Speaking up changed my life

Hi, my name is Maria, I am 20. When I was young I lived with my aunt and uncle. They made me believe they had the right to beat and mistreat me because I was not their biological child, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was trapped.

They were just mean to me. If I asked my aunt for sanitary pads when I got my period, she would say: “Use a newspaper!” When I wanted to fix my hair to look nice, she would say “Oh so you are now involved in sexual relationships? Are you seeking your boyfriend’s approval?” It was terrible

Life was hard for me then. I was very discouraged. Only after I had finished my difficult chores late at night, could I then take out my schoolbooks and do my homework.

One day, after thinking about it for a very long time, I gathered enough courage to go speak to one of the teachers at school that I felt I could trust. I was so scared. It helped me to plan out what I was going to say, and even practice it out loud before I saw the teacher. I am so glad that I decided to speak to her. She changed my life.

When I went to her, I told her my story as I’d practised. She looked at me in the eyes and told me, “No one has the right to beat you or treat you badly.” She went with me to my house and she met with my guardians. She had a few meetings. It took a while but she eventually helped me find another place to live away from them where I was looked after. I was able to concentrate on my studies, and I became strong.

When I was at my aunt and uncle’s I was scared to ask for help. But I am so glad that I did. Now I am happy and safe and I am proud as I was able to find the courage to speak up and improve my life.

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