Growing up was a time to smile for Abeda.* Her home was filled with joy as she lived alongside her parents and eight siblings. She was a social butterfly—beloved and known by everyone in her community. Her father was a police officer, while her mom took care of their southern Ethiopian home. Life was good—until the day Abeda was attacked.
When she was just 13 years old, Abeda was running an errand when she was assaulted by a trusted family friend. He threatened her not to tell anyone, and she didn’t. Abeda bore the burden of the attack alone until the day she discovered she was pregnant and couldn’t hide it any longer.
Tragically, Abeda’s friends and family blamed her for what happened. They mocked her. And even though the resilient teenager tried to carry on—giving birth to her son and working on finishing Grade 9—eventually, the ridicule became too much.
So, like many young women from rural Ethiopia, Abeda looked to the big city as a place for new opportunities. But there, she too found only disappointment.
Her hard work got her a job as a storekeeper for a year, but when it disappeared, Abeda ran out of options. She started sleeping on the streets with her son until some women in prostitution found and took her in. Before long, Abeda was working alongside them to survive.
For five years, Abeda lived this way, blaming herself for all that had happened. And yet, God did not forget her.
When Abeda was 19, He led her to a drop-in center run by one of our partners on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It’s a place where women in prostitution, and their children, can rest, access health support, and receive emotional and spiritual care.
Women can also enroll in a yearlong program to help them leave prostitution behind as they receive safe housing and other life essentials, job skills training, Biblically-based counseling, and education for their children.
Most of all, the drop-in center was where Abeda felt heard for the first time. “[They] asked me a question that no one, not even my family, has asked me since I was a child: ‘What happened to you?’” Abeda said. “This made me feel valuable.”
As Abeda shared her painful story, the center staff surrounded her with Christ’s love. They shared the Gospel and prayed with her. “I felt God had abandoned me since my youth,” Abeda said. “Yet, His love has not changed, and He died for me too.”
Abeda entered our partner’s one-year rehabilitation program in September 2022 and has since begun a journey of healing and forgiveness. “Her desire to live a better life for herself and her son has been rekindled, and she can now look forward to the future,” our partner wrote.
“I can smile again from the bottom of my heart,” Abeda rejoiced.
In Isaiah, God told the nation of Israel, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19, ESV).
We praise God for the new thing He is doing in Abeda’s life and how she is beginning to thrive. Please pray for her and the 49 other women journeying with her on the road to recovery this year. As they receive support to heal from trauma, they are also growing their abilities in valuable job skills such as tailoring, catering, hair styling, and small business ownership.
Nearly 200,000 women and girls are estimated to be trapped in prostitution in Ethiopia today. Like Abeda, most are driven there by desperation, deception, and discrimination.
And yet, also like Abeda, when given an opportunity to leave that life behind, they have hope to overcome these challenges with strength, dignity, and the power of Christ’s redeeming love. Thank you for your prayers and support that make this vital work possible.
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” (Proverbs 31:25, ESV).
*Name changed to protect privacy. Headline photo not of Abeda.
The hardships women in the developing world face often leave them without hope. Through your generous gifts, Samaritan's Purse is working to restore the hope of women through programs aimed at increasing literacy, providing maternal health care, teaching livelihood skills, and stopping trafficking and prostitution.