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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April 2005, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Hawa: Stolen from her village
Hawa, a former sex slave, rebuilds her life in Sierra Leone (picture: Save the Children)
Hawa said she faced discrimination because she had been raped
Hawa, now 16, was captured by soldiers during the conflict in Sierra Leone. Her story is told by charity Save the Children, campaigning on behalf of children in war zones.

When the war came to our village it was about five o'clock in the morning. There were about 20 men.

We ran to the bush, but I got separated from my family. I was with other people from the village and we were captured by the rebels and taken to Liberia.

There were about 10 women there, but the men there were so many, maybe 20.

Everybody slept in the same room together. At first I refused to be a "wife", but I had to agree because there was nobody to speak up for me, and nobody to give me food except for the rebels.

So I agreed to be one of their wives, but he gave me nothing.

He only had sex with me.

Sometimes I would join him just to get food. I was a wife for about eight months.

I was not feeling well, because I had not even started my periods. I used to have a pain in my abdomen.

Found my parents

I escaped when there was an attack on one of the villages because during the attack the rebels couldn't take me along.

I walked for three days in the bush and travelled to another town, where I met my parents.

They were also there as refugees, labouring for other people just to get food to eat.

Though there was nothing to eat there, I was happy to see my parents.

They were happy to see me, but on the other hand they were sad about the way the rebels had treated me.

It was very sad when I came home and met my sisters because I felt that I was somehow discriminated against because I had been raped.

With them every night

I spent two years with my parents before I was captured again. It was a different group.

This time I was always with them at night as their wife.

[After two years with this group] I escaped and walked through the bush for one week to return to my village. I only had water, and even the water wasn't pure, but I needed it to stay alive.

When I first returned, I wasn't at school and I wasn't doing anything, but with the help of Save the Children I went to workshops, and saw other children doing training.

I wasn't lucky enough to go to school, so now I'm sitting around doing nothing, except helping my father on the farm.

I would really like to do the skills training because I'm about the right age for that now. I would be like one of the children in the bigger towns.

Work for the community

My village is one of the remote villages in this area, so if I was lucky enough to get the training, I would like to stay here to help other girls.

I would like to learn hairdressing, because there's nobody here who knows how to do it.

But for now I have no means to help me train, because my mother and father are poor.

Before the war, I remember I would help my mother and father. I could fetch water for my mother, lumber for my father, and join them on the farm.

I helped my mother with the cooking, and also helped to dry seeds.

When we returned from the war we used to eat bush yams, but now with the help of our fathers, we are farming leaves and rice.

I'm trying to join the Children's Club [run by other children after training from Save the Children] so we can work together as children to help our community.

We don't have water or toilets here, and we don't even have proper shelter to live in.

So we'll come together and help each other to help organisations promote our community.


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