4 Jul 2011

Stories of Addis: Birtukan, Farenji or Ethiopian?

Today a mother appeared at Abugida with her 5-year-old daughter.  The woman, according to some is an albino and according to others is ‘farenji’ a white foreigner who was stolen from her parents when they were on holiday in Fiche a town some 110km from Addis Ababa.  This woman, who is called Birtukan, has two albino brothers like her.  Her grandparents brought her up in Fiche because her parents didn’t want these albinos living with them.  The two brothers are Sintayeu who is 13 and works as a servant in a house in Sebeta and Fikadu who lives with his grandparents in Fiche and works looking after animals.  Birtukan has 3 other brothers who are not albino and have the normal Ethiopia colour and live with their mother.

Birtukan’s grandparents treated her badly, regularly beating her.  Finally, when she was 13 years old she ran away to Akaki to her uncle’s home.  Her uncle was unable to support her so she started to work in construction.  While working there she met, feel in love with and married her husband.  She became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, Bethlehem.  After the birth her relationship with her husband deteriorated and he started beating her, then more and more.  So as not to break up the marriage she put up with the indescribable.  However, after many months of abuse she couldn’t bear it any longer and fled back to the house of her grandparents in Fiche.  When she arrived with her daughter in her arms they wouldn’t let her enter the house.  She went to the house of her parents and they also wouldn’t let her in.  Birtukan returned to Akaki and asked the forgiveness of her husband.  Her husband accepted her back and they started to live together again. 

After some time the beatings started again, this time because of her ‘condition’ as a farenji.  Her husband asked her why she had hidden her story from him for such a long time and why she had pretended to be an Ethiopian.  She replied that all she knew was that she was Ethiopian and that she had three Ethiopian brothers.  She asked why he had decided to bring this up after all this time.  He said that while at church he had overheard people saying that he was the husband of the farenji.  Birtukan replied to her husband that she knew nothing of this story and had only once heard something mentioned at her school. She had asked her mother about the story and had been told never to speak of or ask about this again, so she never did.

Her husband eventually threw Birtukan out of the home.  She then tried to work in a home in Akaki as a servant but they didn’t want her together with her child.  She only found one house where she could work but after a while they too threw her out.

So without anywhere to go she appeared at Abugida, crying and with her daughter in her arms.  The director of the school brought her to our representative and Birtukan told him her story.

Birtukan and her daughter have been welcomed to Abugida and to our dormitory of refuge that we want to establish for abused women.  They arrived with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs.  Birtukan will take the available position of cleaner at Abugida (the previous cleaner had to stop work for health reasons and has become a surrogate mother in our child sponsorship programme) and Bethlehem will go to school at Abugida and starts today.  We lent Birtukan some money so that she can rent or buy some essentials, she will pay back the money in small amounts every month when she starts her job.

We welcome the two newcomers to the independent republic of Abugida.

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