Refugee Voices: Finding Relief in Community
07 August 2018

Aamina* has survived extensive violence and trauma.

In 2008, Aamina Said* fled her home in Somalia after witnessing the death of her mother and brother by Al Shabaab. Aamina herself was shot in the leg during the cross fire and experienced further violence and torture.

Prior to this day that altered her life, Aamina describes her life in Mogadishu as being nice, she was married with three children and held several jobs; working in a coal mine and in a juice manufacturing factory. Escaping from Somalia, Aamina left behind two of her children and husband, to find refuge in South Africa, a country she knew nothing of. She travelled by car, connecting via Nairobi, Kenya and finally arrived in South Africa 15 days later. Upon arrival at the Zimbabwe South African border, she was given a letter by the South African immigration allowing her to stay in South Africa for 15 days. From then, she started the process of securing asylum and refugee status.  Aamina was relieved to be in a country without Al Shabaab and began the process of integrating herself into South African society and adapting to an unfamiliar urban environment.

It has been challenging integrating herself into the South African society. In 2015, Aamina was attacked multiple times. While selling biscuits, tea, and cake flour in the street, she was beaten and robbed. She tried to report the incident immediately, but instead of receiving help, she was laughed at by the police for her poor English. She lost her front tooth from being punched in the mouth. For fear of being harmed again, Aamina changed paths and started designing and selling home decorations from her home to make a living. In the same year, two men pretending to be customers came to into her home, pulled out a gun, and ransacked the home for money and valuables. They raped Aamina and ran off. Though Aamina continues to receive monthly injections and treatment, the incidents have left her with a lot of unresolved stress and anxiety. “Sometimes, when I’m sleeping, I’m dreaming, dreaming too much. Sometimes me, I’m crying, I’m crying. I’m waking when I sleep, I’m crying, I’m waking”, Aamina explains.

Today, Aamina is a part of a support group at JRS South Africa for women who have survived Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Aaamina recalls the circumcision, which happened when she was six years old. She was in excruciating pain which lasted 20 days. FGM causes complications and pain during urination, sexual intercourse, and menstruation. Child birth must be done by caesarean section. Many women face discrimination from doctors and nurses due to their condition. In Somalia, many survivors are shamed into silence, if one shares their stories, it is spread amongst the community and they are socially ostracised. When Aamina refused to circumsize her daughters, her husband beat her. She is passionate about sharing her story so that in the next generation, fewer women will experience FGM. In the FGM support group, women are able to share their experiences of all kinds, in a safe space. Aamina and the other women have expressed a sense of relief and hope because of the support group. There is healing in sharing with one another. JRS continues to offer Aamina and the other women support, providing for their transportation to and from support group gatherings, education support for their children, and in Aamina’s case, support to start up a business on her own.

*All names have been changed for the safety and privacy of the clients.

Press Contact Information
Mr. Tim Smith
+27 11 618 3404