means.”
Absetou’s relationship with her brothers grew increasing difficult. “All they did was remind me of my mother’s death, telling me that they were the ones taking care of me… They said that it was because of them that I was going to school, so I felt uncomfortable.”
After overhearing her brother saying that he wanted to get rid of her, Absetou decided that she needed to leave her home. “With my brothers it was not easy, often they were aggressive with me, so I can say that life with my brothers was very violent.”
At 14, Absetou moved to a town in the Centre-North region of Burkina Faso. “The journey and the first moments were not at all easy since I didn’t know anyone here. Over time, people told me about social services. I went to tell them my problems.”
Protection for crisis-affected young people
The social services team referred Absetou to Plan International who provide protection and education services for children and young people in this crisis-affected region. Plan International identified that Absetou needed support and connected her to Lizeta who acts as her guide, mentor and counselor.
“Absetou was suffering in relation to her studies, health, and everything. She asks me for advice, and I give it to her – on her activities, her schooling, and even on hygiene. If she didn’t have someone to give her advice, she would be lost,” explains Lizeta, who says she treats Absetou like a daughter.
“Girls really need to be counselled, especially at that age, because they have difficulties. We try to help children who are in these situations, giving them the chance, the strength and the courage to succeed,” says Lizeta, adding: “We don’t want these situations to happen, but they do happen.”
A violence survivor looking to the future
Back in school, Absetou received cash transfers from Plan International which she used to cover her expenses. “I used the money to provide for almost all my needs. I used it to pay for the rent of the house, food like rice and oil, and also to buy clothes.”
Getting good marks in school, Absetou hopes to one day go to university. “Yes, I like school! The subjects I like are the scientific ones. I like studying science because it makes me happy, and through science I can do research and come up with useful things. Being an engineer has always been my dream job.”
Aware of the consequences that early marriage and teenage pregnancy can bring, Absetou is careful to keep herself safe. “When boys see me, they say that I’m a bit hard. But it’s not that I’m hard, it’s just to protect myself. And I avoid telling people that I live alone. That’s why boys don’t come to my house.”
With supporting friends and her life back on track, Absetou is looking forward to the future and wants to put the past behind her. “Life hasn’t been easy to me… I wouldn’t say I’m an outsider but I know I’m not like other girls. So, I decided to fight day and night to show everyone that my value, my real value, is not serving a man, but fighting to succeed.”
*Name has been changed to protect identity.