HERstory – Meseret Abera on Losing & Gaining Hope

Meseret shares with AF how some of her choices caused her to lose hope in life but her saving grace was reclaiming hope one again.

Meseret Abera

At some point I had no hope and had given up on life. I’ve since learnt that giving up is unacceptable. The course of your life can change. The difficult choice I had to make was leaving  my husband and child and going to Saudi Arabia to work as a house help. I lived there for six years or so but it wasn’t anything like I expected. After I came back here, I didn’t know how to manage my money. Everything felt upside down and before I knew it, I had wasted all my money. It felt like the whole sky has fallen on me and was crushing me beneath its weight. I had many problems. That was the moment I completely gave up on life. But it turns out that one can keep on living. If you are healthy and if you have hope, you can live. You can work and you can live. I’m living my life now, and I’m working, and I don’t think what I do is beneath me.

When I left for Saudi Arabia, I left my marriage too because I was unhappy. I was young and naïve. My husband and I loved each other. We had many good years together. Before getting married, we lived together for seven years. But after we got married – you know what it’s like when you’re young – nothing was like I expected. I sacrificed a lot when I left behind my husband and my then three-year-old daughter. I abandoned my marriage and I missed the chance to take care of my daughter and watch her grow up. I also used to regret leaving my husband but I’m happy that I’ve started another life. I wouldn’t advice anyone to get married young. If you’re older, you can withstand many challenges. When he’s frustrated, you’ll be calm. When you’re frustrated you can tell yourself that tomorrow is another day and be patient. But if you’re naive, you’ll be like me and leave at any cost. Even though my husband loved me, he got violent at times. He used to beat me and so I made the decision to leave.

I also realize now that whatever happens, it’s always better to live in one’s own country. I wouldn’t advice anyone to go work in Saudi Arabia; I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, actually. I had no freedom in Saudi. Working as house help was really challenging. A while after I came back, I had nothing left—no money, no husband. I used to go to nightclubs and I used to love having a good time. I didn’t take care of my property and I threw away my money on anything and anyone because I didn’t know better. I was worse off from where I started and in the process I lost hope.  I didn’t manage to change my life for the better so I used to wonder what I accomplished by leaving. If I had done something for myself, I’d say that it was good for me. I know Arabic but what good is that? That hasn’t done me any good. It would have been better for me to live here, to withstand all challenges and stay here. But I was young and naive so I couldn’t do that.

The main challenge in my life has been losing hope. When you fall, you’ll get back up. When you lose, you’ll gain. As long as you’re alive, there’s hope; things can change. I didn’t understand that then. When I abandoned all hope, I isolated myself from everyone. I could have lived, I could have worked but I didn’t.

Regaining hope helped me deal with everything.  I now have a job as a security guard and I don’t consider it beneath me. What little money I get is more than enough for me. I’m working because I want to and that makes me feel happy.   Some people look down on what I do but I prefer working here as a security guard rather than working in Saudi Arabia. In other places, security guards get paid well and are respected. Here, they look down on you. But I don’t care about that. I believe in what I’m doing. I also have a good husband and a happy marriage that has lasted for five years.

We are on good terms now with my former husband and when we meet we treat each other like brother and sister. I have a child with him so we’re friendly. I talk to him about my problems. I’m happy to have had a daughter with him.  She also just graduated from university and now has a job. We now see each other as mother and daughter and we love each other but it can be frustrating sometimes. You can’t expect a child you didn’t raise to love you in the same way.

Having hope is important. So is being healthy; if you’re healthy, you can live no matter what. Tomorrow is another day and you don’t know what it will bring.  Finally, having love in your life is necessary. It has helped me through a lot.

I want to tell people to have hope, to never give up. Let them work and let them change.
We’re grateful to Mesert for sharing HERstory with us. Meseret Abera, from Ethiopia works as a security guard for Abysinnia Bank.  
This interview was conducted by Helina Yigletu.
If you’re interested in submitting a story of an African woman (you or an interviewee), please get in touch with us at africanfeminism@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.  

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