Fartun's story

By learning to read and write, women are
helping to educate their communities

Fartun is a 23-year-old Somali refugee in the Dollo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia. After her father's death, she stopped going to school because she had to work with her mother making baskets and clothes to help the family survive.

At the age of 16, Fartun was forced to marry a man 24 years older than her. Two years later, she was a mother of two. When the last of her family was killed by the fighting in Somalia, and her own children's lives were at risk, she left her husband and fled to Ethiopia.

From refugee to community mobiliser

Two months after arriving in Ethiopia, Fartun heard about International Medical Corps’ weekly awareness sessions on violence against women. One day, she decided to attend a tea-talk ceremony that featured a discussion about forced marriage. Touched by the topic, Fartun shared her own story of forced marriage.

She spoke to International Medical Corps’ team in the camp and asked if she could help to spread the messages about violence against women amongst the community. Fartun could not read the flip chart messages used by her colleagues, but she nonetheless became very active in tea-talk sessions and started memorizing picture stories by heart.

"I would like to tell every Somali refugee woman that International Medical Corps can help bring change in your life because they did it in my life. Today, I am able to take care of myself and my family."

After extensive training from International Medical Corps, Fartun became determined to learn how to read and write. A few months later, she was literate in Somali. In November 2012, after successfully passing all her written and oral exams, Fartun applied to become a community mobiliser. Today, Fartun works as an International Medical Corps refugee social worker in the Dollo Ado refugee camps, using her skills, knowledge and training to teach at the women's centre.

The above article first published on internationalmedicalcorps.org.uk.