**CONTENT WARNING: This post discusses sexual violence**
*Name has been changed for privacy*
Girls often go unseen and unheard in times of crisis and everyday inequalities are made worse. In honour of #WorldRefugeeDay we’re amplifying the voices of girls living in crisis settings and sharing their stories. Girls want to learn, they want a say over their bodies and futures and they want to be heard.
“I saw my mother killed while we were running away. We saw many dead bodies on the way here.” – Amal*, 16, South Sudan
16-year-old Amal* has been living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s Gambella region since fleeing violence in South Sudan a year and a half ago.
“When we lived in South Sudan, we had a good situation, our mother took care of all our needs and there were no challenges to deal with, but things have been changed because of the war.” Amal explains.
When fighting broke out near their village, the family were forced to leave their home, but the conflict followed and when the violence intensified, Amal’s mother was killed.
With both parents gone (her father passed away many years ago) Amal was left to take care of her three younger brothers. “My mind was not normal, I remember feeling that it would have been better if we were all killed together.” Says Amal.
Carrying her brothers and the few possessions they had, it took Amal a week to walk to a border entry point where refugees from South Sudan can cross to Ethiopia. But instead of being a place of safety it was here that Amal was raped by a border guard carrying a gun. “I kept silent, as if nothing had happened. “She says. “I didn’t tell anyone else.”
The family were then transferred to a refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia and shortly after arriving Amal realised that she was pregnant.
Plan International is responding to the needs of children and girls caught up in the South Sudan crisis, with support from the European Commission (ECHO), and since connecting with us, Amal has received non-food items, psychosocial support and was supported during her pregnancy allowing her to give birth to her baby boy safely in the camp.
Amal, her 1-year-old baby and her brothers are now living together with a foster care family and are grateful for their stable and peaceful lives in Ethiopia, although they hope that one day they will be able to return to their own country.
“Now we are in a safe place, I have resumed my education at the school supported by Plan International, I want to be a teacher in the future.” She says.
Find out how you can help support and create change for girls through Plan International Australia.